By the time we arrived in Vilankulos it was late afternoon, dusk was approaching but the town was still a hive of activity. There was very little to Vilankulos with regards to infrastructure, even less than Inhambane, just a spread out dusty town with the odd concrete building. We had expected a lot more with it being the main centre for tourism in Mozambique. The town centre extended little more than a couple of blocks and beyond this, Vilankulos was nothing more than a dense collection of grass huts. We followed directions to Boabab beach lodge, presumably named after the massive baobab tree overhanging the entrance. There was little to the lodge, in fairness we had heard reports that it had suffered extensive cyclone damage the previous year and just like the town was still recovering, but by now I was suffering quite badly and searching for an alternative location was not an option. I had been sick for 3 days with a fluctuating temperature, flu like symptoms and nausea, and the paranoia finally got the better of us. We opted to self-test for Malaria, much like a do-it-yourself pregnancy test, but requiring a blood sample. Although painful, Karens first attempt to draw enough blood was unsuccessful, perhaps sub-consciously she just wanted to jab me a second time round and even then Im sure I heard her mutter "that's for not letting me bring my hair dryer to Africa" under her breath, but eventually, feeling a bit like a pin cushion we completed a successful test. If I had malaria, it would have surely meant some time in hospital, and possibly a premature end to our trip, so I was greatly relieved 15 mintues later when we were given the all clear. We set up camp in the middle of the grounds on the only flat spot we could find and hoped no-one would run over us in the middle of the night, but although relieved I still felt rubbish and after tucking into dinner we retired to bed.Despite its shabby appearance, Vilankulos does have something going for it - it is the gateway to the stunningly beautiful Bazaruto Archipelago, just a stones throw across the channel - and that was what we were here to see. We spent the following day wandering town and enquiring about excursions to the islands. We had already decided that we would spend new years in Vilankulos and were looking to occupy ourselves in the meantime. We explored the town centre and surrounding villages, and discovered little of interest but for the mayors residence we mistook for a hotel and almost wandered into unwittingly to use the pool. Given the general standard of living in the community it was good to see the tax payers money was going to good use.We also managed to stumble across a temporary erection of a stage and massive speaker set -a vodacom initiative to woo the local citizens. Having been in Mozambique for about two weeks, it was blaringly obvious a war was still being waged across the country - the mobile phone war. The standout feature of every community, whether it be a village of grass huts, or town of crumbling concrete buildings, was the amount of mobile phone advertising. It was staggering. Whether it was the blue of Vodacom or yellow of M-cell, advertising dominated whole communities, with logos and slogans painted on every available surface. Entire towns of blue or yellow, it was ridiculous, and for a country whose people generally struggle to fill their stomachs, it seemed a little over the top.But in keeping with the trend, Vodacom (and im sure M cell were doing the same in the next town over) had created a mobile outdoor nightclub, wheeled in on semi trailers and were sponsoring a 3 day beach party concluding on news years eve, complete with free live entertainment, and most importantly - giveaways.Not yet feeling well enough to party for 1 day let alone 3, we left the locals to it and headed back to camp. We spent a relaxed afternoon wandering the beach and watching the local fishing dhows come in and distribute their catch on the sand. We picked up a couple of bargains for the evening meal, but cooking was a disaster and the less said about the food the better.Up early to make the most of the day, we had booked on a dhow trip will Paul and Susie across to Magaruque island, apparently the most beautiful and picturesque of the Archipelago. Dhows boats are traditional Arabic wooden sailing vessels with a simple quadrangular sail, usually fashioned from various bits of cloth and they are still the most commonly used boats along the Mozambican coast. Our dhow was equipped with a modern touch, possessing a small outboard engine that putted us along the coast to pick up some other travellers. When we arrived at the other lodge there seemed to be some problem, and luckily for us the other people had pulled out leaving us with effectively a private charter. We chugged slowly across the estimated 6km channel, arriving an hour later at the island. The island was beautiful and but for a few local workers building a private lodge on one side, we had the place to ourselves. We pulled into a small lagoon protected by a thin reef and whilst the crewmen set about beginning to prepare our lunchtime feast we set off to explore the island. Magaruque was stunning and beautiful, a pristine paradise island just as we had imagined. Part of the Bazaruto Marine National Park, it is one of the few islands open to the public having not yet been privatised by a large resort company, but from all reports we are lucky we came when we did as this is to change in the near future as the government looks to chase the tourist dollar. It took us the best part of 2 hours to circumnavigate, peaceful and relaxing, we even encountered some resident flamingos cruising the shallows, but by the time we had returned the rival island tour companies had arrived and the beach was littered with people, beach umbrellas and dhow boast - at least we had had the island to ourselves for a short time.Lunch was still not ready so we opted for a short snorkel in the lagoon and were quite surprised by the array of tropical fish including a number of lionfish (firefish) and some curious batfish.Lunch was served and was a tantalisingly tasty mix of spicy marinated fish, chips, rice and salad. A top job by our chefs on their charcoal fire.We returned to the water after our feast to explore the outer edge of the reef and were again pleasantly surprised as we drifted along the shelf with the tidal current. We saw many more tropical fish, crayfish and schooled trevally, and fought the current to follow a spectacularly camouflaged octopus tried to hide among the coral.It was time to head back to Vilankulos, the wind had picked up slightly, as had the swell and the dhow boats began pulling away from the island one by one. We slowly made our way back across the channel, the tide was on its way back in and after grounding a couple of times on some shallow sand bars eventually made it back to camp. Exhausted from the long day, we spent another quiet night in.News years eve had snuck up on us quickly and we spent the day preparing for the night ahead. By preparing I mean we did very little, and spent the day lazing about around town and at a scenic internet café blighted by intermittent power cuts. Before we knew it was late afternoon, so we ducked into a local café to line our stomachs with a big feast before heading back to camp to get ready for the festivities. We sat around camp and cracked a few drinks but unfortunately all the big feed had achieved was to bloat us and leave us feeling tired and ready for bed. It was new years eve though, we were in a different country and after stating our intentions to stick with our original plan and head in to the Vodacom beach party, Susie and Paul agreed to come aswell. We were a little worried about the long dark walk along the beach to the party, so we stashed our valuables before heading on our way. When we arrived the party was cranking, the music was pumping and thousands danced on the beach to the live hip-hop bands imported from the capital Maputo. The people were a little intrigued by our presence as the only white people, but it wasn't long before we had several groups of local friends crowded around, wanting to dance and chat with us. Shortly before new years Karen and I headed back stage, and as we were white no questions were asked by security as we simply climbed through the fence. We had met a group of hip hop artists from Maputo at dinner earlier in the night, so we briefly chatted with them and discussed their set before trying to get on stage ourselves. It was approaching new year and we thought it might be funny for the others to see us climb on to the balcony above the stage with the small gathering who had grouped there for the countdown. Unfortunately though, the security had woken up, or perhaps there were just too many on the balcony already and promptly stopped us from climbing up aswell. They were still unphased by our presence backstage though. We returned to the others quickly, before bringing the curtain down on another fantastic fun-filled year packed with brilliant memories of extraordinary places and wonderful people. As the music blared at ear drum rupturing volumes, we spent the rest of the evening drinking and dancing the night away with our local friends, most interestingly some teenagers intent on touching our white hands, and a young mother bopping away with her baby strapped to her back by a sarong - the baby was completely unphased by the commotion and slept most of the time.The night was getting on, the locals a little more rowdy (no responsible service of alcohol laws here) and it was time for us to call it a night. Intent on ensuring a safe journey home, some locals insisted on escorting us back to our lodge. We are sure they were doing it out of pure hospitality, and it was a nice that they were not expecting payment, so when we arrived safely we bought them a couple of beers, which they seemed stoked about, before we headed to bed.It was new years day and unsurprisingly we were all feeling a little worse for wear, butunable to sleep due to the oven-like conditions in the tent, we took up residence in a hammock by the open-air bar. It was wonderfully relaxing, exactly the way I would've wanted to start the year (minus the hangover of course), as we lay there the whole day shaded by the palm trees and with a slightest breeze to keep us cool. We read our books whilst overlooking the white sandy beach and colourful tropical waters, it was heaven.The following day it was time to move on, we had spent 5 nights in Vilankulos and we were ready to leave. Once more we packed up and got back on the road. With few things of note in the Central Mozambique we knew there were some solid drive days ahead to get us to the north, something we were not looking forward to.