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August 18, 2013 / samwilson60

Coastal paradise and city beats

With kayaking and snorkelling still in mind, we headed further down the coast to the Barra Peninsula. The town here turned out to be another South African holiday hotspot and the locals were unsurprisingly savvy, but we pushed on to the very tip of the peninsula, where we found a real tropical paradise all to ourselves. The beach was stunning and just metres away from our camp on both sides. It was even more impressive at high tide, when the whole campsite was actually cut off, and the flamingos in the estuary were great fun.

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We had a mix of glorious sunshine and torrential rain, but we sat out the latter learning to break into coconuts. There were so many littering the camp and the outer was burned to heat water so we almost felt as though we were doing our hosts a favour, and the birds were over the moon (turns out we don’t actually like real coconut much but they certainly do).

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Once the rain had cleared, we wanted to get straight out on the water in search of seahorses in the mangroves. We miscalculated the tide times so spectacularly we had to wait until mid-afternoon the following day for the water to come in far enough. The saving grace was that the water was so low we could walk pretty much the entire route we’d later paddle. Once actually on the water, we wedged ourselves in the narrowest passageways we could and covered ourselves in snails but sadly found no seahorses.

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On leaving the coast we stayed at a slightly bizarre campsite-come-sawmill that we will always remember as being home to the malaria tree.

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In theory this was the perfect stopover en route to the capital but in practice we squeezed in another. We were keen to check out Maputo, uncharacteristically so, but we were less excited about dorm beds so we went to investigate the out-of-town camping options. We took a ferry across a river and found a spot by the beach that was just too nice to turn down. It was so inaccessible we’d have to stay in a backpackers too if we were to see anything of Maputo but suddenly we were in less of a rush. The lodge was yet another South African enterprise but the manager was lovely and the beach stunning.

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We had a great night and were confident we’d done the right thing, until we tried to leave the peninsula. After an hour or so of queuing for the ferry back to the main road it transpired the boat was broken and no one knew whether it would be hours, days or weeks before service could be resumed. Instead of twiddling our thumbs, we opted to drive the long way round. We were relieved to have confirmation that this option existed and although it was both longer and sandier than expected, before long we’d been joined by a local in a pick-up. His was not a 4×4, as he kept reminding us, but he drove it with the usual gusto. Once we’d let some air out of our tyres and weighed his down with sand, we got both cars out of the sand and up the bank. After that he shot off ahead but every time we thought he was gone for good, we found him patiently waiting for us and/or picking up hitchhikers at the next junction.

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It was a hilarious drive through sand, meadows and yet another sugar estate but it left us almost as far from Maputo as we had been 24 hours previously. We genuinely wanted to make it to the capital now though and, once heading in the right direction again, made surprisingly good time. On the outskirts of town we found ourselves confronted with all the best and worst bits of African capitals, with the added distractions of cool architecture and unpredictable one-way systems. We ended up camping on the AstroTurf roof of the main backpackers, where we tried to get to grips with some end-of-trip practicalities. This was even more emotional a process than usual so we soon turned our attentions to more immediate concerns, i.e. where to find live music on a Wednesday night. Our initial enquiries produced only wry smiles but eventually we got a lead. We had a long wait at the venue but got to know the musicians very well (a hilariously random bunch). When they finally got up on stage we were a little dismayed but the standard increased steadily and when they got into their stride they were awesome. When they were joined by a guest vocalist, they were even better.

We got back to our tent sometime in the early hours and were up at dawn to continue exploring the city before skipping the country. This was quite out of character and nearly ended in tears when Cat’s flip-flops broke along a particularly grotty street, but we ingeniously, if temporarily, fixed the flip-flops with a lighter and were really glad we’d gone out again. It was as whistle-stop as ever but we felt we’d seen a good amount and could now swap the bright lights of Maputo for the big skies of Swaziland.

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Peter Cullen / Aug 19 2013 7:50 am

    Sad to be coming to an end!

  2. leeleetee / Aug 19 2013 11:26 am

    i’m also sad that these wonderful blogs won’t be coming in any more. still, enjoying every last word of your amazing adventure! even if it reads a little like a tarantino screenplay at the moment, with the asynchronous timelines! I’m still trying to get my head around the two of you in a hire car. it must feel teeeeeny! skype your faces when you’re back innit? xxx

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