It was six months in the planning but, finally, four of my colleagues and I managed to find a date for a Gone Rural girls’ trip to Mozambique. Our destination was Catembe, a small fishing village across the watery inlet from the country’s capital, Maputo.
As we left home, the excitement was overflowing, much like the wine in the backseat of the vehicle. The trip across the border and to Maputo was buoyant and uneventful (apart from the odd speeding ticket), yet no trip to Mozambique is complete without some drama. Sure enough, as we entered Maputo city, a kombi bus with failing brake lights and no indicators stopped suddenly in the middle of the road. Despite an attempt to go around the bus in dense traffic, there was not enough time or room to prevent a smashed side mirror and large scratches of paint down the side of the car. My poor sand-plough. With an inability to speak in the same language, and neither of us accepting responsibility, we had no choice but to drive away despondent.
To lighten the mood, we headed straight to Continental Bakery for Pao and Pasteis de Nata. Then it was off to Maputo’s best-kept secret. Tucked away down an alleyway, with not a single piece of signage, this non-descript hole-in-the-wall provides cheap and delicious Portuguese chicken 24/7. One places an order with the man behind the grill and, five minutes later, a piping hot chicken wrapped in brown paper drops out from a chute. I don’t even dare contemplate where that chicken starts out. However, the chicken was good, and we devoured it within minutes, before running back to get a second.
After a lengthy wait for the ferry, and then a wait on the ferry as a major ship passed us at very close proximity, we finally arrived at Catembe Packers’ Lodge in the afternoon. Full of chicken and pao, we spent the evening in our dorm chatting away and sipping wine. At least, that’s what the others did – Gogo Isabel was asleep by 8pm.
In hindsight, the early evening was a good thing, as we were awoken at 5:30am by one of our over-eager comrades. Rather than waste the morning in bed, we donned our flip-flops and headed off for a long walk along the quiet, calm coastline. After what seemed like hours, we decided to stop at the small fishing village in search of some cold drinks – 2M beers, in fact. A fisherman with no English skills very kindly directed us through the town, behind the infamous Massinga Nightclub, and down sandy tracks to a little shabeen in the middle of nowhere. Promptly, a boy appeared to open the bar for us and, before long, our thirst was being adequately quenched while we danced to Passada music blaring from the loudspeakers. It was only then that we decided to check the time: 9am. Shame.
Tired from our early-morning dancing (and drinking), we made our way back to the lodge via an open truck, into which we were crammed with 20 others. As the sides of the tray swayed with each bump in the road, I am impressed that we made it home without losing anybody overboard. Penny cooked up an amazing breakfast, then it was time for a quick dip and more sleep under the thatched beach umbrella. In the afternoon, we wandered into town to meet up with Penny’s brother and his wife who assisted us greatly in sourcing some fresh prawns from back-street vendors.
As the sun began to set, we made our way to the bar of the nearby Gallery Hotel, built along a pier and providing beautiful views of Maputo’s skyline behind the orange-reflecting smog. Once dark, it was time to prepare the evening’s feast….and what a feast! Masterchef Shelley defied the loss of electricity to cook up the most mouth-watering 2kg of prawns, seared in a salty / wine / beer / lemon / garlic / onion / curry powder / anything marinade. It was accompanied by tomato spiced rice, excess amounts of fresh mixed salad, and crusty Pao, using only ingredients purchased from the local markets. Based on the way we had to waddle back to the room, anyone would think we had been extravagant with our meal, but the entire feast only cost us about AUD$6 each! With our bellies stuffed, our talk of hitting Massinga Bar soon fell by the wayside and, one-by-one, we drifted into slumber.
This time it was Penny to blame for the early morning awakening. With sunlight just starting to show itself, we made our way to the beach for sunrise yoga, then promptly headed back to bed. By late morning, we were back on the ferry to Maputo, and back to the chicken shop for some take away. As we passed the local park, one of our travellers spotted a group of men training. Before I had time to register why this information was so important, our fearless driver had swung the car 180 degrees, parked, and was making a beeline for the group.
As I stumbled out of the car in confusion, I took one look at where my friends were heading and burst into laughter, both from embarrassment and delight. Never before have I witnessed my friends show such a resolute interest in Crossfit. Then again, never before have I seen Crossfit advertised so well. Ngingakudla lilanga lonkhe lechocolate lena. As we stood there with our jaw to the floor, an old man wandered past and promptly started doing some exercises in our line of sight, perhaps to try and steal our interest. It didn’t work, but bless him all the same.
As we pulled our flustered selves away from the park, we made our way to a seafood restaurant for lunch, before commencing the journey home. It had been six months in the planning, but it was worth the wait.