I shall remember for sure the restful nights in Ponta do Ouro, the sounds of the wind playing outside and the waves breaking not far from our window.
Thursday I was still half asleep when I heard Paul on the phone. The conversation left no margin for doubts: we had to return to Maputo right away. Paul approached with that guilty calm way of his: “We have to leave soon. If you want, we can go for a swim first. Go outside and see for yourself…”
He already knew that the wind from the previous nights was now devastating the usual tempting aspect of the beach. It was windy, uninviting and even cold. “At least I shall not cry of disappointment!” I concluded while returning to our place.
Nevertheless, our breakfast was a little sad. Paul promised to return in February for diving and perhaps visiting the elephants in “Reserva de Maputo”. I left Ponta with my ears full of promises of fun. I hope they are meant because I felt somehow happy during the last days. Despite the “South Africanization”, I’m thankful that such places still exist. I am thankful for the music, for the painkiller, for the spumy waves, for the amazing shades of blue, for the rusticity of country life, for the good sleep, for the lucidity, for whatever happens next, and even for the wind – if it wasn’t for it, I would be seriously upset with the idea of leaving.
There were occasions when we even talked about the possibility of moving to Ponta do Ouro, a place where there are no banks or internet available. I learned a few things during this short holiday, and I really like to learn from my experiences.
The journey back to Maputo was an hundred percent better than Tuesday. The difference was that this time Paul followed the rule and went via ferryboat. The fact that the ferry had just left and we were forced to wait for another hour didn’t stress us at all. Holiday people are like this.
Instead of complaining, we enjoyed the opportunity of visiting Retiro da Catembe, a restaurant owned by a friendly Mozambican guy called Artur. We had a couple of beers and ordered prawns. From the table were we waited for the prawns we could see the ferryboat approaching. In order to be on time we had to take away the prawns promising to nice senhor Artur to be back soon.
We started to eat the prawns as soon as we found ourselves on the bridge waiting for our turn. What wonderful prawns are prepared in Artur’s kitchen! Definitively the best we had in a long time! What unforgettable mess was that meal of prawns and beer on the bridge waiting for the ferryboat!
And those Mozambican ferries! Who needs more emotions? This time it was a heavy truck put on the extreme to create space for another vehicle. The owner of the car refused to cross with the tyres bordering the water, nobody else cared about the imbalance created by a heavy truck in one side of the ferry when it would be so easy to put it in the middle. I really feel that each time we use a local ferryboat and arrive safe, we should have a ritual to express our gratitude to the merciful gods of the daring.
Ponta do Ouro was our second home during years. We used to spend almost every weekend there, a privilege stopped owing to the war. Years after, when we returned, we felt disappointed with the noise of the jetskies brought by the first wave of South African “invaders”.
This time we were prepared for the worst, yet found the situation much better. Though it’s true that certain areas of the beach are a little crowded for Mozambican standards, someone put some sense in a few abusers.
The paradise we once knew is lost for good but we are glad that the second wave of South Africans in Ponta do Ouro seems to love the place. They are conscious of how fortunate they are and look happy to live “without fear”. They live as most South Africans want to live: in an African paradise.
They didn’t change the appearance and feel of Ponta do Ouro. South Africans seem to enjoy the natural simplicity of the place. They open small businesses and live happily just for the fact of being there. Surf shops, diving services, B&B and restaurants can be seen everywhere.
It is true another kind of money is appearing, still our admiration goes to the pioneer small investor. We talked with a lady that owns a surf shop and is living in Ponta for six years now. She told us how great it is great to live there. We saw another lady who opened a bar next to a dumbanengue (street market), and she seemed comfortable doing her business in such unlikely place.
We witnessed the every night detailed care of a restaurant owner. The result is the surprise of finding one of the good restaurants of Mozambique in Ponta do Ouro: attractive ambient, tasty food and good service.
It seemed at first there were a few frictions between Mozambicans and South Africans, though I think that they are lesser and lesser frequent. I guess Mozambicans realized that South Africans just want to share something that costs nothing: a bit of paradise called Ponta do Ouro.
We went to Tinti Gala after a friend’s suggestion. To be precise, this is a community owned lodge specialized in cultural and echo turism. Tinti is the name of the lake and Gala is the name of the community who owns the lodge. This project started this year with the support of Helvetias, a Switzerland based NGO.
We arrived and parked the car in the middle of what looked to be only bushes because the buildings of the lodge are harmonically integrated and strategically placed to give to the visitor a constant view of the lake, the main attraction for hippopotamus, crocodiles and bird watch.
Besides the lake, the lodge also offers: traditional music and dance, local crafts, walks, visits to historical locals, etc. It’s a nice gesture to visit the lodge and help the Gala community to achieve a better standard of living, and at the same time have some fun.
I really liked the luxuriant vegetation and the sophisticated color of the butterflies I spotted when I was walking to the restaurant. I also have good words for the friendly manner we were received by the locals, the simple and yummy homemade food, the exotic fruits like massala, and above all the peace and freedom we can sometimes feel crossing the open spaces like a breath of life.