Tofo Beach. My last night before heading off and I’ve got a feeling of Déjà vu: 3:30 AM with Robbie “The Shirtless Dubliner”, crashing waves and a terrible, terrible squall hiding such a brilliant full moon.
“I can’t miss my bus.”
“You’ve got 30 minutes, no worries. You’re already wet from the rain anyways.”
“I hate you.”
Said with a smile as we run into the ocean—sometimes I can be such a bad influence.
Being back at Tofo gives a cozy feeling of repeat: sunscreen, sand and salt. After leaving Vilankulo at 3:30AM (up at 2AM to pack and catch my bus), I arrived safely and exhausted around 9:30AM. Took a machibombos after refusing a chapas driver trying to physically force me into his vehicle.
Thanks buddy but it’s dark and I’d rather not get into your death trap.
Along the way to Maxixe we passed a massive 18-wheeler completely flipped and blocking the road. Up in flames, the red, red sun rose behind it as everyone gasped and whispered. No obvious dead bodies but there was a man suspiciously half covered.
Later that night, billiards with the staff and other tourists before sneaking to bed before they could put another Ginger Ale and Whisky in my hand. One of the staff keeps passing me cutesy kindergarten notes with free drinks and I just want to sleep and get away. Thanks but, I’m um married? I’ve got a ring and everything.
The following day, up at 6AM due to the unbearable heat in my tent and off with some German folks, an Aussie and a New Zealander after splitting the costs to rent a boat from some South Africans. Leave at 9AM? Oh right, this is Africa. After ages, we head out riding in the boat pulled by the bakkie until an axle breaks in the trailer. Twelve of us, room for six in the bakkie—solution? Stand on the rails and hang on tight as we barrel down the rocky dirt roads to the beach. Moz children run after us, hands outstretched and cheerfully laughing, following us hill after hill until finally losing wind.
Everyone loves the novelty.
Driving out on the beach at Barra we push the boat out into the clearest water I’ve ever seen and dive in for some snorkeling. Our cheerful Captain John and his mate Paul direct us out to hopefully see some marine life and to a sand bank. After starting the engine, everyone simultaneously cheers as it only took us almost three hours to finally get into the water. A blue bottle stings the Aussie—even here everything is still trying to kill him, but luckily Aussies are born tough.
At the island, we split and explore. Turning into lobsters, we begin to load up and head back. John hands out shots of rum—tradition for a safe return. Michael (Germany), Daniel (Australia), Tom (New Zealand) and I discuss possibly traveling together north to Malawi: three days of chapas to Lake Malawi. Oh so tempting but it would require a plane flight back. I want to go so badly…but after hours and hours of internal debate I decide to stick to my plans to continue south on my own to Swaziland. I see them off the following day in Inhambane after meeting a hilarious and charismatic Canadian girl on our overcrowded (what’s new?) chapas.
“Can you count how many?”
“Twenty-eight I think.”
“Where’d that baby come from?”
Yes, that’s how crowded it was. There are seats for fifteen.
After getting back, I go out with Peri-peri divers for more snorkeling and to try to see some goddamn whale sharks! Two hours and nothing. Apparently they have been missing for a few weeks and even the whale shark researchers are baffled as this is supposedly the peak season. The driver calls it in and the car is running late so we have ten more minutes to do a quick loop.
In the distance we see birds circling and diving over a bunch of jumping fish.
“There are definitely sharks there.”
Let’s get closer to investigate—a fin pops out.
Soon one guy jumps in before I can ask if it’s safe and before I know it, I’m paddling in after him towards the turning and twisting water. It’s a massive baitball surrounded by tuna, birds and SHARKS. We look below us and see them circling and weaving in and out in the murky water a few meters below: bull sharks and oceanic black tipped sharks. Without thinking, I swim after one to try and get a photo. Stupid but odd that was my first instinct. Realizing my mistake, I swim quickly back to the others just as one grazes right below them. I hear one guy yelp. It’s absolutely surreal and the baitball just keeps swirling along with us.
“One just swam up my trunks!”
“They’re getting caught in my hair!”
Good luck with that. Back in the boat with a rushing high and only slightly disappointed that no whale sharks were spotted—I’m starting to doubt their existence. In the evening, Dr. Andrea Marshall (first person to do their PhD on Manta Rays) gives an awesome lecture on their work at Tofo (http://marinemegafauna.org/about-us/) and I’m super jealous that her job involves scuba diving. Having wanted to originally work in marine biology, getting seasick easily has led me to stick to land. Although, I still can’t resist any body of water—I’m in love.
The next day I pack up and head to Inhambane to try and get to Maputo. But leaving too late, I end up spending the night on the water at Pensao Pachica only to be dragged back to Tofo that night for the Full Moon Party and dancing at Dino’s before what has become the customary nighttime swim.
Time to say goodbye to The Ocean and end this torrid love affair. The Shirtless Dubliner and I blow kisses to the waves before he barely makes his bus in time. The staff takes pity on me and hides me for the night before waking up at dawn to find a chapas back to my hostel in Inhambane.
Next stop: Swaziland.
(The last six are from Peri Peri Divers:http://www.peri-peridivers.com/)