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krisek Pemba - A travel report by Krys
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Pemba,  Mozambique - flag Mozambique -  Cabo Delgado
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krisek's travel reports

Charms of the northern Mozambique. Pemba.

  9 votes
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I stopped in Pemba on my way to the Quirimba Archipelago. I did not expect to find probably one of the best beaches in the country, colonial villas and very atmospheric and photogenic local traditional architecture in one place.

Pemba old town
Pemba old town
Pemba stroke me that the town and its surroundings had more African feel than most of the African places I had seen before. As I was walking down the main road, the long evening shadows made the teak and reed houses so attractive that I finally realised I was on holiday in Africa. Later, I realised that it was district of Paquitequete and not Pemba town itself. Well, I was walking blind in the dark. I had no map and it was dark within half an hour, and I did struggle a little, because I had no idea where to go. I was lucky to find a map at the window of one of the travel agents, so I had a vague idea, but obviously, I could not take this map with me. I had to walk literally in the dark... But it was truly magical. The households behind reed fences were buzzing, people were stirring and kids kept playing around, wandering around, running around, singing songs. As soon as they found me, they followed me around. This made me feel safer, almost completely unaware that in fact this was a place that the guidebook described as a no-go area...

I decided to come back there in the morning so I could actually take some pictures of this fabulously picturesque place. It looked less mysterious and much less animated, but I loved it again. The shadows cast by the palm trees and the reed fences played with the sunrays in a particular way, which made a great impression.

There was thing I was never fond of in Africa, although I could not control it or blame it on anyone – the night was falling so soon – just about 5 pm. And this was again so true in Mozambique. It is such a pity because the continent is so beautiful that having just about 12 hours (in summer a bit longer and in winter a lot shorter) for exploring is utterly unfair. Somehow, I always end up visiting Africa in winter – and that is applicable to both hemispheres. It is so ironic.

Favourite spots:
Pemba's little fort
Pemba's little fort
The old town of Pemba, facing the vast bay of Pemba, featured several colonial villas and a small church. I did not realise the town was actually there because the main street at which I was staying did not exactly lead there. Again without a map, but this time in the low morning sunrays, I went on wandering about the area to photograph whatever I found interesting. I wandered off out of the town a bit and as I was walking in the direction of my hotel, using a different way, I found the colonial district of Pemba. It was a very relaxing town but it did look like a capital of the province. The street were all sealed and kept in a decent condition and the number of colonial villas and their excellent state made very good impact.

I also found a little fort in the suburbs of Pemba, which was not mentioned in any guidebooks. Mozambique had many forts, most of which were built by the Portuguese, but this one looked very small, and unimportant. Very curious.

What's really great:
Pemba travelogue picture
Interestingly, I found also a British style red post box, which really is just a big red tin. It looked exactly like those in London (and on Malta) but this one in Pemba had white letters on it stating Moçambique. It would have made a great postcard!

Actually, I noticed that there were no decent postcards in Mozambique anywhere. Wherever I went, it was extremely difficult to find any and if there were some, they were unbelievably ugly and of very poor quality. It was such a shame, because there was no way to show your friends and family how beautiful Mozambique was unless you visited them and showed them the pictures after you came back from the holiday, or eventually posted them on the Internet. This was not however the same as receiving a nice postcard by post, which I really love sending.

I liked how Pemba was green. Palm trees, acacia trees and green bushes grew everywhere, making Pemba feel like a great big park.

When I was walking through the village with my camera hanging from my neck, many people were pointing at me laughing aloud. I was not quite sure how to react to such reaction and since it was my second day in the country, I kept cool.

At some point, about two dozens of kids aged 6-9 surrounded me and walked with me singing and dancing and clapping their hands. It felt like a scene from an adventure film. I kept walking, they kept clapping and singing, and this went on like that for about one kilometre. I had absolutely no idea what they were singing about, so I was not sure whether I should take offense or not. It was a peculiar but pleasant situation and since the kids liked it, I was happy I could deliver some entertainment to them.

This was already after dusk and I was not sure I should be walking there in the dark on my own. It did feel good and relaxing though and somehow I was calm. I was the only stranger (and a white tourist) there, causing a bit of a sensation.

Wimbi beach
Wimbi beach
I landed in Pemba almost at sunset and took a walk in the town right after checking in at the Hotel Cabo Delgado, which is also the name of the autonomous province of Mozambique, of which Pemba is the capital. The hotel was grotty paying USD25 per night there was a major rip off, but state-owned hotels in the country charge that. Hot water was non existent and the room smelled terribly. I do not really want to describe how the bathroom looked. So I just wanted to spend the least amount of time there as possible. However, the hotel was very central, located at the main junction on the lower town.

As alternative to Pemba, one could stay at the Wimbi beach, out of town. I found that basic accommodation there, however, would cost me at least twice as much as in the town of Pemba proper. Caraçol Accommodations there for example charged USD60 per night and it was not even directly on the beach. Those on the beaches asked over USD120, and some looked really comfortable.

Wimbi beach near the Nautilus
Wimbi beach near the Nautilus
Just outside Pemba, I think it is about 5 km, there is another world – the world full of white people on the streets, streets parallel to a wonderful beach. The Wimbi Beach. I was told that this beach is probably the best one in the entire country. I was brought there on the way back from Ibo Island, just to have a look what it is like. It was perfect. The sun was fifteen minutes before setting in the ocean, and the palm trees were giving long shadows. The sand was almost white. The smell of grilled shellfish from the restaurants was hypnotising me. I went there for the beach and quality food at the Dolphin restaurant, which came highly recommended. There are other restaurants on the beach but not as good. For example, the one at the Wimbi's only disco is particularly bad with mediocre food and very bad service. I went on stroll along the water’s edge from one bar to another, having a bottle of coke in each of them. The Nautilus, for example, has a great bar with superb stools and a restaurant called Ancora.

On my second evening in Pemba, I eventually found one of the restaurants or cafes I was looking on Sunday night, when I arrived. Surprise, surprise, it was closed on Sunday, the lights were off and there was no way to recognise it in the dark that it was what I was looking for. It was called Pastelaria flor d'avenida and it was an extremely pleasant place to eat. It had white plastic tables set outside on the street on a tiled floor among the acacia trees right behind the lonely Travellers Tree. Music from the speakers could have been better but hey – nothing is perfect.

I think an Indian man ran the place and alcohol was not sold there (so no chance to have a bottle of Laurentina Preta there) and the menu was quite comprehensive but expecting that all was actually available was a big mistake. I was actually lucky that they still had prawns. I ordered them grilled.

The lower town had a few atmospheric little cafes, both locally and foreign-owned, offering yummy snacks and cold drinks.

Crab at dinner
Crab at dinner
There was a restaurant in my hotel, but having had a quick look at it, I decided that I would better off fasting. I ran away.

I found a place, which looked decent and had electricity. A Portuguese woman owned it. As I was washing my dish (seafood of course) down my throat with an exceptionally good dark beer – Laurentina Preta and Castel Milk Stout, something very interesting happened. An elderly man came to the restaurant (already boasting two loud TV sets) with a mid-size portable radio switched on quite loudly. He let it playing for the entire time he was in the restaurant and when he was walking away. I just could not believe what I saw! How bizarre was that?

Later, I realised that having a radio strapped around one's neck was a very common phenomenon in Mozambique. It must have been a very funny picture for someone watching from a distance – Mozambicans with their loud radios around their necks and me with my horrendously heavy and large camera around my neck!

Other recommendations:
Ibo island
Ibo island
Pemba is a gateway to the Quirimba Archipelago. Before I arrived to Mozambique, I made a few enquiries how to get to the archipelago and specifically to Ibo Island. I managed to contact a person in one of the many diving centres in the northern country via email, who told me that I should have absolutely no problem to get a boat from Pemba to Ibo. Well, I could not actually find one. I understand that it was an off-season period, but absolutely no boats was a bit funny. I kept looking and asking the locals and they told me that there was sometimes a chapa (a truck which takes people places) in the direction I wanted to go, but it was not guaranteed and I could not get there directly. The name of the place I was supposed to get to was called Quissanga and then another one called Tandanhangue. I could not find those either. I had to organise a private transfer, but perhaps I was impatient.

Published on Saturday March 28th, 2009

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Sun, Apr 26 2009 - 06:32 PM rating by bootlegga

Maybe a way to make a few bucks would be to create some nice postcards and sell them to the Mozambique Tourism Office!

Mon, Mar 30 2009 - 04:06 PM rating by aufgehts

Another interesting report, Krys. You always seem to have funny little experiences that make the reports fun to read. I can tell how much you love Africa.

Sun, Mar 29 2009 - 06:56 AM rating by bineba

Very interesting report and nice pictures. I'm also somebody who still likes to send (and receive!) postcards.

Sun, Mar 29 2009 - 03:15 AM rating by davidx

I have seen Mozambique - but only from a hill top in Zimbabwe. I don't see myself getting there but you report makes me want to!

Sat, Mar 28 2009 - 11:00 PM rating by pesu

Good detailed report full of individual impressions - nice to read as always! And: there are people who love getting postcards. ;-)

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