After two days too long spent in Nampula dodging pickpockets, it was time to move on. The chappas broke down five minutes out of town, that has to be some kind of record. On the plus side, while we were waiting for the man from the biscuit shop to repair the vehicle, I bumped into my first Mozambican Newcastle fan.
Ilha de Moçambique aka Mozambique Island, was the capital of Portuguese East Africa and the most important Indian Ocean port in the Southern hemisphere for four centuries. Only three kilometres long and no more than 600 metres wide, Ilha as it’s more commonly known, is tiny. When the Portuguese moved the capital to Maputo in the 20th century, a lot of the buildings were left to rot marking Ilha a weird place which doesn’t feel like Africa but doesn’t feel like Lisbon either. Some of the old colonial buildings have been restored in the oldest part of town, granting Ilha UNESCO World heritage site status.
It’s easy enough to take yourself on a walking tour of the Island to admire local life and the decayed architecture. Fortaleza De São Sebastião was built from Limestone shipped from Lisbon between 1546 and 1583. It managed to hold off attacks from the Turkish, Dutch and Omani fleets.
The locals don’t seem to have much to do on Ilha. Some play Ludo, the most boring unskillful game ever. Some play carrom, a game of Indian origins which is a cross between drafts and pool. But most just sit all day doing nothing, not reading or talking, absolutely nothing. This is something I’ve noticed happens a lot throughout Africa, groups of men get to together to simply sit and stare into space while all the women graft like mad.
The kids on Ilha were especially excitable. Following, shouting, hissing and asking for their photos taken. The Macua woman of Ilha have a tradition of wearing a natural face mask called musiro made from bark, this is to soften the skin and protect it from the sun. Obviously the woman won’t let you photograph them without payment so here’s one of someone much better looking anyway.
The guys who are actually doing something are the local fisherman, who fetch in their daily catch, which you can buy. £10 for two lobsters was most likely a tourist price so I declined, much to his disappointment.
We took a boat trip out to Goa island to do some snorkelling, which was non existent as there’s no coral and was far too rough. The island’s beaches are relatively nice though and we got to explore an old derelict Portuguese lighthouse. I was half expecting a zombie to burst through one of the doors but the scariest thing about the lighthouse was the used condom on the top floor, and the fact the toilet was in better repair than the one in my hotel room.
During my self guided walking tour I was accompanied by a dog who started following me from the Hindu temple. At the end I was amazed that he never asked for money or a tip, as sometimes there’s a catch with offers of ‘free help’ in Africa.
Amazingly on Ilha I bumped into another Newcastle fan making it two in two days, this one had a striking resemblance to former Cameroonian flop Geremi. You wait six weeks to find some Newcastle shirts in Africa and then two turn up together, if only either of them knew exactly what they were wearing, one was the local Sunday league referees and the other had the nickname ‘Northern Rock’.