How to celebrate a King’s birthday

Last Friday was the King’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to leave the Kingdom and head to the beach.  I was joined by Aussie Tegan and French Helene, and despite a couple of setbacks – a horrible weather forecast, and Mozambican power players at the visa counter – we were soon on our way.

Ponta do Ouro lies close to Mozambique’s southern border with South Africa.  A little seaside village, it is only accessible by 4WD.  We selected to take the slightly longer route via South Africa, which meant two border crossings but only 10km of sandy track.  I finally got to put my SES 4WD training to the test and am pleased to say I passed with flying colours – even the eggs made it intact, although admittedly they were shrouded in about 5 metres of bubble wrap.

First stop was our accommodation, Ocean View Cottages: a 6-bed self-catering house, nestled on a steep hillside with stunning views over the ocean.  After we stopped pinching ourselves, we made use of a break in the rain to wander along the beautiful coastline and dip our feet in the surprisingly warm Indian Ocean.  On our way back to the cottage, we stopped for a quick Caprinhia at Pinto’s Beach Bar – a little shack plonked right on the sand – which was lovely apart from the group of young, drunk South Africans (who disappeared instantly in a ghost, lemming-like manner) and Alex, the sleazy Italian.  With not much else going on in town, we headed home for dinner and early sleep.

Excitement at feeling the water around my feet.

Excitement at feeling the water around my feet.

I was forced awake in the ridiculous, early hours of the morning due to the sun blasting into my room.  Sun!  That’s right, so much for a horrible weather forecast.  While the others slept blissfully, I rushed down to the ocean for an early morning dip.  It was delightful!  Less delightful was returning to my towel and finding my $100 ergonomic sandals had been stolen.  Even less delightful than that, was the realisation that they were the only shoes had for the weekend.

Knowing there was little I could do, I headed back to the house, stopping to let the guards know what had happened.  They were disgusted, and between their limited English and my non-existent Portuguese, I managed to ascertain that thieves commonly wander the beach, pinching items and throwing them into the bushes to collect later.  So, we hunted through the bushes and found nothing.  A last-minute check under a nearby tatty old tarp and there they were, my purple sandals.  Phew!

The rest of the day was spent something like this:  breakfast on our deck overlooking the ocean, swim in the ocean, walk along the beach, watching squid and dolphins from the beach, reading on the beach, lunch on our deck overlooking the ocean, reading on our deck while overlooking the ocean, sitting on the deck and watching the storm roll in from the ocean, drinking wine on the deck while the storm blocked our view of the ocean.  It was a very hectic day.

Tegan wonderfully demonstrating how much of our weekend was spent.

Tegan wonderfully demonstrating how much of our weekend was spent.

When the storm passed in the evening, we decided to separate ourselves from the deck and head into town for a seafood dinner.  The huge dish of calamari, fish and prawns were, unsurprisingly, delicious.  The entire dinner, however, was tainted by the drunken Afrikaaner barflies that decided to impose themselves upon us with an argument about the Chinese: their involvement in Africa (mostly by way of Direct Foreign Investment, which is actually a recommended avenue to reduce dependence on foreign aid), and their genuine feeling that all the Chinese should be “nuked” / “gassed” / “exterminated”.  By the end of it, I literally felt sick.

Not wanting to regurgitate the delicious seafood I had just ingested, we tried to get out of that restaurant as quickly as we could, yet they started to follow us.  So, in pure “fight” mode, I grabbed one of the guy’s drinks and threw it in his face.  Not my prettiest moment, but it shocked him enough to give us time to get to the car and make our escape.

That whole experience was extremely difficult for all of us shake off and left us disturbed for the rest of the night.  As I rotated it in my mind, I pondered my emotional reaction.  As first I thought it was because I hadn’t heard such overt bigotry like that in years.  Or had I?  The recent arrival of asylum seekers to Geraldton had certainly opened up a can of vitriolic comments on facebook.

Australia’s leaders (both of them!!) haven’t exactly been shy about casting aspersions on those desperately fleeing for their lives.  I would go so far as to say that their comments are inciting hatred.  We have seen, throughout recent history, the destructive effect that that has on nations. What’s more, returning the majority of Geraldton’s asylum seekers to a place with high likelihood of death for the sole purpose of political gain is hardly the action of a leader, not to mention illegal.  Since when did Australians stop demanding their leaders be accountable to their own laws?  Since when did Australians stop demanding humanity?

What makes it so sad is that I am yet to hear a single logical, rational or evidence-based argument against compassionate treatment of each other, be it asylum seekers, Chinese or whoever, yet we continue to persecute.  When I compare comments from my beloved homeland with renownedly racist South Africa, I actually don’t hear much difference.  Maybe that realisation is what really made me so sick.  Perhaps it’s also the fact that, even after all these years of wars, crusades, conflicts, battles, apartheid, people still haven’t realised that discrimination doesn’t actually work.

The bright sunshine of the morning once again woke me early, and with the previous evening’s events still playing on my mind, some yoga on the deck followed by a morning dip seemed the perfect remedy.  We managed to fit in an early lunch, enjoyed from our favourite ocean-viewing platform, before commencing the journey back to Swaziland.  The sand track was much firmer thanks to the rain, and had also created a series of awesome mud tracks.  The mud was so much fun that we subconsciously made an extra detour to make it last an hour longer.

Back on home soil, despite the negative events of the weekend, Ponta was largely filled with positive memories.  It is difficult to begrudge a place of sunshine, white sand and clean ocean.  Needless to say, I’m already plotting my next visit.

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