Born a whistle!

A well-known saying in Spanish goes something like “if you are born a whistle you will never be a cornet”. I am sure that there are many of these kinds of sayings that are applicable to the various walks of life. I am a whistle when it comes to sea fearing. However, as the family had the idea of a sea holiday, we travelled to Mozambique. The latter offers about 2,500 km of seacoast and beaches for all tastes.

Views of the sea and beaches around Vilankulos.

The road trip was good with the usual border hassle that added a dose of stress to my otherwise calm retired life. As usual the Zimbabwean side was very formal and rather time-consuming but with the pleasant manners that you almost take for granted in our “second” home.

Mozambique was something else! We had only crossed the border in and out of this country while being a UN employee and I did not have any issues apart from some queuing at peak times. Luckily this time there was no queuing, only confusion! We arrived at the border to be welcome by “helpers” to give them a name, all wearing identification badges. I noted that the badges were showing their plastic backs only while I was verbally overwhelmed in Portuguese and English about their offers for “help” and directions on how to perform the usual two steps: immigration and customs! I knew where this was leading!

Perhaps it was the proximity of the festive season as we were at the border before Christmas or perhaps this is always the case. I will find out in next visits but confusion took over, despite being aware of it. First it was a small piece of paper at the entrance gate where the car and occupants were to be recorded, about three words and a number. For some reason it took an inordinate amount of time and arguments between my self-appointed “helpers” and the official at the gate. Eventually I got the important paper and started to walk the plank towards the building to face the rest of the ordeal.

Not so. A lot of shouting behind me called my attention and I was informed that I had been given the paper of a lorry driver from the Democratic Republic of Congo! So, it was back to get the right one and resume the walk. We all had visas from Harare, except one of us who needed to get it in the border so the wait was longer than expected but acceptable. Finally we were ready to do customs. This required the filling of a form and I naively thought, driving off. Not to be. The need for a physical inspection of the vehicle was announced!

This was clearly what the “helpers” were waiting for. As the Customs official walked towards the vehicle, they advised me in hashed tone, on the various ways of handling this apparently difficult procedure. In addition, while the we approached the car, the word “Christmas” was repeated often by my “helper” entourage, now numbering five and growing.

We were two vehicles in this trip. Our friends did not require a visa so they had already been “helped” through the car check-up. We were about to open ours at the request of the Customs Officer when one of our friends came and whispered that he was asked for a USD 10 payment and that he had agreed and obtained Customs’ clearance and, more importantly, the key to freedom: the valuable gate pass. Assessing the situation surrounding us: utter confusion, a growing crowd of “helpers” and the already expectant Customs Officer, we had no option but to follow our friend’s arrangement and handed over our first Christmas present of the journey!

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Crossing the bridge over the Save river.

We shared a house with our friends in Vilankulos and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere while the younger members of the family were engaged in more muscle-demanding activities such as SCUBA diving and snorkeling.

Under severe peer pressure I consented to accompany them on a snorkeling trip to a well-known area of coral called “Two mile reef”. Trying to improve my snorkeling experience, I had acquired a floating aid in order to be able to save my energy for swimming in search of coral formations and other creatures rather than spending most of them on trying to stay afloat.

A selection of underwater finds. Pictures by Florencia de Castro, Mariana Terra and Julio A. de Castro.

I still had fresh in my mind an earlier experience at the same location when I got really exhausted and, eventually, seasick swimming in the rough sea! So I did not wish for a repeat! Luckily, the floating aid was a success and I did see some interesting coral formations and fish that I was not able to identify as I have decided that only terrestrial animals interest me in this life! Soon the tide changed and it was time to return; I was still swimming and could even climb on the boat unaided (I am not sure if this was me being fit or the ladder being lower but I prefer to think the former!).


About to depart after a day spent snorkeling. The Washing Machine was yet to come!

A final word on the return trip. The passage between Two-mile reef and Bazaruto and Benguerra islands is infamously and justifiably known as the “Washing machine”. I can assure you that this was violent rock and rollish to put it mildly. The rest of the return trip was just choppy! Fortunately, we all survived -just- and got to land in relatively good shape. Once more I promised myself that this was “curtains” on seafaring for me. I did this fully aware that I have declared similar resolutions before only to forget and backslide, caught in a vicious peer pressure circle!


Coconut harvesting, the preliminary of coconut splitting.

Swimming at the beach, walking and coconut opening occupied the rest of my life in Vilankulos and I was really busy working on a novel that I have had in my mind for years and still refuses to be born! I was pleased to make some progress that encourages me to go on writing for a few more years.

The trip back was uneventful, including the border crossing, and we managed to get to the Vumba mountainous area in Zimbabwe in good time. We stayed the night at one of the Inns there and, after a good breakfast and a walk in the garden observing insects and birds (what a relief!), we headed back home where a rather green garden was waiting for us.


  1. Loved it! Que preciosas las playas y parecen todavia mas bonitas cuando miro por mi ventana y veo como blanca arena, pero es pura ilusion optica. La historiande la aduana es bien conocida, no?


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