Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Octopus' Garden

July 11, 2012
          Okay, it is time to tell you about Inhambane. Here’s how it went down. First of all, Inhambane is a province of Mozambique somewhat north of Maputo, and it was supposed to take roughly seven hours to get there. As some of you may remember, last year we traversed to Ponto do Ouro (south of Maputo) to scuba dive, and the road was ridiculous. The road to Inhambane was reportedly smooth, so I thought it would be a piece of cake in comparison. We bore through about thirty minutes to an hour of road which I like to call—Maputo-rough. If I was on this road in the states I would probably complain, but in Mozambique, it’s not that big of a deal. After that, it was smooth sailing—we stopped at the KFC in Xai Xai for lunch, enjoyed our car snacks, and got excited for the beach. Following the directions on our GPS, we found ourselves on another dirt road, and instead of leading us to a smoother road, it got even worse until the “highlighted route” was nowhere to be found and we had to follow the faint strip of road we could see until we found ourselves deep in the bushveld. And let me tell you how to identify the bush: it’s when you think the words: “Oh, good, civilization,” when you see a herd of cows.

          Still, we powered through until, on one fateful climb, we got stuck in the soft sand. We tried backing up and charging through, but to no avail. We were wondering what our next step should be, since we weren’t stuck in the sense that the car was stationary, but rather in the sense that we couldn’t get past the ditch in front of us and would have to change our route. It was just about this time that a man who apparently lived in one of the nearby huts appeared out of the bush like an angel from heaven, and told us to follow him. He ran in front of the car for a while, until we realized it was a bit far off and invited him to take a seat inside, and where did he direct us but to the highlighted route on our GPS. We thanked him, gave him some money and a package of cookies we had with us, and were once again on our way. 
          We saw signs for another resort before we could see a sign of the one we were planning to stay at, so we asked if they had available rooms to avoid driving any further. The house we stayed in had concrete floors and a straw roof, but it had hot water and electricity, and it was very spacious. It’s interesting the things you have to ask for here: in the U.S., a person would ask if a hotel had wifi or a pool, but in Mozambique it’s important to ask if the place has a bathroom, hot water, electricity, and, as we learned during our whale watching experience in Hermanus last year, heat or air conditioning (neither of which was provided by our most recent accommodation, but they were not missed as the weather is lovely in Inhambane right now.) The only unpleasant aspect was that the walls were not totally solid and therefore did not protect against bugs. Although we had mosquito nets, they were not 100% effective in keeping out mosquitoes and other bitey creatures. (My toe is really itchy as we speak.)
          However, we had not come to lie around under mosquito nets—we came to dive! The first day after we arrived (Saturday), we met our dive master, Vossie, at the dive shop at noon and suited up. It was nice to be able to enjoy the ocean without worrying about certification—this trip was all about enjoying the fruits of last year’s labor. I would say the most interesting creature of this dive looked like a cross between a shark and a ray—there were three of them in one spot, or so I thought until Vossie gently lifted up something buried in the sand and two more swam out. When he pointed them out to us, he made a motion with his hands as if he was playing a guitar, and I had no idea what that was about until after we ascended and he informed us that they are called guitar sharks.
That night, as we were getting dinner ready, I noticed something flying near the ceiling of our house—when I saw the creature and heard the telltale squeaking noises, it became apparent that it was a bat! I have always liked bats because, as a child, I had a book called “Stellaluna” about a baby fruit bat, and also because they are very helpful because they eat mosquitoes (although unfortunately not all of the mosquitoes). At the high point of our bat-collecting, we had six resident bats, and when we left to return to Maputo, I was able to take the following picture of three of them that stuck around. 
 On the second day of diving, we saw several large pufferfish, and I resisted the urge to poke at them in an attempt to make them inflate. We also saw a stonefish—they are extremely poisonous, so I hovered at a comfortable distance from him. I was informed later, though, that by avoiding the stonefish, I was also at an unfavorable distance from an octopus that was mostly concealed in a hole behind it! On the third and final dive, however, I was quite satisfied because I got a good long look at another octopus looking rather grumpy inside his little den in the sand. He did not want to come out, but I was happy just to look at him while mentally singing “Octopus’ Garden” to myself. In the time not spent diving, we enjoyed little walks on the beach, fresh seafood, and long sleeps; and on Tuesday, we headed back to Maputo, taking an easier route this time. Our time in Inhambane was awesome, but I was glad to return to my dad’s well-lit and mosquito-free house. Until next time, may your bats eat all of your most hated insects, and may you catch sight of every octopus! 

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing adventure! Bats in the US are dying in massive numbers from White Nose fungus. It wonderful that there are still bats somewhere! I've never heard of a guitar shark and will have to Google that.

    Miss Tammy