Mo-Zam-Beek – the name that ends in a smile. How is it that when I am there, it all feels so real. Yet when I am home it seems like a dream? Some dreams are very real after all. But then I have sand in my bag, and in my shoes. That should tell me something. There is a bag of salty laundry too.
It is a two day drive, from the dry interior to our hideaway on the tropical east African coast. Mozambique has 2500kms of dazzling coastline – the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s a good thing because the roads are appalling – broken tar, with massive potholes and crumbled edges with vertigo inspiring drops. Much of the main coastal road is under reconstruction with no detours, so road space must be shared with construction traffic as well as giant commercial haulers. But then the panoramic views that appear between the forests and villages, and towering coconut plantations from days gone by ; help to soothe shattered nerves. There is so much beauty here.
We arrive at sunset on the second day and let the gossamer view wash over our senses. Evening dhows glide silently past silhouetted by the sinking sun. We watch for the Dhow Jones crossing from Vilanculos bringing food supplies and friends to join us.
The week is ruled by sun and tides. The boardwalk through the mangroves has been battered by summer storms and needs some attention. Never the less, it carries us to and from the silver beach. It is our main point of entry and departure from our camp on the dunes.
On Monday we go to Matsopane Primary School in the nearby village. Over the years, Geli from Letters from Usedom has been sending lovingly compiled boxes of school books, stationary, pens, toys and other scholarly tools to this little school in an acre of sand by a lake. This time there are many more children to greet us . We are welcomed with cheers and waves, and young students race across hot sand. The teacher bangs a big metal triangle – the school bell. It seems to me there are many more children at the school than at previous visits. Perhaps more children are actually attending the school these days – encouraged by Geli’s good will gifts over the years?
The children line up according to age groups. For the first time there is silence – apart from some giggles, and nudges, as books and pens are dealt out along the rows.
This time we have some funds to hand over too. Thanks to Mandy, Geli, Hans, Barbara,
Karen and Tienie, and Janet – we have together raised enough to build a schoolroom with a tin roof, cement floor, and brick walls. The main school room was destroyed in the cyclone of 2007; and since then they have made do with a ramshackle collection of huts made of old tin, reeds and grass.
It is steaming hot, and I have to keep mopping the sweat that runs into my eyes. I chat with Lucas and the Head Teacher about the new building. The children sing a song of thanks. Rain clouds bloom in the dark blue sky. We turn to leave amid much shouting of boisterous children, who run alongside the vehicle waving and cheering happily.
The dhow jones is moored at the end of the boardwalk. She is our main transport. I love to see her there. I have a crush on this boat – I don’t think its natural, but we set sail on her at least once a day. Somedays, we load up and spend the whole day exploring sand islands, and watching the colours of the sea for turtles, dolphins and dugongs. Other days the crew go fishing, and we join them in the evening for sunset ‘wiya-wiya’ under sail – not sure I have the spelling right but it means going nowhere in particular just about the place – messing about listening to the wooden creaks that sound like whale song. Sigh.
As relentless as the outgoing tides, the week slips away from me. I try to stand on its shadow – just to slow it down you understand – but it is useless. I have unpacked all over the place – as if I came here to stay. Packing up makes me sad – hearing the Dhow Jones depart before sunrise, makes my inner child anxious. But life is good and with luck we will be back before too long.