Week Seven - Tofo Beach Mozambique

Trip Start Aug 26, 2003
Trip End Aug 24, 2004

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Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Day 43 - Tuesday 7 October

Try again. Up to dive centre and straight out to Barra Lagoon. This time joined by Beth from the deserts of mid west USA. Nicola gets on much better with skills this time, Peter not so good. Finished by 1.30pm. Tomorrow scheduled for deep dive in open water (ie the ocean). Cant wait. Discovered that there is a small airport in nearest town of Inhambane with twice weekly flights to Joburg. Sort of booked flights through Barra Lodge leaving Monday 13 October. No tickets or confirmation number but credit card details given. Cost 3600 rand for both (180 GBP each) but saves us getting local transport back to Nelspruit and then 5 hour bus to Joburg. This does mean however that we will miss out on Kruger Park and surrounding sights but we feel that it is worth it. Andy described us as Gucci backpackers which is probably fair enough. Also booked our flights to Singapore for Wednesday 15 Oct.

Day 44 - Wednesday 8 October

After a night of tossing and turning Peter declares that diving is not for him and goes to tell Vernon. Vernon is fine about it. Nicola, to Peters flabbergastment, decides to struggle on with the course. Peter goes back to bed. Nicola carries on with the first deep dive of 7m. Boat journey out to Clownfish Reef in Tofo Bay as scary as the anticipation of the dive. Boat launched from beach and has to crash through surf to open water. I have never been able to dive into water and the entry method for the dive was a backward roll into water. Wet suit already donned, the next stage is to kit up with all the scuba gear. Once the dive site was reached on the count of three we had to roll backwards into the water and wait until everyone surfaced. It was agreed beforehand that Nicola and Beth would buddy up for the dive and the other couple Mano and Nonja would dive first whilst Nicola and Beth wait at the surface. This wait only allowed for the tension to build, the water very choppy made breathing very difficult and Nicola started to panic. Beth calmed Nicola down and then both went under. Once under, nerves subsided and the underwater world was spectacular. As one of my main worries is breathing, due to my asthma. I constantly, more than the others, checked my air guage and using the recognised diver hand signals (an underwater Sign Language) was the first to bring it to the attention of Vernon that I was getting low on air. He gave the signal to begin ascent although Beth and I were a little too quick and Vernon was hanging onto our ankles to slow us down. Once we surfaced the next trial was to get back on the boat. Firstly we had to remove weight belts and scuba tank and pass onto the skipper of the boat. Next we were supposed to propel ourselves using our fins straight onto the boat. I, however, had to be hauled aboard rather ungracefully, not a good look. Irrespective of this I was elated and could not believe what I had just achieved. Although the dive lasts for forty five minutes it seemed to be over in a flash and what was seen underwater disappears from memory. I was informed afterwards that very few first timers remember details of their first couple of dives. Compunction to stay alive, ie. checking guages, clearing masks and importantly watching how much air is left in the tank overrides your memory of the dive. The boat was beached onto the sand by accelerating at full speed. Peter was waiting on the beach to welcome me back to dry land. We headed back to the dive centre for a debriefing while Peter headed into Inhambane.

Peters justification for giving up diving are as follows :
I am a nose breather. This means that I breathe almost exclusively through my nose with my mouth used primarily for eating, drinking and occasionally speaking. Diving, on the other hand, requires breathing through the mouth. Once under the water I could mechanically breathe a couple of breaths through my mouth before nature took over and I attempted to beathe through my nose. There isnt a lot of air in a mask and once this was exhausted I started to draw water in through the seals around the mask. Also masks do not fit. Unless you have the cheekbones of Kate Moss and the nose of Charlie Brown you have no chance of getting a proper seal. Our instructor, Charlie Moss had no probs. It was only a short time, therefore, before I was inhaling salt water up my nose. This is not a good trait for diving. It follows therefore that mouth breathers make the best divers. Two famous people that spring to mind that would probably make good divers are Charlie Coroni, the 70s TV clown and Princess Ann. This leads onto the other trait required by divers. Stupidity. Stupid people walk with their mouths open (a la divers). A boast made by the diving community is that we know more about the moons surface than the oceans. Marine biologists are divers with beards who should be ashamed, not proud, of this claim. We should get Astronauts and Astronomers to sort the oceans out as they managed to sort the moon out in a couple of visits. Astronauts are nose breathers. Divers hold up Jaques Cousteau (JC) as the pinnacle of underwater exploration. Juanita informed us that she had visited his place somewhere in South America where he had constructed a football pitch high in the rainforest canopy. She even watched a match between two local ladies football teams. Proof, if needed, of the stupidity of divers.

Whilst Nicola was off breathing through her nose, I took a chappa to the nearest ATM in the town of Inhambane some 30 minutes away. The local people, though poor, dressed in their finest for a visit to the markets in town. One especially large woman was carrying a black plastic basin for a handbag. The minibus stopped off often, many times to simply have a laugh with those on the roadside. Once in town I headed off to the ATM which turned out to be out of order. After a quick walk around town I returned to the chappa park, climbed aboard a minibus bound for Tofo. I climbed to the back seat and squeezed in beside the fat girl with the basin. The roof sloped down at the rear which meant I had to sit with my head on my chest. The fat lady couldnt fit her basin between her and the seat in front therefore had to rest it on the back of the seat. Sadly the basin was full of fish, no more than six inches from my face. Every bump in the road or convulsive laughter from my neighbour caused my face to be splattered with fish juice. The chap on my other side had a ridge of skin running up the middle of each finger nail. This combined with the fish scales on the forearms of the fat lady formed a very reptilean image in my mind. I alighted never having seen the face of the lady but will always picture her as the headless woman in the Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Back at Bamboozi Nicola had done her second dive of 15m to Mike's Cupboard. On the way to this dive we stopped to snorkel with three Whale Sharks (a speciality in this area and rarely seen by other divers). I remembered more from this dive, although not everything. We spotted Stingrays and Trumpetfish and Vernon heard the distant calling of Whales and spelt it out in capital letters on the palm of his hand (my Sign Language training assisted). The visibility (viz in the trade) was excellent and the waters a lovely turquoise blue. The colours of the fish were amazing, bright yellows and blues. Our ascent was more controlled this time but getting in the boat was equally undignified. Back on land again I still could not believe that I had actually been diving. What a great feeling.

That night in the bar Peter kept winking at Vernon and saying, still breathing through the nose man! Which amused Vernon no end. Another great nights craic in Bamboozi.

That night, to celebrate giving up diving Peter took up smoking again. This time, with a bit more willpower, he will be able to keep smoking and not give up so easily.

Day 45 - Thursday 9 October

Day four of diving school but this time back to the Lagoon for skills session, disliked by all especially me. Not as enjoyable as the open water sessions as it necessitates tasks such as swimming for 10m without a mask and deliberating flooding your mask and replacing underwater. Followed by a dive in the lagoon to add a dive to our logbook. Five dives along with knowledge reviews and exams are required to complete the Open Water PADI certification. Peter meanwhile went with Bill on bus into Inhambane to try to get cash again. They had a grand old time walking around the old Portugese buildings around the quay and through the markets. The ATM was working so withdrew nine mill.

Day 46 - Friday 10 October

Final day of dive school. Back to Mike's Cupboard for first dive and then onto Simons Town, 18m dive. Cow fish, more whale Sharks and multitude of assorted brightly coloured fish. Last four dives only included the students but this dive had three qualified divers along. Treat for all the girls this time as Matt, the gorgeous Kiwi skipper, also dives with us. Although this is not helpful when trying to clamber aboard the boat, no improvements there. Two of which ruined the dive for everyone by messing about and the dive had to be cut short. Back to Dive Centre to complete Knowledge Reviews and Dive Log Books. The sit exam which takes over an hour to complete. Exams marked and eventually after a very long week am signed off as competent, qualified Diver. Andys mate Tim arrives. Tim has been chancing his arm as a sports journo in Cape Town with a local paper and travelled up by plane to Durban then bus to here. Andy still at work so we take him for a drink. Tim and Andy are big Alan Partidge fans and know words off pat (not Pat). Very funny. That night the party moves from the bar and goes down to the reception area where a campfire is lit and a number of drums and guitars appear. An excellent nights entertainment with a perfect full moon setting the scene. One German girl twirls lit bags on strings in weird but strangley hypnotic way around her head. Looks very dangerous. Couple of fellows try it but come a cropper. Late night with many mood enhancing substances about.

Day 47 - Saturday 11 October

We have noticed how this place seems to make everbody stay longer and longer. Bill is still here but keeps setting different dates for starting his bus run. Nobody seems to leave. They are currently building 8 gorgeous double huts presumably to house all the people who refuse to leave. Isnt this how shanty towns start up? Tonight is the big Full Moon Party down at Fatimas place. We meet up with Bill, Andy and Tim in the bar and head off along the beach in almost complete darkness due to overcast sky. Lightning starts to flash ahead of us in the sky. Fire flies flash around our heads and our feet kick up great sparks of phosphoresence. V Star Wars. Then the rain started. As we approach Tofo town a great flash of lightning strikes the hill and all the lights go out. By the time we reach a local hotel the power is resumed just in time for the England v Turkey football match. Andy expressed concern over the personal hygiene of the sleeping dog beside his feet which was overhead by the owners daughter. She suggested that if her dog wasnt welcome in her hotel then neither was he. We left shortly after this and Juanita later alleged that the father was doing time for attempting to murder a member of staff by getting him to dig his own grave and pushing him in afterwards. Head down to the party which is in full swing. Live reggae band playing to a crowd of about 150 locals and tourists. Rain has stopped and sky clearing to reveal the full moon. Stay until 4.30am.

Day 48 - Sunday 12 October

Days have merged into one another. Nine days have gone too quickly. The only thing that changes is the dinner menu in the bar and sometimes the sea is a greeny blue, others a bluey green. Unfortunately our stay in paradise is coming to an end. We watch some of the rugby in Tofo, have a final swim and brace ourselves for moving on. We enjoy last day of great craic with Andy and Tim who wander in and out of their Thundercats, Alan Partridge and Northern Ireland impersonations. Tim recounted his first night waking up in the circular dorm with room mates beneath their blue mosquito nets and the moonlight shining through. It looked to him like a scene from some Sci Fi suspended animation film. Excellent my children. The only thing we will miss is the sand flea bites and jelly fish stings.

Day 49 - Monday 13 October

Up for last bit of sun and then pack up, say our goodbyes and get lift with Jackie on back of truck to Tofo. Whilst waiting for the local chappa to depart some of the locals asked us where we were going. When we said we were flying from Inhambane Airport they looked disbelieving. They laughed when we explained we were getting a chappa with wings to Joburg. Driver kindly dropped us off right at airport, contrary to normal practice. Just us and bored security man in airport. Start reading our new books whilst time dragged but clocked ticked double fast. A bus load of South Africans preceeded a buzz of activity with the Customs and Excise men arriving. Soon the plane buzzed into view, landed, loaded and took off. The captain clamboured aboard this 18 seater, turned round and said you all know the drill by now, no smoking, etc and fired up the engine. We each have a goodie bag on our seats containing, crisps, nuts, refreshers and a bag of biltong. Welcome back to SA. Two hour flight gets us into Lasarie Airport, Joburg, 50 minute drive from Joburg International Airport. We get taxi across to Holiday Inn Hotel at JIA for a bit of pampering. Dine in attached Steers restaurant with huge juicy steaks. Had long soak in bath to clean sand engrained feet after not wearing shoes for 10 days.
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