Ilha Do Mocambique - World Heritage Site (Jan 5th - 7th)
Ilha Do Mocambique was a place I was sure was going to be one of the highlights of Mozambique, it definitely was but as our time in Mozambique comes to an end I realize that all of this country has been a surprising highlight especially the people. There is definitely a language barrier but everyone is so friendly and welcoming that with a bit of sign language and broken attempts at Portuguese and English we've had an amazing time!Ilha was declared a World Heritage Site in 1992, its significance coming from the fact that it is the oldest European settlement in East Africa.I knew it was linked to the mainland by a causeway before we arrived but had rather imagined a road that emerges from the sea at low tide but no it was a proper bridge available at any time of day.The boom gate on the mainland side was down indicating we had to stop and do some paper work and cough up 10mtn, but this didn't take long and it was time to see if Kal would fit between the two concrete bollards that protected the entrance to the causeway, thankfully we squeezed through without any injuries and we were on our way.The causeway was single file with passing places every so often along it's 1.5km expanse, there wasn't too much need for these as most of the traffic bustling back and forward was foot or bicycle based and we managed often narrowly to not take anyone out.As we zoomed along the waters were invitingly crystal clear below us with the bottom being visible all the way.At the other end we were surprised but not too bothered to be charged another 10mtn (about 20p), it's not a lot compared to what you'd pay in Europe to cross something similar.Our next challenge was to find accommodation, I'd checked out a few places on-line in Nampula and the pictures looked great, the reality wasn't to disappointing but how to find these places?Again a friendly local came to the rescue, attaching himself to Kal outside of my door he directed us to O Escondidinho.This place was refreshing after the rather mundane place we'd stayed in Nampula and was a lot cheaper at 950mtn per night I thought it was a bargain.Check out the photo album, it had a beautiful pool that we were to enjoy a cooling swim in later and our room was fabulous!We had a small four poster bed complete with a mosquito net that wouldn't hover around my head and with hugely tall ceilings and 3 fans we were all set to cope with the heat.My only regret was that we could only stay one night, they were fully booked the following evening.If you are ever in the area this is the place to stay!It was around 4pm so we thought we'd go for a walk and see if we could secure accommodation for the following evening and check out some of the island.We weren't disappointed, the setting sun cast some beautiful light over the buildings, some of them lovingly restored but the majority in a ruinous state.It was strange to see people living in what surely would be condemned buildings in the UK, a number had trees growing out of the walls, all this just added a bit more magic to the island.Again everyone was very friendly and didn't hassle us if the answer was no, everyone wanted to be your guide or organize a dhow ride for you! There were a couple of cute children playing in the streets and waving at us as we walked past, so we thought it would be nice to take their photo. As the camera was lined up kids started running from everywhere to get into the picture and were pushing and shoving towards the camera. Eventually a couple were snapped off and as we showed the kids the pictures they starting pointing at themselves on the screen and screaming at the top of their voices in excitement, simple pleasures! The island is only 2.5km long and not more than 600m wide at any point so we were able to see quite a bit that evening.Despite the setting sun I was still HOT so on returning to the hotel it was time for a dip this is always a perfect interlude between the hot sweatiness of the day and preparations for dinner.It's at this point that I have to swap my sun tan lotion each day for my long trousers and mosquito repellant - not too much fun but much better than getting eaten alive and trust me if I forget or miss a spot they literally eat me up - not sure why, they never seem to touch Paul!For dinner we joined Kaz and Dave at a small restaurant on the beach facing the mainland that they'd found on their walk, Restaurante Reliquias it was very nice and during the day would have had amazing views as it was it was pitch black with the stars out above us which wasn't so bad either.I had my second go at the local dish matapa this time with siri-siri whatever that is, a kind of bean I think, it didn't disappoint.The only meal that wasn't quite what was expected was Dave's seafood salad, I think most of it came out of a tin and wasn't really enough to fill someone like Dave up but his meal the following evening was to make up for this.The next day we set out to explore the island but had to fill up with some breakfast first, eggs on toast.It was a bit of a strange experience we'd all ordered 2 scrambled eggs with toast and the boys had bacon.The eggs arrived and we were all some what disappointed as they were very small portions so I think we all rationed them so that they would fit on two pieces of toast only to be presented with our second egg as we finished the first piece of toast and the bacon was to follow on yet another plate.The other thing that stood out about having breakfast was the amount of flies around, even with a fan that could have helped a small plain take off they were still everywhere - I guess the only plus side here was that they didn't bite!!Our first destination on our self guided tour of the island was Fortaleza de Sao Sebastao and it was here we met and were guided through the Fort by 'Harry Potter', a local Mozambiquian boy who had changed his name, it was one we certainly wouldn't forget but I'm not sure he looked anything like Harry Potter!Harry gave us a brief history of the fort using a rather old model at the entrance before showing us the real thing, it was built between 1546 and 1583 by the Portuguese in response to a threat from the Turkish and in the ensuing centuries was used time and time again by the Portuguese to fend off invaders.If the Dutch had managed to take the island it would more than likely been the head quarters for the Dutch East India Company and the need for a refueling station on the Cape of Good Hope might not have been necessary, Southern African's history might have been very different.As it was the Portuguese never surrendered over nearly 4 centuries and finally left when Mozambique gained its Independence in the 70's. More than just his very good English, Harry's take on things was very interesting, he was very happy to have his job and that the civil war had ended and was sure that Africa would get on it's feet now that the 'Muzungu's' had relinquished control - fingers crossed especially for Mozambique it deserves a bit of prosperity.We were shown the battlements, many of the cannon's still in place and a few with there old wooden stands still in place although slowly rotting away, from here we also got some amazing views of the surrounding ocean and islands, magical!Then we saw the remains of the prison, main church within the fort, kitchens, living quarters and huge water tank.It wasn't like Europe where things like this are preserved and walking around wherever you want is restricted to ensure the survival of the building, here everything was crumbling and most of the fort had been used to school the local kids in the recent months while there new school was completed, there were some signs of investment but this pretty much amounted to some white paint rather than full on restoration.Then we were taken down to the simple but quite fascinating Church of Nossa Senhora Baluarte, the oldest standing European building in the southern hemisphere constructed back in 1522.The corner of the fort facing the church had no cannon's on the battlements as a sign of respect, I'm not sure if this was retained during wars but a nice touch!The church was very simple inside with a couple of crypts inside, who knows who the people were!!Just along from the church though was the execution yard where those who fell foul of the Portuguese were executed and then dropped into a hole from where the sea would wash away their remains! As we walked around Harry was able to pick up old bullets from the sand and interestingly but nothing to do with executions bits of old blue and white porcelain.Harry explained that he'd found a lot of these and that the bar where we'd had breakfast was decorated by pieces that he'd found.Something else that they liked to find and try to sell to us tourist were old Portuguese coins that they'd dig in the sand for, time and time again they tried to sell us these rusty old things I think some with dates in the 1800's, not for us though!!We'd made one mistake on our jaunt to the Fort we hadn't taken any water so after thanking Harry and snapping off a shot of him and the boys the next priority was a drink which didn't take us long to find and I downed a lovely icy cold bottle of water.At this stage it was too hot for Paul and I to continue exploring so we opted for a rest in our new hotel, Casa Branca until it cooled down a bit.We headed out at about 3pm to explore the south of the island where the town changes from what they call Stone Town to Reed Town, basically the homes change to ones topped with reeds and this is where the majority of the population of the island, amazingly some 7,000 live.This put us off the idea of an afternoon swim in the ocean, it was obvious that the locals were using the beaches as their tip and bathrooms.It was a bit strange, their fishing boats would come into the beach, which was full of rubbish with many of the locals relieving their bowels right there to.I guess the ocean washes a lot of it away and they've never had the luxury of the toilets and rubbish/sewer systems we are used to the in the west.It wasn't much cooler so we decided to head back to O Escondidinho for a dip in the pool before going out to dinner.Paul and I ate at O Escondidinho, it was more expensive than anything we'd come across so far but it was nice to splash out.We'd had some amazing seafood meals since being in Moz but hadn't yet come across the monster prawns that Codfather in Camps Bay serves from Moz, but this was the place I got some huge ones and Paul enjoyed his first delicious steak since leaving SA!That said and done we decided that Ilha didn't really warrant another day as we'd managed to walk the entire island that day, so in the morning we'd head for Pemba.Outside Casa Branca Kal was just parked on the street so we enlisted the help of "Amigo" the friendly night watchmen.He said he'd watch the car through the night, to our surprise when we walked out in the morning he'd also washed Kal!This was no mean feat, even the hub caps were sparkling, these things were caked in thick mud the night before - I don't think Kal has ever looked so good!All we gave him was 100mtn the equivalent of about 2 pounds, Kaz saw his face as he turned to leave and said he had the biggest smile on his face. I was glad, it didn't really seem like a lot for a whole nights work but since we've been told the average salary here is around 68mtn a day, just over one pound now we know why there was a smile on his face!!