White beaches, crystal-clear waters, and prawns for days!
You know Narcos right. The original one with Pedro Pascal and Wagner Moura. Now close your eyes and think about that theme song for a second. Did you get it? Good! Do you hear the guitar?
I bet you’re swaying side-to-side in your mind. Humming, “Soy el fuego que arde tu piel (I’m the fire that burns your skin); Soy el agua que mata tu sed (I’m the water that kills your thirst).”
I get vivid flashbacks of the summer of ’09. Skinny little me flying across the dance floor in the arms of a tall dark stranger. He would qualify if he appeared to me to sing me the next line, “El castillo, la torre yo soy (The castle, it’s tower I am).” His sweaty cheeks were pressed against my face and I didn’t mind one bit. I can’t credit my two years of Latin and ballroom dance lessons for the way my body did the Samba. The song was not Rodrigo Amarante’s Tuyo but something else. Something that gives off similar feels.
What is this feeling about? Is it just the perfect arrangement of the cords? Or is it the language? Does the tropical climate play a role? Or maybe the food? I dare say, all of the above. To reach Rio de Janeiro requires a 21 hours direct flight from Johannesburg. Maputo, on the other hand, is less than an hour’s flight, or a modest seven-hour drive. You get to experience the Portuguese language and culture with an African fusion.
The morning belongs to the fishermen and their catch of the day. They fill the market with the smell of the sea. Which quickly moves into the hands of the women, who with open coal fire, fill the air with aromatic fish barbeque and butter-fried variety of seafood.
The hottest hours of the day are spent under the shade of beach shack, drinking coconuts and beers alternatively. Only the young boys move in the sun, selling coconuts. Expertly handling the machete to chop off the top and make access for the straw.
Close to sunset, the fires start again, and we make it back to the guesthouse to shower off the sweat of the day. Fatimah’s Backpackers is on a road with many other guesthouses. The neighbourhood has wide roads double lanes and coconut trees separating the opposite lanes. From the outside, Fatimah’s is unassuming with its mustard wall. A blue tarp covers the gate.
It’s a cultural melting point. Almost to cliche levels. The decor is dominated by primary colours. Bright greens, reds, yellows. The colour-block scheme extends from the bedroom and gets wilder in the common area. One side has the outside bar as the focus, and a firepit the other side. A garden with banana trees and dorm rooms surround them. The exterior back wall hosts murals of bright birds and another of tropics fish. Cement-built sun-bathing benches are built against the wall and more surround the firepit.
The guesthouse driver, a tall man with toned muscles showing beneath his colourful tunic of African print and long dreadlocks worn loose, sits by the firepit. He is playing the guitar next to a blonde German woman wearing loose tropical pants. They are drinking Laurentina beer and smoking a joint. We are probably not helping the narrative. My friend is paging the Lonely Planet’s guide to Mozambique while I try to braid her hair because she complains that it’s sticking to her back, “because of all the humidity.”
The nights belong to Bossanova. Our bodies get taken over as if possessed. We swing, slide, and grind. Releasing sweat pleasure when the body we’re attached to matched this rhythm. Receives and gives off the same energy. Then drink rum and mixers to cool down and go back to the dancefloor for more.
You will not get any of the highrises of Rio. The beaches will more than makeup for that. With a coastline stretching roughly 2, 500 kilometres along the Indian Ocean. Starting with Ponta de Oro at the extreme south, past Tofo Beach, and all the way past Pemba in the north. The powder-fine and white sands, crystal clear waters famous for snorkelling and diving here in the South will steal your heart. If you read Vogue magazine you might be conviced that all this is unaffordable. Rather read Vagabond and Lerato Mogoatlhe will open your eyes on how far shoe-string-budget can really stretch.
Read more on travelling Africa cheaply HERE!
Charming simple living, with million-dollar beachfront views. That’s Mozambique. See you there this summer!