For all the uninitiated, ultimate frisbee is a brilliant culture-spanning sport a bit like a cross betwen netball and American football using a competition frisbee (like a regular frisbe, but a standard size and better engineered). We didn’t play a proper game, of course – but hopefully the seeds of interest have been sown.

One particularly interesting thing about Maputo is that all the streets are named after various revolutionary and communist figures such as Vladimir Lenin and Kim Il Sung (most likely renamed after the revolution). My hostel was on the Avenida Mao Tse-Tung. My last day was supposed to be spent looking at museums and other high-brow cultural activities, but they all seemed to be closed on Mondays. As anyone who’s picked up a Mozambique guidebook will know, this means that I missed the natural history museum’s collection of pickled elephant foetuses, one for each month of gestation (twenty in all).

TofoSo after a twelve hour bus journey incorporating several earth roads and one breakdown I arrived at the beach resort of Tofo, typically called Tofu by most backpackers. It’s not quite on the beaten track, and is a bit of a dive mecca due to clear waters and plenty of wildlife. Backpacker accommodation is a bunch of grass huts on the beach front. Wasting no time, I decided to have a wander round the numerous dive outfits and see if anyone had prescription masks available for snorkelling. This activity ended with one of those staggering coincidences against which the odds are astronomical, but seem to occur with disturbing regularity:

My presence in Tofo was a bit of a random accident anyway – I had initially planned on staying in Inhambane, but a few backpackers coming the other way recommended the beaches and some others on the bus up were going that way too so I tagged along. I had also initially planned on not doing any snorkelling, but one of the backpackers (there to do a dive course) said that it would probably be worth my time just asking if there were any prescription or full masks available. I went to the first dive operator (run by a guy from Manchester), and would have used them but they didn’t have anything. I walked into the next one, clapped eyes on the guy behind the desk and realised that he looked very, very familiar. He must have thought that I was looking at him a bit funnily as I racked my brains to figure out who he was. Playing for time, I introduced myself:

Me: Hi, I’m John.
Steve: Steve.
Me: You used to work at Hawkshead youth hostel.
Steve: Holy s**t!

As it turned out, I’d worked with this guy for a summer four years ago and he’d then gone up to work on Mull before hitch-hiking down to Cape Town, going back to Australia and then ending up in Tofo. Considering the size of the world and that both he and I had just gone with the flow to wind up on this particular beach and at this particular dive outfit at the same time, words almost fail me.

I immediately got myself on the next snorkelling trip (they had prescription masks after all), and quickly got a hard reminder that I’m a complete land-lubber (I think I have more affinity with the mountains that the sea). However, I wasn’t alone in heaving over the side of the launch so the seas must have been a bit rough. It was worth it, though. Ten minutes out into the bay, two humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) turned up and played around for a while jumping out of the water (we had to keep our distance to about 200 metres as they are pretty big). About fifteen minutes and a few flying fish (Exocoetidae sp.) later, we spotted a whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and piled out of the boat to swim around it. Let me tell you, those things are huge. This one was about nine metres long, which is absolutely awe-inspiring when you’re swimming next to it. On the way back, a school of dolphins came alongside us and we all piled out again to swim with them, but they didn’t stick around for too long.

Tomorrow I head to Vilanculos and a marine national park, where you can take dhow trips in the archipelago. After that, Tete and then Malawi!

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