Andy Davis drives from Durban to Mozambique, fueled by energy drinks and dreams of Indian Ocean vistas
It seemed like a good idea to leave Durban at midnight. “We’ll drive through the night, cross the border when it opens at 6am and barrel straight up the coast to Inhambane. We’ll be soaking ourselves in a rock pool just after lunch,” said my brother.
At around 3am, we stopped for a break and a bite to eat; that’s when I made the mistake of drinking an entire can of Monster Energy. The resulting heart palpitations and cross-eyed, caffeine-fuelled panic attack, meant that while I remained vividly awake, I couldn’t handle heavy machinery until 7am.
Which, incidentally, is a terrible time to push through Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, whose over-burdened infrastructure can’t cope with congestion. Sitting bumper-to-bumper, in the rain, for two hours is no way for a sleep-deprived, tourist-in-transit, to come down from a massive caffeine and sugar jolt. Luckily, the deeper we push into Mozambique, the better it gets.
With the stuttering traffic of Maputo in the rearview, the country opens up. We hit a long highway lined with coconut palms and punctuated by a series of rural villages; groves of mango and macadamia nut trees and banana palms are an organic, year-round supermarket augmenting village supplies. As we exit any village big enough to have a few shops lining the road, we see groups of police officers and soldiers moodily meditating in plastic chairs, taking advantage of the shade offered by the trees.
The small provincial capital, Inhambane, Terra de Boa Gente, literally translates as ‘land of good people’. Inhambane is a romantic African town, a place where fading art deco buildings, with obstinate fig trees growing out of their windows, jostle alongside functional government offices. Its former glories are being steadily reanimated by the tourist dollars flowing through the ‘business district’ of Mozambique’s premier beachfront attraction: Praia do Tofo, our final destination.
So, Inhambane is the last stop for money, petrol, rice, tinned foods, beers, plasters, painkillers and mosquito repellant. Then it’s a 22-mile dash to Praia do Tofo, which is an old fishing village now offering unparalleled diving in the Indian Ocean. We stock up, throwing in toasted Portuguese rolls and hot chorizo sausages, straight off the barbecue, smothered in a dangerous peri-peri.
The local bakers in Tofo produce these rolls along with pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard pastries) each morning and sell them alongside fresh fish in the beachside market. The marine bounty includes dorado, mackerel, red snapper, tuna and mountains of prawns.
We can smell them being barbecued on coconut husks on the shore when we come up for air while chasing dolphins, manta rays and whale sharks through the underwater world. We surf the classic point break of Tofinho, just around the corner, luxuriating in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Tofo itself is distinctly surfable, but the softer waves in the bay are better for beginners. Later, we swing in hammocks, cold beer cradled in our laps, tastebuds tantalised by the seafood grill wafting on the afternoon onshore breeze.