Ilha de Mocambique

Trip Start May 06, 2007
Trip End Aug 30, 2007

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Flag of Mozambique  ,
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

After a nice breakfast in Nampula and getting some errands done (like looking for contact solution--don't bother!) Eva and I headed to the minibus depot to find a ride to Ilha de Mocambique, which is the country's oldest colonial settlement. It was one of our top two destinations in Mozambique and we were excited to finally be going--everyone in Nampula including the MP we met is very proud of it and it recently won United Nations World Heritage recognition. We ended up being told we'd missed the last direct minibus so we braced ourselves for another complicated multi-leg trip. First we caught a minibus to Monapo which was a lovely drive and only took about an hour and a half. Then we caught a flatbed truck which sadly wasn't full so we waited for quite a while for it to fill up. Once again it was crammed unbelievably full and was one of the leats comfortable, although also one of the prettiest, truck rides we experienced. The vehicle stopped in every single town, which was neat to see but meant getting to Ilha a good five hours after we left Nampula (and after dark).

Once we arrived we found a great little pensao with the help of our new guide Jamal, a spunky 15-year old with Casanova-esque aspirations. (He informed us he already spoke five languages thanks to having many foreign girlfriends!) He ended up showing us all over the island, showing us a great place to have some fresh fish from the market cooked local-style, and making sure we got home safe at night. We walked the island up and down and across in one day, it's quite small, though it is eery and beautiful enough you could spend a lot more time. Our first night we ate at the oldest restaurant on the island (which can certainly be skipped - El Reliquio); the second night Jamal's friend who runs a local tavern prepared some fresh fish and calamari we brought her from the market which was awesome and in total only about $12 for three people including a beer (one 2M is enough for two women our size!) and a soda for Jamal.

Most of the buildings on Ilha are colonial structures that are totally run down and being squatted by locals. Many other locals have settled on the part of the island nearest the cemetery in what might be called a slum. It is an absolutely unique place and worth the several-day trek from the western side of the country!  The governor's mansion is by far the best-kept structure on the island and houses a small museum containing furniture and housewares collected over the years by the various governors, many from Goa and China.  On the square in front of the villa were a group of men watching the fastest bao game I have ever seen played--if I figure out how to load video here I will post it, it's almost unbelievable they can move the pebbles that fast.

I would write more but I want to see how this all turns out first. Next will be Pemba and Ibo island!


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