Setting The Bar – Inhassoro
Inhassoro is a small fishing port in Mozambique’s Inhassoro District of Inhambane Province. The town has 11,297 inhabitants and is on the Indian Ocean coast about 20 km from the EN1 highway. Inhassoro, which looks out at Bazaruto, Santa Carolina, or Paradise Island, is a developing tourist town.
It was lunchtime when we pulled into the campsite The Star of Mozambique, because there’s a highly-rated restaurant across the road, and we were feeling peckish. Inhassoro is also a renowned fishing spot and we were hoping to enjoy fresh fish every day.
Although helpful and friendly, the manager at the campsite wasn’t prepared for visitors. Being Sunday might’ve explained things. Alongside some trees and unkept grass, we parked. By now, I had adapted to any circumstances, and as long as the truck was level, I didn’t mind where we stopped for the night. My only prerequisite, my head mustn’t be lower than my toes when I sleep.
We whipped out our table and chairs, opened the windows and hatches and set off to Rossha for lunch before the kitchen closed.
This time it wasn't soulful Mozambique marimba music welcoming us but a brusque baritone leading an ensemble of raucous male voices raising my hackles as we entered the restaurant. Body language can speak volumes. Butch led the way to a secluded spot away from the festivities. After our long drive, we were ready to relax and the shady, overgrown subtropical gardens and gay palm fond umbrellas beckoned.
On a boys-only fishing trip, the small splash pool was choked with a pod of brandy-and-coke-swilling very rowdy South Africans. Fortunately, the leading man had them engrossed and enthralled; they were hanging on his every word and didn’t give us the time of day.
We ordered grilled prawns and a salad for lunch. The prawns were slightly steamed. The griddle pan was not hot enough, and our prawns had not grilled in the typical Mozambiquan way, on red hot charcoal, slightly charred. The slap in the face was the Nando’s peri-peri sauce. In one fell swoop we were back behind the Boerewors Curtain made worse by the Spotify lunch playlist featuring “Best South African Male Voices”. Robbie Wessels, Jack Parow and the boys boomed from a small portable speaker. We left as Steve Hofmeyr crooning Engelbert Humperdinck in Afrikaans came on. The perfect cue, reminding us we needed to do some exploring.
We would enjoy our after lunch coffee on the beach while watching local children enjoy the waves. Sundays are family days and people who have access to the seaside spend the afternoon there.
One teenage boy singlehandedly manoeuvering his handmade, wood and polystyrene boat, was particularly fascinating. His single-minded determination was extraordinary. We watched him launch his boat into the swells and row off to meet other fishermen preparing their nets before sunset. The dark grey almost black sand was a surprise and we wonder what caused the change in colour. Could it be an oil spill or a fine heavy metal sometimes found in sand?
At sunset, while Butch was catching up with his loved ones at home, I took an invetigative stroll around the interesting property. I could imagine that in better days when the owners were there, and the guest list was crammed, this whimsical off the beaten track lodge would be an oasis.
The following morning we picked up sticks and followed up with a recommendation. from the manager, for an alternate, better campground on the other side of town. Goody's Vilas and Campsite.
This was more like it. Along the way we stocked up on some delicious pão – Mozambique bread rolls and stopped at a small stall to pick up half a dozen plump Italian tomatoes and delicious golden pears for dessert. The exchange was difficult due to language barriers, but we soon had an interpreter who sorted our currency misunderstandings with the pretty but suspicious, sullen stall keeper.
The drive to the new campsite, on the southern side of Inhassorro, gave us an opportunity to explore, albeit in the Honey Badger, the lay of the land and the village which we would've missed had we stayed put.
Set out on a rugby pitch-sized piece of land. Goodies Campsite was carpeted with a lush green lawn under large indigenous trees and coconut palms. The evenly spaced trees beckoned a hammock which we soon set up, and while I did some chores, Butch read his book, swinging, like a metronome, peacefully in the gentle sea breeze. For the first time in many weeks I took a day off and read my book.
Simon was our fish vendor and would arrive every afternoon with his catch of the day. Crayfish are always welcome. Butch did his usual sterling job on the braai and drenched them in garlic butter. They were moist and delicious once grilled. We spiced things up with authentic piri-piri, fresh cracked black pepper with a squeeze of fresh lime juice purchased at the market. The salad accompanying the crays was simple: Cucumber, tomatoes and sliced onion—the way the Portuguese have always done their salads, and dressed using olive oil and white wine vinegar.
Mozambique is a prawn lover's dream destination. Here it's a given that what's served comes straight from the source, the Save river or harvested from one of the many coastal inlets. Simon brought the pick of the bunch for supper. These were a different species and didn't turn pink when we braaied them but remained a creamy salmon colour. Still delicious.
The cockles/clams brought in a box on the back of his bike were a special treat. Ridding the shells of barnacles and seaweed was a task Butch set to immediately after we’d dunked them into a bucket of cold, fresh water to expel any sand. It took a while and a lot of elbow grease to clean those babies to his satisfaction Butch said. While he was painstakingly scrubbing away, I was sauteeing chopped onions and garlic in butter. The bottle of good white wine, reduced, made up the sauce, ready to steam the white muscles in.
We steamed them longer than we should’ve until we realised the shells did not open wide like black muscles but needed to be pried or shucked open to release the meat. Although a lengthy supper ensued, we were delighted by the taste and texture and enjoyed the new culinary experience.
Our last supper was at Brisa Mar Lodge and Restaurant, where the curried mince samoosas were delicious. The wait for the piri-piri chicken was a sign that the chicken was being prepared fresh and not a re-heated offering from the deep freezer. The delicious smokey, spicy, hot chicken off the coals onto our plates was worth the wait.
We hoped to speak to the owners who had been recommended to advise us on roads and routes to Gorongoza National Park. Unfortunately, we’d have to wing it and rely on our trusty Garmin, which was acting up. The South African owners were taking a break during the end of season lull.
Our fruitful forays along the coast allowed us to stretch our legs while we explored the beach. Ancient wooden fishing boats and dhows painted in bright colours were setting sail or preparing themselves for the journey to the Bazzaruto islands lying in the distance while other boats set out for the daily catch or to ferry passengers. Longshoremen carrying heavy parcels, drums filled with Diesel and plastic containers for water filled the hulls with cargo.
In my beachcombing, I found some interesting shells, saw men mend their long nets, and we were surprised by the vast colonies of Terns and gulls feeding on the sandbanks exposed during the low tide. Such a welcome sight after many years on different shores, they were back. We were in our element. When I was younger lying on the beach, well oiled with a book represented beach life. Now I searched, noticed and enjoyed the wonderment of life on the beach and rarely find time to just lie there.
Full of bravado and Dutch courage, we decided to take up, our own, challenge, and cycle to Bartholomeus Dias, a spit of land forty kilometres from our campsite. Rumours on the tides suggested this was one destination we should not miss out on.
We set off early(ish) one morning. The journey along the beach started like a walk in the park. An easy peddle on the hard sand, just on the tide’s edge, we kept our track.
Of course, we were being over-ambitious, and when we’d done fifteen kilometres, we had our first water break and continued to do so at 20km. Pedalling became more difficult as the sand became softer, and we had to negotiate up the beach and down again to find the hardest sections. Motorbikes and even a truck passed us, hooting, well aware of the conditions.
At thirty kilometres, I called it a day. Hot and exhausted, I stood at the foot of the stairway to heaven, realising it would be foolish to push my luck. Looking up into the sunlight I might've seen the angel Gabriel! In all probability, I might not make it to our campsite, and Butch would be stuck with me while the tide turned and came rushing up the beach, making it nearly impossible to cycle back or find an alternative route home.
With only ten kilometres away from an upmarket lunch, I chickened out, and we turned back. This time I engaged the E on Ebike and enjoyed the ease of my battery's assistance to motor me home. We made it home hot and heaving but proud of having done sixty kilometres, our all-time cycling record. As we recuperated later, we acknowledged we’d done spectacularly, and sixty kilometres on the beach should not be sniffed at. We’d set the bar reminding ourselves that nothing great has been achieved in comfort zones.
Three other vehicles pulled in while we were camped at Goody's, two of whom were missionaries returning to South Africa. This was excellent news, we would hear fresh news of routes to Malawi and the interior, where we were heading to renew our tourist stamp at the border.
While I was doing some laundry, Butch had an opportunity to talk to Danie Murray, a remarkable man attached to an unspecified Mission in Zambezia province. From him, we were advised to travel to Dombe, Chimoio, and Mutare. He suggested we overnight at the Buffalo Lodge and campsite, where Willie would recommend the roads further north. Butch found Danie to be a delightful gentleman eager to share his knowledge and could assist us at any time.
Jonathan and vivacious blogger and Social Media guru, Cecile Murray and their two daughters were a delight. Lanky and languid Jonathan, dressed in monochrome, made me smile because he reminded me so much of my brother Mark, not only in looks but also in his mannerisms. Seeing someone's double is like a kiss or hug from afar, and it soothes my spirit and makes the longing slightly less. Jonathan and Cecile were on their way home after assisting the survivors of the recent floods and cyclone, where they fed, clothed and nursed villagers who were left bereft, homeless and in dire need of shelter, clothes and food. At times like these, water is in short supply, and they were able to deliver fresh water to prevent people from drinking available water and contracting Cholera.
The girls were scraping and enjoying the flesh and sucking the stones from a Baobab pod for breakfast. Cecile introduced me to this miracle food. We bought two later and will add scrpings to our smoothies. From them we were told where to go in Malawi and their recommendation to stay with Wynand and Beaulah Theron, who have a campsite on the Zambezi River near Tete.
With our ears to the ground eager to hear any tips or tricks our address book was filling up with telephone numbers and names of campsites, plus we were being introduced to a network of ex-pats with invaluable local knowledge. We were learning to ask questions and to trust kind strangers who had our best interests at heart.
The view from our bed was spectacular and spending the early hours enjoying the sea sounds augered well and set the tone for the rest of the day. My internal compass did struggle with our direction. We faced north looking at the sea. I had to recalibrate. When the sun set that night I had reorientated to enjoy the tangerine colours of the night sky.
Butch had done his laundry, I had filled our baskets with fruit for our smoothies, we'd had heavenly meals, met super people and enjoyed hours of leisure time. It was time to leave the coast and head inland to have our passports stamped, allowing us another thirty days in magical Mozambique.
Our journey would continue on the EN1, but now the condition of the roads would change. We enjoyed delicious peanuts, sold alongside the road, roasted, with a sprinkling of salt added for flavour, or raw in the shell.. Unbeknownst to us, the road less travelled would became gruelling in the days to come. We would need our strength.
For Fish, contact: Simon at +265849094485