On a recent trip back to Harare from London where I'm currently working as an interior architect, my family decided the best way to welcome me after an eleven hour flight from London was to drive 14 hours to Vilanculos, Mozambique. After giving me a second to unpack, take a breath and re-pack, we hit the road at 3am allowing us to drive through Mozambique during the day, arriving before dark. We left Zimbabwe through the Eastern Highlands just beyond Mutare where the roads were much smoother than we expected.
Driving down through Chimoio, Mozambique’s fifth largest city, and other smaller cities along the way was intriguing. The thick forests and mountainous terrain are a stark contrast to the drive through Zimbabwe's open flat plains and tall grasses. Being my first time in Mozambique, the majority of the stories I had heard about it were from people who had fought in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle and of lives in exile or training in Mozambique. Looking out at the dense trees, it was easy to imagine the guerillas running through them during the war where visibility would easily have been just a few metres in the thickest parts.
Perhaps because of this shared history, I've never felt more connected to the land and the people of a foreign country than I did in Mozambique. I was surprised to find that people all the way down the drive spoke Shona, the Bantu language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. Places and people had familiar Shona names- from the police patrol to the kids selling catfish on the roadside. In some places I was really taken aback to hear people speak in Portuguese, switch to English and then break out into straight up Shona! #gaya (imagine!) The people themselves were as mixed as their words, diverse and colourful with clear Portuguese influences in green eyes and wavy obsidian hair.
1700km later we arrived just before sundown in Vilanculos at the Casa Chibububo Lodge, where we checked into one of their self-catering seaview beach chalets. If you're flying rather than driving, the lodge is just 5 minutes from Vilanculos International Airport which has daily flights from Johannesburg and Maputo.
In the mornings we were woken up by fishermen repairing what looked like abandoned dhows, and the water receded almost as far as the eye could see leaving a sandy uneven wet desert like terrain. Local women harvested crabs brought in by the water, gathering in their colourful wraps like many wives of the ocean, with buckets sorting the crabs by sizes and releasing the little ones. They seemed to have a curious relationship with the water, like the many wives of the ocean coming down to collect gifts for their children. Like a ritual, the water turned and disappeared into the horizon, the women almost wishing the water good luck like a prayer before the hunter leaves the homestead. I wondered who these women were and how they met, and what a distant husband this water was.
Vilanculos is serenely beautiful, colourful, hot, and perfect for contemplation. Nothing like the greyness of London which I had left in a cold wet spring, with 2 degree highs. Fresh prawns and Portuguese grilled chicken were my food for thought, while reading up on design magazines and international trends. It was just what I needed, time away to get back to me, and a time to let myself just BE. Games and belly laughs filled our days and the unconditional love of the family was soothing, clarity giving. It could only be onwards and upwards from there.