as much as you struggle for good hospitality in africa, sometimes it just works out.
on the last night of our workshop i sat next to abdul, from the university. he lives out at the research station on inhaca island. i was meant to fly to south africa the next day for a lovely weekend stay at the jo-burg airport hotel, but he quickly persuaded me to change my flight. inhaca is paradise!
a bit buzzed after half a bottle of vinho verde i called over to my colleague carl sitting at the end of the dinner table, hey wanna go to inhaca this weekend?
i arrange everything, says abdul.
on saturday morning we arrive skeptically at the fish port, i am half expecting this to fall through and am already scrolling through the number of tour operators and hotels i stored in my phone during my brief research of the island - which didn't bring much, mostly hotels closed for renovations and numbers with insufficient digits to make sense.
at the port we are escorted to our reserved seats on the vodacom boat. a clear better alternative to the rusting movicel vessel half sinking portside.
we lounge in our red plastic molded seats and two hours later come upon the quaint, idyllic ilha inhaca.
we pay the little reserve entrance fee, and a man comes and introduces himself, fernando, he will take us to our house in his land cruiser. we drift over the sand dunes and beach and through a small village, until we are shown a rather nice half thatch/half cement 2 bedroom house which is essentially what might call a "condo." replete with a living room and bar with 8 stools, fully stocked kitchen and a porch that lacks little but a hammock. the yard is under construction but there are satellite tv's and stone floors.
i ask when we need to pay and fernando says, "whenever."
we walk out to the beach and hike southward, in search of the university research station abdul raved about.
as soon as we are on the beach, various guys stop us and ask if we want to take a tour in their boat and we're like, nah, not really but ok we'll take your number in case.
we continue for a bit of a hike, we walk and walk and walk and i can feel the sunburn sink in, amplified by the terror thought that we are about as far from any restaurant at exactly high noon.
finally we arrive at the research station, evidenced by a securty guard sleeping in a beached canoe. we enter the natural history museum of jars and preserves of all local beasts and animals and species, all explained by an eager portguese speaking tourguide. the specimens are in the same jars i make my pickles.
i understand bits and pieces of his spiel, there was a leper colony, the island is 7km wide, which is the same distance we just walked, this is a 3m long python skin, the scorpion fish is bad news and here are lots of ants. i ask to for the bathroom and the guide leads me to an outhouse - but first asks me to wait, as he inspects every stall for cobras. there is even a sign, please watch out for forest cobras. this is their home, he says.
at this point we have little desire to walk the 7km back to town and we are starving so we ask the fishermen there if they would take us back to town. they wince and shake their heads, so we call one of the guys who stopped us on the beach, flavio.
flavio says he can pick us up in a jeep or by boat, which do we prefer?
i say i don't know, which is cheaper and he says 1000 meticais either way.
boat or jeep, which do you prefer?
i say whichever costs 800 meticais and flavio says i come in the boat.
it's low tide so we walk out in the really shallow ankle deep water to the channel's edge. i take pictures and am terrified of dropping my camera in the water, as well as stepping on sea urchins.
we are almost 1 km from shore and i start to have my doubts about flavio. if the tide comes in we are essentially swimming back and i call him again and he does not answer. i figure, it's either a bad sign, or a good sign, because the boat engine is running and he can't hear the ring?
within seconds i hear the faint roar of an engine, and a speedboat racing towards us. carl says, "there's no way that's flavio's boat, it sounds way too fast," but it is. and we hop in. i complain about the lack of cold beer and flavio says if you had asked for beer i would have brought beer.
flavio shows us his fancy tour guide id, which is just a laminated business card with rusty staples in it. carl remembers he has the lanyard name tag thing from the workshop. we put flavio's badge in there and i high five him. he is the happiest guy ever. legit. the crystal blue waters bow under our powerful engine and we are at the town in seconds.
flavio takes us to some breezy patio where we eat the freshest calamari, doused with many beers. we watch the lazy village life before us, and then search endlessly for a beach but find mangroves, which aren't so bad because that's why we're here, afterall.
after a sunset swim back at the dock we are discovering cold beer in the condo fridge when fernando finds us to say he needs two people to fill the boat trip to portguese island the next day and because it is split 10 ways it costs almost nothing. ok, why not?
the best vacations are when you don't have to make decisions, the decisions just come to you.
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