Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Continuing north in Mozambique: Chocas Mar & Pemba

As we sadly left Ilha de Mosambique the rain started to tumble down. Perhaps it was a sign to try and get us to stay another day, but we were beach bound, and despite the rain were keen to get on the road and head back to the mainland to see Chocas Mar.

Chocas Mar

Chocas Mar is a stretch of coast on the mainland pretty much opposite Ilha de Mosambique, but still a 50km drive as you have to go back inland to get the road back out.

We had pretty high expectations for Chocas, particularly the beach, which we had been given raving reports on. And I have to say that the beach didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately our accommodation options did disappoint.

We weren’t sure if we would camp or stay in accommodation at Chocas, it really depended on price. But upon seeing the campsite and the $10 per night price tag they’d attached, we decided it probably wouldn’t be camping. From the outside the bungalows also seemed pricey (and rather empty) for $65 so we decided to think about it and head further up the stretch of coast to see if there was anything else. Off course there wasn’t anything else, except for the $425pppn Coral Lodge at the very end. Mike decided it would be a good idea to go and have a look to see what they offered for the money they were charging; for me was really like taking a child into a candy shop and then telling them they can’t have anything. The lodge was beautiful with chalets pretty much having their own area of beach. We had a beer at the bar which we paid double the standing price for, but I must say we did enjoy it.

After our beer at Coral Lodge, Mike dragged me back to the car to review our accommodation situation. We had a choice of a very ordinary camping site or slightly pricey bungalows. As it was starting to get dark again (there’s a theme here) we opted for a bungalow with the intention of staying only one night. However a quick walk on the beach as we headed to the local bar to meet up with some fellow overlanders and that all changed...another night it was!

The beach at Chocas was deserted and beautiful; white sand as far as the eye could see, no other people, only local fisherman.  We were glad to have stayed another night and probably could have easily done another one, but thought we should press further north unsure of what we find there.

White sand and blue ocean.......
......all to ourselves!
Breakfast after an early morning swim at Chocas Mar beach
Dinner: Tuna patties with pesto pasta and fresh lime. Very good for 15 minutes work!
Leaving Chocas Mar passing the colourful houses on the way

So we headed north to the large town of Pemba, again in the rain. For once we had a pretty easy drive, although it still took around 5 hours; Mozambique is a big place!

In Pemba we went straight to a place called Pemba Magic, also known as “Russell’s Place”, which was reported to have a good campsite. And it did (with the exception of the bucket showers)! Although clearly the campsite, two chalets and dorm was not their main business, with the restaurant and bar a booming business. This was the place where expats came to eat and as we found out pretty soon, the place that had contracts for providing meals to local oil and gas workers.

Pemba is quite a large port and seemingly getting bigger with the expansion of the local gas industry. It has a large expat community, although this was apparently quite a recent development. Strangely it didn’t have many of the businesses that come with an expat community, like chain supermarkets or a large range of restaurants. Shopping for food was extremely expensive in Pemba, at least from our perspective, but the range was ok. 

View of a village on the ocean at Pemba
Pemba is a major port town in Mozambique
However for us Pemba was mostly about trying to work out our approach for getting to the Archipelago das Quirimbas, islands further north. The main island, Ibo, did at one stage have a boat running from Pemba to Ibo, although we found out that this was no longer was running. And so our first full day in Pemba was spent running around trying to get as much information on options available as possible. A frustrating day I must say!

The story of our time in Northern Mozambique: Not enough money because
everything is SOOOO expensive. This is Mike looking sad out front of the
Pemba Beach Hotel
What did help was the arrival at Russell’s Place of Monika and Martin, a Swiss couple we’d previously met in Malawi and also going overland, and a Anna, a Belgian lady we had briefly spoken to on Ilha de Mocambique. All three were also planning a trip to Ibo Island and so we pulled our resources together to try and work something out.

Another frustrating day for all involved and it had become apparent that the local tourist economy was not particularly interested in promoting to tourists or helping them get to what should be a jewel in Mozambique’s crown.

A group meeting over pizzas and beer and we made the decision to drive further north to a small town, Tandanhangue, where we could park our cars and head over to Ibo Island on a local dhow. An option I had not been keen on previously but seemingly the only one without spending over $300 to fly 20 minutes away. And so, Mike and I prepared the car for an extra person, Anna and got a good night sleep for an early drive to Tandanhangue in time for high tide.

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