Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique

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Africa » Mozambique » Southern
September 16th 2011
Published: October 1st 2011
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The “roads” in Mozambique are more like simply driving on a beach – it was an intense four wheeling adventure to get to Ponta do Ouro – with us crammed in the back cab of the truck.

Mozambique is beautiful! But there is one thing we were not expecting – the breeze / wind here is COLD! When we got here it was really windy – which made it pretty brisk, like brisk enough that you want to definitely wear a fleece or jacket. The beach here is ruggedly beautiful. It is not built up at all, which we love. And you have these big hills (like mini mountains) all around and then the beach at the bottom – really spectacular. Our hotel is right on the beach and in fact as I type I am listening to the waves crash. The town / village of Ponta do Ouro is so vibrant and full of life. You walk up and down the dirt road and there are outdoor markets everywhere (again the people here are not pushy like in our first market experience). Most of the visitors here are South Africans that come to scuba dive or get away to the beach. The town has a very bohemian feel to it, as do the people here. The way of life is very easy and care free and again, like many places in Africa, time is really not much of an issue here. People move at their own pace and don’t rush for anything. It’s incredibly laid back and “chill”. We definitely fell in love with this town immediately!

Our first day we checked in to the dive shop to make sure everything was ready to go for us for the next day. It’s a little local place (everything here is local actually..) that is lovely. There are hand made shell wind chimes all around and glass mosaics on the walls – it was beautiful. Larens and his wife Mel own and run the place, along with their adorable little bohemian daughter – who told us she was 4 years old. My first question to Larens was about the temperature because at this point I was scared to death about diving and freezing to death. He joked with me and said I would be fine and he would provide me with a beanie and gloves to go with my wetsuit. I actually wished that was true… We had dinner that first night at this little place situated up high on a hill. It was full of energy and life and so much fun. There was a musician from Australia who was singing and 3 local guys were accompanying her on the African drums. After she was done they played music (an odd mix of US club music and oldies) and the three guys would take their African drums and beat them to accompany the music at various tables. Jeff and I got a kick out of some of the songs they were playing and out of the wide breadth of music (club beats next to Summer of 69)… for example one song was like a techno / club song and at various intervals in the song it would pause and a techno voice would come on and say “Barbara Streisand”. We have no idea what that was about but were rolling in laughter over it.

The next morning we got up bright eyed and bushy tailed to go diving. The wind had thankfully died down but it was still not hot like I was hoping it would be. However, by the time I got my full wetsuit on I was feeling pretty toasty. We got all our equipment ready and loaded up to head down to the beach. I wish I had a picture of this… The boat (I use that term loosely) was in front of us, the tractor in the middle, and a wooden seating thing in the back where we sat in benches and then there was a flat part behind us where the gear was. There were 8 divers including us on that first 9:00 a.m. dive and our dive master was Mel. Back to the boat – the boat was this tiny little thing with rubber inflated sides on which we sat. There were foot straps to put your feet in so you could hold on with your legs and then there were ropes that you held on to with your hands. All the equipment went in the middle and we all sat on the edge of the boat. We were lucky this first time and did not have to push the boat in – that comes later. The tractor pushed the boat into the water and we then hopped in. To get past the waves Larens would speed up and take off towards them, catching a little air as we went – it was exhilarating and very adventurous to say the least. The great thing about diving is that being on the boat is so miserable at times that no matter how cold – you just cannot wait to get into the water. Sitting on this little boat amidst all the waves and trying to get our gear together quickly was making us so nauseous that we were ready to get off that boat and in the water quick.

Our first dive at Doodles was beautiful – lots of fish, including a pink paper fish and 2 enormous spotted potato bass, one which looked like it was coming right at us. The coral was full of purple, all different shades of purple, which was so pretty. There were schools of fish everywhere, many times enveloping us. I was able to see a spotted thing tucked under a coral shelf – Mel was not sure if it was an eel or a fish because you could only see the markings and not the head – it looked like a leopard under water as it had bright yellow and black spots. The current was so strong that it felt a bit like being in a washing machine at times and it was wild to look ahead and see the other divers and fish swaying back and forth along with it. Definitely the strongest current we have dived in to date. This dive was ok temperature wise – it was 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit), but a cold 23 as Larens put it, and I wholeheartedly agree. I as cold by the end but for the majority of the dive felt ok. Jeff said he didn’t feel cold at all. We got back on the boat and headed back to shore and then to the dive shop. Coming to shore with this boat was pretty frightening the first time around. They tell you to hold on tight – one arm in between your legs with the inside rope and one arm holding onto the outside rope, and then of course to put your feet in the foot straps and use your legs to brace yourself. They then proceed to tell us to brace for impact and head full throttle right towards the beach, speeding up instead of slowing down. We literally crashed into the beach to “park” the boat and then hopped out and headed to the dive shop. The time in between the dives was so freezing cold that I seriously thought about bailing on the second dive. I took a steaming hot shower at the dive shop, had on a fleece and two towels, and was drinking tons of hot coffee – and was still shivering and cold. Jeff again says he was fine.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, the sun came out right as we were suiting up for our second dive. I asked Larens if there was any way he could get us dry wetsuits so we didn’t have to put those cold and wet ones back on. Wouldn’t you know they had one for Jeff and not me… go figure as Jeff really didn’t care either way. Honestly though, it wasn’t that bad. By the time I got into the wetsuit and we got out there again I felt nice and comfortable.

Our second dive was around noon and was at Creche. For this dive we actually had to push the boat from the sand into the water and then hop in. Again, it added to the fun and adventure of the whole thing. The coral here was even more beautiful than the morning dive and the fish were plentiful and diverse. We even saw an octopus as well - Jeff saw it better than I did. This dive was just 4 of us, and Larens was our dive master. The rest of the morning gang had had enough I guess. It was good for us as we got to have a nice, small group. Two of the divers ended going up a little earlier and so for the end of the dive it was just Jeff and I along with Larens. It was so beautiful down there with the colors of the coral, some pastel and some vibrant and bright - but all equally spectacular. Once in awhile the sun would come out and you could feel and see it down below. Jeff noticed how pretty it made everything look and I noticed how it warmed me a little. This dive got uncomfortably cold at the end, much more so than the first. But it was so beautiful that it was worth just trying to ignore it. Jeff, again said he didn’t notice the cold. When we got back to the dive shop it was much easier to warm up as the sun was out and it had turned into quite a beautiful day. We only had an hour or so before headed out again for our dolphin excursion. This was originally scheduled for Sunday but since Larens said it was going to be very windy Sunday he recommended we just do it Saturday so we said why not…

This dolphin excursion is the ONE thing about our trip to Africa we wish we would have skipped. Jeff put it accurately when he said we basically paid to be tortured. Luckily for me I had put on my fleece and my waterproof jacket in anticipation of the cold – that was my saving grace. The guys (Jeff and three South African guys that joined us) were just in swimsuits and t-shirts. This about sums it up for you:

What we thought was going to happen:
snorkeling over a coral reef, seeing and swimming with dolphins, and whale watching.

What happened:
We spent hours in the choppy water, getting absolutely drenched and hit with the constant cold wind – and saw one sea turtle, a few sprays from whales, and a whale tale. It was a disaster!

The poor guys were getting slapped in the face with sheets of water as we went along, one right after the other. Larens was nice enough to tell me what side to sit on so I got the least of it – but Jeff did have to endure the worst of it on the way back. Meanwhile this is that same boat we went diving in so it was exhausting holding on – like a 3 hour long isometric exercise for all the muscles in your body. At one point we finally got to the reef and the water was violently churning all around us and Larens stops the boat and said “anyone up for a snorkel” we all looked at him like he was crazy – and not one person took him up on it.

One of the highpoints for us was watching the South African guys as we headed full throttle towards the beach to “park” the boat. Jeff and I of course had done this already twice today so knew what it was about. The one guy though was white as a ghost and shouted up to Larens “seriously man I think you need to slow down”, it was hysterical. It does seem completely counterintuitive to speed up tremendously as you approach land...

We finally got back from this adventure soaking wet and cold, although in one piece. We got out of there fast and made a bee line for our hotel room where we were just dying to take a steaming hot shower and wouldn’t you know… there was no hot water!! I had been a trooper up to this point if I do say so myself – but here is when I almost cried. We were literally shivering cold (even Jeff) with no way to warm up. So we decided to just go eat since we were starving and had not eaten since breakfast (It was now almost 5). We put on warmer clothes and headed to a little place right near the hotel and of course had the grumpiest waitress ever who of course got our order messed up… but at least the food was good. I ordered a coffee when we got there and took one sip and half laughed / half cried because it was the worst coffee ever and not drinkable. So I solved it by ordering wine and drinking the wine while keeping at least one hand on the hot mug of coffee. It was quite a day!!

We got back to our room and I nose dived under the covers, only getting out when Jeff said that we by some miracle had hot water now. Thankfully the hot shower warmed us up and we finally were able to stop shivering and get rid of our goose bumps. I kept asking Jeff why on earth they don’t have hot tubs here but it’s a silly question, as he pointed out, since this part of Mozambique barely has roads, water and electricity nevertheless a hot tub. Despite the disaster of a dolphin excursion – it was a great day of diving and a great day overall – and hey at least things like that give you a fantastic laugh when you look back on them.

So now I am sitting here on Sunday morning listening to the ocean and happy that we have absolutely nothing to do today but sit on the beach and enjoy the Mozambican coast. Good thing because we are both so sore from yesterday it feels like someone used our bodies as punching bags! Headed out to breakfast – cheers for now,
J and V


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