We got to spend a couple of hours in the city center, where we got to soak up the smells, sounds and feelings of the city. Unlike most cities in Southern Africa, the urban area felt small and concentrated, with wide streets and old trees. The street vendors used this big space to display everything they had to sell, and every one we walked buy was eager for our attention. Maputo was a interesting city in many ways and the few hours we spent in the city center was enough for us before we headed out to the suburbs where we would spend the night.
To get to Inhambane we had to go by a Dhow (a traditional Arab sailboat) from Maxixi. From the port of Inhambane it was just a short drive to Barra Beach where we would spend the three next nights. It had been several weeks since we had seen the coast, and everyone were excited about the chance to eat proper seafood and spend some lazy days at the beach.
My goal for the stay was to go scuba diving. I had heard that Mozambique had some of the worlds best dive sites and I was eager to get out there to explore. The first day I was diving in shallow water (8-12 meters) where the water was muddy and the sight was not very good. But the dive site did not disappoint. In the muddy waters I got to see lots and lots of small fish in the reef, some lobsters or crayfish, many poisonous stonefish and even a turtle that we followed while it slowly swam away. So even with the bad sight it was a good diving experience.
On the second day of diving I had decided to go for an adventure deep water dive, and since I had not gone deeper than 15 meters before I had to start the day with some theory lessons on air consumption for deep water diving with my instructor. He also told me that at the depth we would be staying (25-30 meters) you could expect to see anything. I was really excited on the whole way out, especially when there was a school of around 100 dolphins that were surrounding our boat. Unfortunately since we had to go even further off shore, they did not come with us to the dive site.
When we dropped out of the boat we did a vertical drop going straight down as fast as possible. This ensured that we got to the same location at the bottom despite the current being strong. When we reached the bottom it felt like was standing in a huge aquarium with visibility as good as it possibly can get. It was an amazing feeling, and I promised myself there and then that I would never give up diving for anything in the world. After a couple of minutes we also found a cave, where a huge eel was hiding. And right after that came a sight that not even my dive instructor had seen during his over 100 dives; on the sandy bottom a manta-ray the size of a livingroomtable was laying by itself. Seing the two of us diving towards it, the manta ray slowly flapped his gigant wings and flew away. That was just a couple of minutes before we got low on air and had to ascend.
The excellent dive experience had made me a happy man, and later in the evening me and my brother drove off to the beach with our 600cc Yamaha quadbike that we had rented and watched the sun set on the Mozambican beach. The days at Barra Beach had truly been some of the most memorable days on the whole trip.
After just an hour drive east from Chimoio we turned south into the road EN1, and after just a short while we had to stop because of the many still standing trucks that were in the way. It took quite a while to figure out what was happening. The locals were only eager to sell us oranges and cashew nuts, and none of them had sufficient English skills to be able to explain to us the situation we were stuck in. Since none of the other trucks moved we were also forced to stand still on the road for the many following hours without knowing anything about what was happening on the road ahead of us.
After almost 6 hours there was finally movement around the truck, when over fifty armed soldiers were arriving in jeeps and on the roofs and cargo parts of the trucks in front of us. Our guide was quick to wave away the soldiers looking at our truck, as none of us wanted to have a man with a bazooka or machinegun on our truck, as we then would have been a target should a shooting have taken place. After almost another whole hour the we were in the middle of a military convoy with full speed towards Vilanculos. This was not a very organized convoy, as everyone kept overtaking each other all the time, except for the military vehicles in the front. After about two hours of driving we reached a bridge where a platoon was stationed, and we understood that the danger was over and we would be free to drive on our own to the coastal area of Mozambique. Luckily we witnessed no shooting, but saw quite a few burned out trucks along the way showing that it had not always been as quiet as the time when we passed that area.
When we reached our camp in Vilanculos we had locals asking us how it was further up north as they all had seen clips on the news that evening showing battles between the two political parties FRELIMO and RENAMO. Just a couple of days before there had been a bus of civillians that was Hijacked by the RENAMO (see Fox News) and two civillians had been killed. A truck full of foreign tourist would probably have been a good target in order to get attention from the international press, but luckily we witnessed no battles, and got away from the place with just another story to tell.