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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Arriving in Tofo

MOZAMBIQUE | Monday, 2 April 2012 | Views [508]

So much has happened in the last two weeks, I am having a hard time putting into words everything that's going on!

I flew into Inhambane, the major town close to Tofo (pronounced "tofu"), almost two weeks ago.  The airport was by far the smallest one I've ever flown into; it looked like a hut with a runway outside.  A coordinator from All Out Africa, the group I'm volunteering with, met me at the airpot, so far so good!  Our van went to pick up another volunteer, E from Germany (who ended up being my roommate at the volunteer house), and together we were driven to the volunteer house.  

Nine volunteers are starting the program together; most are staying for four weeks, one for six weeks, and two of us for eight weeks.  There are three Germans, two Swiss, one Swede, one Canadian studying in the UK, and a Brit-Dane from Paris.  Everyone spoke English very well, not unusual for Europeans; I have a feeling I may learn more German than Portuguese, given it is the most spoken language amongst us.  They all bring such amazing life adventures to share.  We're here obviously because we have a passion for volunteerism, diving, and marine wildlife and the environment, and some have volunteered in other needs too.  The Swede just lived for a month in Kenya teaching sports to children in the slums; the Brit-Dane on her gap year before starting university was in Zambia building homes for orphaned children impacted by AIDS; a German couple are on a 6-month sabbatical traveling around Africa, and wanted to volunteer during part of their holiday; a university student is here to learn and gain first-hand experience in marine wildlife that will earn her credits towards her degree; my roommate, the German gal, who has volunteered previously in Ecuador (at a hospital) and Costa Rica (saving turtles), quit her job to volunteer here and is considering changing things up in her life; glad to know I'm not alone in that!  Overall I feel really lucky to be here with them, hopefully we can accomplish great things together and have loads of fun too.

The volunteer house is several years old and show signs of wear, but all the basic necessities are working.  Compared to the typical Mozambique hut that's made of wood and palm leaves, our house may be considered fancy:  it has two stories, connected by an outdoor staircase, and both units have a terrace in the front; downstairs unit has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a store room, small living room and kitchen, and upstairs unit has three bedrooms, three bathrooms (two of them in a separate house at the back), big kitchen, living room and dining room, and that's also where we conduct work and hang out.  Every bedroom has two sets of bunk beds.  Only E and I are in our room, so we each have our own bunk beds and share a wicker bookshelf.  As we settled into our room, my mind immediately switched back to "simple life" mode:  my frequently-used stuff and books in the bookshelf, my clothes folded and sorted into piles on the lower bunk bed, the clothesline hung for drying, that's it.  We both hung mosquito nets above the upper bunk where we sleep; it's actually quite nice to sleep under a net, and so far I have not heard any mosquitos buzzing at night.

The house has basic food items for all our meals: fresh fruits (apples, pineapples, bananas, tomatoes), fresh vegetables (avocados, onions, potatoes, carrots, chili), beans, canned vegetables, bread, eggs, cheese, cereal, milk, tea, coffee powder, rice, instant noodles, and basic condiments.  We make our own breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner from Friday to Sunday nights; the other four nights, dinner is made by a local lady, AB, who also cleans the house during the day.  So far our group has organized and eaten most meals together; my new daytime favorite is fried egg (if the egg man has eggs to deliver), avocado, tomato and cheese sandwich.  For the prepared dinner, AB usually makes a big pot of stew or sauce with vegetables, beans, chickpeas, chicken, or tomatoes, to be served either with rice or spaghetti.  The meals are basic but hearty.  One gal is a vegan so not many choices, but she gets by.  

Tofo is very small and can still be considered "unspoiled".  Only one road leads into it from Inhambane, and all roads within Tofo are unpaved.  There is one "downtown" area consisting of an outdoor market with many vendors selling everything from produce to artwork to jewelry to household supplies; there are also many stands selling drinks and alcohol, a handful of restaurants, and an internet cafe.  There are a few budget lodgings, a hostel, and what seems to be homes used as vacation rentals.  Most visitors are from South Africa.  The beach is within walking distance from everywhere and just 5 minutes from the volunteer house.  The waves crashing the beach may get quite powerful, so there aren't many fish close to the beach.  Fishing is popular amongst the locals and you can easily buy that day's catch at the outdoor market.  Diving is a growing business, and so far there are four dive shops in Tofo; surfing is also popular with board rentals and lessons available. 

I am trying not to get ahead of myself and do too much too quickly since I have eight weeks to explore.  The first week was spent being acquainted with All Out Africa, the dive shop Peri Peri (they  contract with All Out Africa to take us on our research dives and ocean safaris), and Marine Megafauna Foundation, a research group based in Tofo that focuses their studies on large marine animals including manta rays, giant turtles, and whale sharks; they work closely with All Out Africa because a lot of the data and photos we gather may be  used in their researches and publications, which are then shared with other research groups.  That means if I can take an awesome photo of a whale shark, it may be published somewhere, let's hope!  

Tags: all out africa, inhambane, mozambique, tofo

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