Part Three: Mozambique


Upon landing in Vilancuso, Mozambique, we immediately boarded a helicopter to take us on a quick hop across the Indian Ocean to Benguerra Island.  The water beneath us faded from light turquoise to deep indigo in a beautiful undulating azure mosaic.

I felt as if we had landed on a deserted island.  Our retreat, Azura, was made up of several thatched huts along the beach, each tucked away in its own little private paradise.  The ocean was so tidal that the afternoon provided a large swath of perfect white sand that resembled a desert.  Yet, by evening, the tide rolled in and created a oceanfront setting with waves literally lapping at our feet.   Unlike Botswana, where temperatures fluctuated greatly with warm afternoons encased between cool mornings and evenings, here the temperature was consistently tropical, hot and humid, with a warm ocean beckoning.

We happily adapted to the slow pace.  Katie and Jeff went scuba diving one morning and saw giant sea turtles, eels, and too many beautiful fish to count.  We drove around the island one afternoon and visited the local village and school, climbed a tall dune overlooking the Indian Ocean, and watched flamingos wade in a lake populated with crocodiles.  One clear evening we went “stargazing” and sat on the beach staring at the star-studded sky above us.  Our guide outlined the constellations and the cloudy milky way with an amazing laser light pointer and then offered us turns looking through a very high powered telescope that offered a clear view of Saturn with all its rings.  As Jeff pointed out, the planet looked like a spaceship from our vantage point.  We enjoyed a sunset cruise on a dhow, a rustic traditional sailing boat with a single mast.

But, best of all, we awaited the appointed time of day when our trusted host, Lulu, would come over to our huts with the cocktail of the day.  The girls enjoyed this ritual with their own special “mocktail” versions.  One afternoon, Katie complained that she was thirsty, so I suggested a walk over to the bar area.  Her response was priceless.  In an exasperated sigh she replied,  “I am waiting here for my cocktail.  I like to be surprised!

Mid-week we decided to do the resort’s hallmark activity of island hopping.  The day started out a bit cloudy, but by the time we were ready to depart, the clouds had made way for blue skies and radiant sunshine.  We hopped aboard a small boat and headed out to the aptly named “aquarium”, a series of channels near a reef chock full of vibrant tropical fish swimming in large schools.  From there, we made our way to another neighboring island to climb a giant sand dune to view a beautiful panorama.  Katie gamely jumped off the dune, creating the illusion of jumping off a steep cliff, but landing safely below in the soft sand.

Dark clouds started to form, and we could hear thunder threatening in the distance. Not deterred, we made our way to the final island for a lovely luncheon set under a canopy strewn with ivy.

During lunch, Jeff noted that ominous clouds were approaching and created a stark contrast to the white sands.  The bruised sky heavy with its darkness and gloom seemed to illuminate the white gleaming beach.  I stopped to take a picture.

Literally moments later, our guide started shouting, and we were running toward the boat as a major squall set in.  We all huddled together trying to buffet the strong winds, large waves, and pelting rain that felt like little pins relentlessly piercing into the cushion of our exposed skin.  I noticed that no one was wearing a life jacket and silently started to panic.  The boat driver desperately grabbed a pair of snorkeling goggles to try to see through the blinding sheets of rain.  Then the boat ran too close to a sand bar, and for a moment I thought the engine might be stuck.  Large swells rocked the boat violently, and I started to sing to myself the theme song from the classic TV show, Gilligan’s Island:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.

Our “three hour tour” had taken a turn for the worse.  After what seemed like an eternity, we managed to get back to the resort, park the boat safely, and walk the rest of the distance through knee-deep swells to the safety of the shore.  My fingers were frozen, my body was drenched, and my nerves were frayed.

Of course, we laughed in the face a danger (literally) while on the wild boat ride to keep the kids calm and make them think this was great fun.  I think Jeff actually did enjoy the experience.  It has given him the rights to gloat the old “I told you so” for the next several years.

Let me explain.

Before taking off on this ill fated cruise, Jeff packed a bulging tote bag that weighed a ton.  Aside from books, travel backgammon (why?), a large Swiss Army knife (again, why?), and prerequisite sun screens and hats, Jeff had packed a full rain suit (jacket and pants) and an emergency safety blanket made out of some kind of high-tech aluminum material for camping.  We all made fun of him for being such a Boy Scout.  Of course, when he was properly outfitted for the squall and we were shivering beside him, he had the most self-satisfied grin I have ever seen spread across his face. Back to Gilligan’s Island, if Jeff is the Professor (prepared for all situations with the proper gadgets), am I his Mary Ann (utterly useless but fun to have around)?

Honestly, there was very little to do on Benguerra Island, a place unspoilt by any modern civilization.  There was no town, no shopping, no nightlife…nothing.  In the common room there was one TV with poor to no reception, and one old computer that never could maintain an internet connection.  Our leisurely days lazily unfolded in a simple routine of three unrushed meals, one planned activity, and the highly anticipated cocktail.  Most of our time was spent reading, walking the beach, and watching the sun set.

Amazingly, I never once heard the girls utter the standard complaint:  “I’m bored“.  Suddenly, we had all adjusted to a more simple lifestyle, one that was slow paced, non tech, and connected to nature.  The girls even got along without too many sister spats!

Perhaps this was the greatest part of our African adventure.

Ironic but true, by unplugging we gained connection.


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