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Armageddon

27 °C

Dana had suggested that he wake us at 5am to watch the sunrise but there was little need, both Kim and I were awake at 4.45 and the sun was already peeking over the horizon. Perhaps thanks to my earplugs, perhaps thanks to the wine, I'd slept rather well. Our choice of tent proved to have been a strong decision as we could watch the sunrise through the open tent flaps without leaving our thin mattresses.

The sun rose quickly and I took a brief early morning walk to the beach before returning to the tent for another hour kip. By the time I awoke again at 6.30 the sun was high, it was beating down onto my face and it was already hot and sticky in the campsite. I collected my clothes that had been strung strategically on various twigs and had dried nicely in the breeze over night. Standing outside my tent I covered myself in suncream, bikini back on and put my few belongings back in my bag.

The crew had provided breakfast of crispy fried eggs, bread and a banana and papaya salad. There was a tub of Ricoffy instant coffee to provide Dana with his morning fix. The man seemed to exist mostly on caffeine an nicotine in copious volumes and the absence of either could have disastrous effects.

After breakfast we waded out to the boat for another days adventure - at this point we were blissfully unaware what an adventure it would turn out to be. Back on the boat we began a longer journey through deeper, but calm waters that required no zigzagging. The wind was up a little and the crew put up the sail; we had a smooth, speedy(ish) ride. An unusual island came into view as we progressed - it appeared as a sandy shape in the distance', the island of Bazaruto which looked as if it consisted largely of dunes. We landed by a large, gelatinous looking starfish, unpacked the boat and one of the crew took some thick blue netting off the boat and quickly constructed a makeshift shelter to provide us with some shade as the sun was strong, hot and relentless.

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We'd parked ourselves at the bottom of a small steep dune which I scrambled up using my hands to help, taking three steps forwards and one step back. The sand was burning hot and I was grateful for the little boat shoes we'd been given. The view from the top of the little dune was incredible - behind more dunes stretched into a high sand mountain and in front the sea stretched out, all shades of blue dotted with the rock patterns and shallow, yellower waters. The sand on the beach was whiter than white and there was no one else to be seen. The others joined us and Angie, Andrew and I set off towards sand mountain to see what was on the other side. After a couple of false summits we reached the top and the 360 views were utterly breath taking. I took back what I'd said the previous day about Margurite being the most beautiful place I'd ever been.... This was the most beautiful place I'd ever been.

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My camera couldn't do it justice, it was impossible to describe well but there were dramatic sand-cliffs, views of the neighbouring Benguera island, sandy shores and multi-tonal ocean. As Angie said, you could tell why people used to think that the earth was flat as from here, it looked as if you could sail right off the edge.

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I could have remained up there for a long time but, having had most of my suncream splashed off on the boat ride, and having climbed in just a bikini and tshirt, I could feel myself beginning to fry so I made quick work of the descent, jogging across firmer sand and sliding with the sand-avalanches down the hills.

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I reached the bottom, where I found Dad under the shelter guarding our belongings and looking extremely contented sipping a beer whilst Kim, Lani and Jan splashed in the shallow water. I went to join them and cool off and found them crowded around a bizarre looking sea creature, a short, fat slug like thing, white with brown spots that apparently had spat at Jan! But in that heat I couldn't be deterred from going in the sea (where she also claimed that something had 'grabbed' her - we later deduced that she'd probably stood on a ray).

After a night in a tent followed by the climb combined with the heat, I was pretty pooped so I took a nap under the shelter as the others slowly filtered back from their explorations.

The Finns bought back with them what Kim referred to as sand dollars - I've never seen anything like them before - they were slim flattish cream-coloured disks with two long holes at the top, as if perfectly designed for stringing onto a necklace. In the centre, where the disk was a bit thicker, was a perfectly formed flower grey outline of a flower. Dana told us that if you pressed I'm the centre they would break and 'set free the angel that lived inside'. Mrs Finn passed off a chipped one for me to keep, but they clearly weren't designed to leave the island as, later back on mainland, I found it shattered to dust in my bag. But hopefully the angel was now free!

Lunch again was prepared on the grill in the stern of the boat, this time garlicky pasta accompanied with squid in a tomato sauce, more salad and more popcorn. Andrew, after a brief dip in the sea, wrapped up in long trousers, as shirt and used his umbrella as a parasol as he read on the beach, occasionally handing out biscuits.

After several hours in paradise, we paddled back out to the boat again - it had a little ladder that didn't fix to anything and was unsteady with the constant lapping of the waves so many of us had become quite adept at hopping up over the sides.

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The journey was calm as we sailed towards Benguera island and followed its shoreline to stay out of the slightly rougher water. We followed the long sandy beach which was scattered with people, even what looked like a little school, were overtaken by one or two speedboats and even watched a helicopter come in to land. At one point the Ricoffy tub came out and Dana and the chef prepared creamy coffees for us which we drank from the tin cups before leaning over the side to rinse them in the sea.

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As we approached the end of the island, the crew lowered the sail and passed their bags towards the front of the boat for us to stash under the tarpaulin with our own telling us that it was about to get wet. And how right they were. We came around the corner of the island, lost its protection and were sailing sideways into the wind. Whilst the waves weren't huge and the wind not that strong, it was more than enough for the little boat to cope with. I'd sat on the right side but those on the left were getting the full force of the waves coming over the front. The crew put on their rain jackets and we knew it was about to get rough. The sickness pills came out, we 'weighed the boat' and so it began.

We were buffeted back and forth by the waves, the water inches from the sides. A couple of people put on life jackets - there weren't enough to go around but Dad and Angie couldn't swim. The boat rocked like never before. The Finns dropped to the floor and huddled under their towels and raincoats - but much to the amusement of the crew, they continued to read and do sudoku. Those at the back were taking the full force of the waves and Dana, Jan, Kim and Craig were 'weighing the boat', taking one for the team and were utterly drenched, soaked to the skin and shivering. Andrew and Krista took the brunt of it at the front as waves crashed over the bow.

Next to Corinna and I, the side of the boat made cracking noises causing a wave of fear each time it happened. Katharina peered curiously over the side, perhaps expecting to see bits of wood sticking out but there was nothing. But still the cracking continued ominously. The sky was still blue and the sun beat down but thanks to the lack of protection offered by Adriana, we felt like pirates at sea buffeted by the fiercest of storms. A strong swimmer, I was genuinely terrified and began scanning the storage boxes calculating if we had anything we could use to help keep Dad and Angie afloat should the worst happen. But Dad kept his spirits up and Sam kept telling me that until the crew looked worried, we didn't need to worry; I hadn't known the crew long enough to know their worried expressions but to me, they didn't look particularly upbeat.

Land slowly approached and, although the cracking continued, and the waves continued to pound us, once we were about a kilometre from shore my fear lessened slightly although the boat continued to heave and creak. Whilst Mozambique was unlikely to have any form of coast guard, I felt out chances of survival were slowly, very slowly improving. Soon we were only a few hundred meters from land and, as we sailed into the port, the waves disappeared completely, boats bobbed gently in the water and it was almost impossible to conceive that just minutes earlier we'd been close to being shipwrecked.

As we disembarked gladly, leaping down into the water, drenched from the 'storm' we tipped the crew generously and I think that I can safely say that we'd have all gladly taken another trip on the powerboat of sickness before we'd board Adriana again.

Dana declared that we were going to have a 'thank God we're alive' party that evening and so we stopped at the bottle shop on the way back for supplies. Dropping the couples off at CasaRex, they all declined the option of joining us for dinner, the trauma of the day requiring recovery and relaxation.

The rest of us returned to Golden Sands for hot showers and then Krista, Jan and I collapsed on the sofas with our drinks still semi in shock from the day's events. Before dinner we went up to the apartment that Kim was sharing with the Germans were we drank several beers and ciders occasionally braving the strong winds that were now sweeping the balcony to take pictures of the full moon.

Sam and Dad joined us and Dad pulled the classic 'look at that' trick whilst stealing a swig of my cider as I looked in the opposite direction. I was amazed at how he'd coped with the days events, in fact a lot of the trip so far. The trip was originally booked as Sam's honeymoon however the wedding had been called off and Sam had instead brought his 68 year old father along who'd undergone heart surgery just 3 months ago and had already been in Australia for the wedding. Dad had gradually come out of his shell as the days had passed and joined in more and more - he wasn't the chattiest of fellows but came out with some classic statements and there was a lot of love for him in the group. And as for Sam, I couldn't even begin to imagine what he must have been going through but he was a ray of Australian sunshine, always upbeat, always smiling and taking great care of not just Dad but the whole group with his mini portable pharmacy that he'd brought along.

We drove out of town for dinner at a restaurant called Zombie Cucumber, just up from the sea, owned by a French and Belgian couple. Nothing works up an appetite quite like clinging on to a boat for dear life for 2hours! We ate well, we laughed, we sang and we drank occasionally experiencing a slight rocking sensation but celebrating being back on dry land in one piece.

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As we drove back in the dark, I had a seat to myself in our couple-less bus and watched the palms and the ocean pass by in black and white as we bumped along the unlit dirt road with just a crumbling down wall between us and the beach. I wondered if I'd ever come back to Mozambique. It was an incredible place, stunningly beautiful and yet the most undiscovered place I'd ever been but with a lot of the country left to see, but I doubted it.

And then Eddie missed the turning.

We continued, presumably planning on taking the next left but the sand became loose and deep and before we knew it, the wheels were spinning and we were stuck. Eddie frantically turned the wheel but there was a short steep drop from the 'road' to the beach and the harder he tried, the closer the bus spun to towards it. Just feet away, we stopped and all disembarked with serious faces into the dark; it was approaching 11pm and we were in the middle of nowhere, our bus almost hanging off the edge of the not road with a short, steep, very sandy track to get up before we reached higher ground.

Dana began to walk back to the restaurant for help as most of us started digging the loose sand away from the wheels with our hands. Exhausted by the day at sea and with a 7am start to make the next day, it was frantic, filthy work. There was no phone signal and we were several miles from Golden Sands.

Sam found a rotting old gate in the crumbling wall and began to drag planks of wood over as Andrew and I lifted rocks to stack behind the wheels. Eventually Eddie managed it get the bus away from its precarious position at the edge of the drop and there was a loud cheer as he promptly got stuck again a few feet further up. He was clearly stressing as we began the digging process again and re-placed the wood.

Dana arrived back with Bruno, the restaurant owner who'd brought with him two overall-ed workers equipped with shovels. He had a 4x4 and left the headlights on illuminating the tragic scene. After several minutes work and repositioning of the wood we were ready to try again and, as Eddie got into gear, the rest of us piled behind to push. Another whoop of victory as the bus leapt forwards a few more feet before promptly getting stuck again.

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Dana stood chain smoking and looking upset, there were already more than enough hands on deck. Eddie used his hands to dig tirelessly, devoted to the cause along with the beshoveled locals whilst a drunk Bruno alternated between barking instructions and telling us it was a lost cause and we'd have to wait for morning for a tow. But with some more digging, more smashing of the gate and positioning of wooden planks, in a cloud of sand and dust and the smell of burning rubber we gained a few more feet. Repeat. Gain a few more feet and we were practically at the top if the hill. More cheering and we're stuck now on flat ground. Covered in dust, we repeated the process once more and, what felt like over an hour later, we were free.

Filthy, exhausted and injured from our efforts, we applauded Bruno's men who'd shovelled and pushed so tirelessly for us piled back into the bus, talking little as Eddie sped us back down to Golden Sands. It wasn't quite the 'thank God we're alive party' that we'd had in mind and a few of us collapsed onto our balcony with beers to say good riddance to the day of ups and downs: most beautiful place in the world, followed by near-death-boat-experience, followed by a great Friday night dinner with wonderful friends, followed by digging barefoot in sand in the pitch black late at night. It had been a day of contrasts but Dana declared he was thoroughly glad to see the back of it. After all of that, surely the following day's 6 hour minibus drive that we'd been dreading seemed like an awesome way to spend a chilled out day. We were adventured out.

Posted by madeinmold 12:26 Archived in Mozambique

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