After travelling all the way up from the south of Mozambique to almost the most northern part we reached the Quirimbas Archipelago. We met a friendly bunch of travellers at a nice lodge where we camped in Pemba and organised a 4X4 to bring us through knee-deep puddles and mud to Quisanga, the drop-off point for the islands. After a little haggling a captain wanted to bring us to Ibo Island where we got a basic but comfortable roundhouse for a bargain. We explored the island for a few days and we hired a local sailing dhow for a day. This day trip was above all expectations as we got to snorkel with a large school of dolphins, we went snorkelling over a huge wreck and we were dropped at a very tropical white sandy deserted island (well it was more a sandbank actually).
Ibo Island has a few lodges and restaurants and is actually pretty well developed with plenty water and some electricity. But it is above all very much an island for the locals with two small markets and some small stores. The island has a long history and the Portuguese forts and colonial buildings that are still
standing and sometimes crumbling gives a bit the feeling we are in an open air museum. In one of the towers in town we got to taste the locally grown coffee which was very tasty and very welcome after all the instant coffee here. One day there was some kind of festival with music and cabaret but we could not understand a word because of the local language that was used.
After a few days and after saying goodbye to our new best friends we decided to move to Quirimba Island. We had heard there was at least one place to stay so with a tiny local boat we left Ibo and went through the mangroves to Quirimba. We had to step out of the boat when the water was not high enough and after an hour or so we arrived at Quirimba Island where we were dropped at the beach and we asked around for Mussa’s place. We walked along the beach and found it and we fell in love with it.
Quirimba Island and Mussa’s Place is a true hidden paradise. We were the only tourists on the whole island and we were directly taken in
by the Mussa family. We got to stay in a small local style house made out of a wooden structure which they fill with coral rocks and then plaster with mud. There is no electricity and it was pitch dark at around 6 PM so we could watch the stars and see the milky way. It’s right at the beach and the shore is so shallow that with the low tide an extra 600 meters of beach appears. There are some trees that stand half of the time in the water but with low tide it looks like there at the middle of the beach as are the small boats of the fishermen which are then used by the kids to play with.
We have written before about a special place we found in love with, for example Little Corn island (Nicaragua), Cabo de la Vela (Colombia) and Barra de Lagoa (Florianopolis, Brazil). These are places we just did not want to leave and kept extending our stay because we felt at home and because our life was just simple and perfect. These places have in common that they are on or close to the beach, the people are
the most positive and friendly and the food is fresh, locally caught, cheap and excellent. These (hidden) paradises are not for everybody, because usually our accommodation is the most basic, the bathroom sometimes just a bucket shower, often there is no or limited electricity, there is absolutely no wifi and most of the time also no 3G so we can only disconnect from the rest of the world and focus on the here and now. We meet, connect and actually talk with the people around us. And because we cannot choose with whom we surround ourselves this leads to interesting meetings and sometimes beautiful friendships. Of course there are a lot of reasons for us to travel around the world but looking for these hidden paradises is absolutely one of them and finding them is so rewarding.
Quirimba Island is inhabited but very undeveloped. Almost all the houses are made of coral rocks and mud. There is not a lot to do and the local men kill time with playing board games sitting outside on the streets if they are not out on the ocean to catch fish or repairing their nets or boats at the beach. The women
relax and chat if they are not fetching water from the water pump or wood from the mangroves. The village was fun for us to walk through because all the children came out to walk with us, trying to hold our hands and sometimes cheer and sing. Some of the smaller kids started to cry as soon as they saw us and others loved to handle the water pump while we filled our water bottle (with filter). Although time clearly stood still for a long time here we can easily see the beauty of living here.
But our western "developed" minds also have some problems accepting the low standards of living of the people and the way they only seem to care about the now-now. They use part of the beach as a public toilet while the fishermen also lay out their nets and catch of the day. The fisherwomen are catching the smallest fish and even fish eggs because they use mosquito nets which means these fishes cannot grow and reproduce reducing the fish stocks dramatically and making it even more difficult for future generations. We talked a lot with the Mussa family about this but according to
them it is very very difficult to discuss this and to align the community and change anything at the island.
Every day the Mussa family got hold of something fresh from the local fishermen what was then expertly prepared by Laila (mamma Mussa) on the wood fired stove. We had the best and freshest squid, lobster, octopus and all sorts of fish. We went for some snorkelling around the island a few times which was not spectacular but sometimes the tidal current was so strong we could just walk for one hour one way and let the current drag us back in two hours floating above the sand and coral blocks.
We decided to stay for a few days just get to know the place, the island, the people and relax in the hammocks and read our books. We thought maybe to get back to Pemba with a sailing dhow but because of the wrong direction of the wind and maybe other reasons we did not find a boat so we just stayed a bit longer. At the end we have spent 11 days and nights at Quirimba Island. We went back to Ibo Island for a day
when it was low tide so we could actually walk all the way through the mangroves and wade through the very shallow waters. At Ibo we could charge some devices and buy some things that were not available at Quirimba.
After Chafi (the son of Mussa) had shown us their garden/farm where they grow their own coffee we decided to exchange a little knowledge and experience on the topic of coffee roasting and tasting. We spent some time with Laila and Chafi roasting their beans for three different periods of time resulting in a ore light, a medium and a darker roast. After grinding and brewing the coffee we all tasted the coffee and we all agreed on a few improvements so now they can proudly serve an even better tasting coffee to their customers.
Then it was time to say goodbye and we left via Quisanga to Pemba sitting at the back of a small flatbed truck that kept filling up with more and more people and goods which was a fun experience again. In Pemba Merijn went to see a dentist with his cracked tooth but this was useless so we decided to book a flight
to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
We have been told Dar Es Salaam has the best healthcare in this part of the world and we found an experienced dentist at a dental care unit at a big modern hospital. The dentist only had to look in my mouth and at the X-ray very briefly before he delivered the bad news that the tooth had to be extracted. The good news was that he could not only remove the tooth the next day but also put an implant back immediately and finish it off with a crown in a few months. So that’s what happened and now we have spent quite a few days in Dar which has been also fun mainly because the food with all the Indian and Arabic influences is excellent and something different.
We will spend a few days on a beach near Dar before the sutures will be removed and then we will travel around the region, visiting Malawi and maybe even Zambia, for a few more months before heading back to Dar for the finishing touch, the crowning ;-)
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