The return from Mozambique Island to Maputo marked the midpoint of our vacation and meant the beginning of a new cycle with the arrival of my sister Clara to Mozambique the next morning. In the first two days we were in Maputo, before going north, we met my friend Gonçalo, who has been living in Mozambique for eight years and who has already written a text here for the blog. He and Debora, his girlfriend, invited us to spend the day at their house, halfway to Namaacha. We waited for Clara at the airport, which took longer than we expected as we opted to get the visa directly there, at the entrance to Mozambique, but that day the system was down, which made everything much slower.
Finally we left the airport and went slowly to Massaca, passing by cashew nuts, coconuts and fruit vendors. We were stopping for Clara to buy and taste everything, as she wasn’t the biggest instafoodie I know. Finally we arrived at their house, literally in the middle of nowhere, overlooking Africa and a pool to cool us off. The idea was to have breakfast at a nearby restaurant but with the delay at the airport we opted to eat all the wonderful fruit we had bought along the way and take a dip before heading to Namaacha where we would have lunch and then visit a game reserve there, usually closed to the public.
We opted to go in the flatbed van because it was more typical and more fun. Namaacha is directly next to Swaziland border and is known as the Sintra of Mozambique, as it is at 500m high, has a microclimate like that of our mountain range and is not that far from the capital. We met two of their South African friends, Gideon and Carol, to go to Acacia restaurant, where we arrived “late”, it was 3 pm.
It was at this restaurant that we had the biggest “shock of Africa” ever. We were seven and the restaurant was full on the terrace at the back of the restaurant, so we asked to be at the front. The tables were fixed to the floor, so you couldn’t put two tables together, but you could put one in the middle of the tables so you could have a big table. We proposed this to the employee in two different ways and he said that wasn’t possible, but then he came to this idea himself. Finally seated he came to ask what we wanted to drink. Ordering drinks was not easy, we had to ask him what he had written to make sure he understood everything, things were missing when he brought the drinks and we had to ask for the menus three times. Finally the menus came, we chose five dishes with the idea of then ordering more if we got hungry. About 15min later the waiter comes back to say that of the five we ordered there was only one of the dishes … ok, so what do you have?… Panic in his face! We suggested him to go in the kitchen to ask what there was and asked if it was necessary to accompany him. He said it was not necessary. He comes back saying that there are only three dishes on the menu, we ordered two servings of each – Zambezian chicken, peanut curry and some duck dish. After 45min we were so hungry! One of the times we went inside asking how they were doing, we found the employees eating chips – something we had also ordered -, another time three of them sitting and talking… On a trip to the bathroom my mother came across the cook and took the opportunity to order everything they had as starters… Finally some food! Two hours later the food had not yet arrived and the visit to the reserve was already compromised. Finally they said it was coming, but it actually took 30min more. I don’t know if it was from hunger or if it was really good, but it was the best chicken we ever ate! Super tasty, the potatoes exactly crispy and salty! The other two dishes were quite uninteresting, a pity because they were the ones who arrived at last and there was no more chicken to end up with the best dish. In the meantime the sun had set and we were quite angry with the experience!
The only good part of all this waiting is that we decided that we would not return to Maputo, but we would rather sleep at Gonçalo and Débora’s house and the next day we would all go to the beaches of Ponto do Ouro, the southernmost tip of Mozambique, next to the border with South Africa.
The next day we went by van again and left before sunrise. We had to arrive first to Gideon and Carol’s house because we would go to Ponta do Ouro on their van, also flatbed, but this one was prepared to transport passengers. The way to Ponta do Ouro from their home takes about 1h30 and from Maputo, after the construction of Catembe Bridge, about a year ago, only 1h20 – before it was necessary to take the ferry, which only took eight cars at a time. On the way we crossed Maputo Special Reserve, where some animals can be seen. On the way south we saw several impalas and two Pumbas, the wild boars, fleeing with their tails in the air.
We arrived early at Ponta do Ouro, the beach almost empty. The proximity to South Africa is such and the South Africans are so many that no one approaches us in Portuguese. We had a nice breakfast at one of the beach restaurants and then went exploring on foot. The air and water temperatures were no longer those of northern Mozambique. Lots of surfers and lots of families. The sunshades are replaced by ugly metal armors with canvas, such as those seen from sponsors at the end of races and are assembled as the clientele appears. One of the most interesting and fun things we saw was the clothes differences, from the Arabs in Burkini doing a photo shoot in the water, to the South African old ladies in their matching swimming caps, tutus and leggings, and those on their sunday clothes who just came directly from the mass to the beach. Comparing to the beaches in the north this beach is not that interesting, but being in Maputo is a good getaway. You just have to walk a little to avoid the crowds.
The plan for lunch was to go up to 360º, a hilltop restaurant with an about 300º view The owner, Pete, South African, a friend of our friends. The food was great and the view greater. Before lunch Gonçalo rented a quad bike for two hours and Clara went exploring the dunes with him.
The return to Maputo was spectacular! On our way south through the Maputo Reserve it was nice to see impalas and wild boars, but what we really wanted was to see some big animals! In the flatbed the vision we had to the front was not the best and we had not yet entered the reserve when from inside the car came screams of hysteria! A hundred meters past the entrance there was an elephant! After walking in front of us, he began to show off with a huge trunk. After disappearing into the jungle we drove further and shortly after we saw four giraffes eating! Fabulous! The sky was very cloudy and it was clear that it was going to rain but the sunset was spectacular as the sun appeared almost on the horizon below the clouds. Luckily it didn’t rain very hard – remember three of us had no roof – but the thunderstorm was amazing! The sky all torned with light! To photograph the thunder was not easy but when we finally got it was another hysteria, this time from those outside!