It was the feeling of butterflies in my stomach that awoke me, not my alarm. Ever since the beginning of my journey, I had never felt an excitement quite like the excitement I felt at this moment. It was because I was about to go to a place I had head of but never got to experience. However, it was just a stepping stone to the true adventure, which lay in the island I was to visit thereafter. Today I leave Botswana and head over to its picturesque and famous neighbour, Mozambique.
Upon landing in Beira, the capital of Mozambique, I was simply astounded by the sheer size of Mozambique, as I had always perceived it to be very isolated and tiny. Having not eaten breakfast, I immediately enquired from my driver as to the best place to eat in Beira, as I was not only starving, but quite eager to taste Mozambican food. To my surprise, I was recommended a restaurant that did not serve Mozambican food primarily, but Italian instead! The man saw my astonishment and burst into laughter, assuring me that I would not regret committing such a terrible crime of not eating Mozambican Cuisine while there. I decided to be outrageous and asked to be taken to the restaurant beautifully named “Tutto D’Italy”
Pulling up to what looked like a park, I was uncertain about whether my ‘guide’ had lost his way. He told me that this restaurant was one of the best kept secrets among the locals, and not very easy to find, as it was tucked away inside what was actually a park. I was very apprehensive about going in as I saw play areas and jumping castles for children and was not convinced that a restaurant with such an exterior could be even above average. I was wrong. Entering the restaurant was like Lucy stepping into Narnia, for when I entered, the childish exterior was forgotten, replaced instead with a feeling of class and sheer joy. The Inside was cosy and warm, with a dark wood and soft leather interior, and smelled magnificent. The driver drank in my amazement for a minute, before quietly bidding me farewell and making a graceful exit. Upon his departure, I was immediately approached by a waiter in the restaurant, who greeted politely before quickly escorting me to a secluded spot in the restaurant. With a flourish, he produced a menu, placing it on my table, before explaining to me the specials for the day. Not being able to understand a word of Italian, I took a different approach and asked for his recommendation instead. His choice was a beautiful veal Scaloppine, sautéed thinly sliced veal and wheat flour, accompanied with Piccata, a refreshing caper and lemon sauce. For dessert, he requested that I taste the tiramisu, paired witha strong cup of freshly ground coffee. Once certain that I was comfortable with my choice, he left me to my thoughts as he went to inform the chef of my desired dishes.
A few minutes later, my quiet daydream was shattered by the aroma or lemon and cooked meat, and looked down to see a delectable plate of food placed before me. I could not contain myself and immediately dug in, filling my mouth repeatedly with glorious mouthfuls of splendid deliciousness. 30 minutes later and I sat paralyzed in my seat, unable to move, having eaten to satiety. Eventually I had to get up and request a taxi to take me from the restaurant which I had, so quickly formed a strong bond with, to the harbour, where the vessel that was to take me to my next stop, awaited patiently.
Arriving at the harbour just a few minutes before the boat was to leave, meant that I had to exert myself unnecessarily in order to get onto the boat in time. It was afternoon by the time we left the harbour, en route to the island I was to spent Saturday night, and the whole of Sunday on. As the boat cruised through the water, I sat on the deck, taking in the breathtaking experience, with the gentle rocking and the sound of the ocean, perfectly complimented by the smell of sea salt together with the sun hanging low over the ocean like a golden orb. Before long, we had reached the island.
It was one of 5 islands making up what is called the ‘Bazaruto Archipelago’. The Island I chose was the most beautiful of them all. Its name was Santa Carolina and it was aptly named ‘Island of Paradise’. Of course I was not able to fully understand this nickname yet as it was dusk and it was a little difficult to see around myself. I was escorted up to my hotel room, which faced the ocean. Filled with food as well as fatigue, it did not take too long for me to fall asleep, with the sound of the ocean caressing my mind into a state of deep relaxation.
The golden rays of sunshine that kissed my face lightly was the reason I woke the next day. Rushing into the bathroom and having a quick shower, I then went down to the dining hall for an island breakfast. This was composed of a perfectly seasoned egg, a bowl of freshly picked and diced papaya with lemon juice, and a tall glass of orange juice.
Once I had refueled, I finally stepped out of the hotel and onto sand so white and so fine, that, were it not for the fact that it was hot, could have been mistaken for snow. When my eyes finally fell onto the ocean, all time stood still. It was as if the whole world stopped. Everything around me went silent, and the waves slowed. I was absolutely awestruck.
The water was the most amazing hue of blue, and so light that the sand beneath it was visible, as well as the tiny tropical that darted around just below the surface. When the spell was finally broken, by the snorkeling instructor who had come to make sure I had not died standing up, My heart leapt at the thought of immersing myself in such beauty for a whole day, and i rushed behind him onto the small boat that waited to take us further into what was truly an earthly paradise.
Once out on the lagoon, we were given our snorkeling gear, told what and what not to do, we slipped into the water. It was a striking change of atmosphere that stopped my heart for a split second. The cool breeze turned into warm water, and the sound of the birds and waves were instantly silenced. It was as if I was thrust into another world, ethereal. All around me, fish of every color shape and size. It was an experience that was instantly, and indelibly etched onto my mind for rest of time.
For hours I cajoled in the water, exploring coral reefs and trying to touch al the pretty fish. Until, the ocean went dark. Looking up, I was filled with dread, for the creature blocking the light was far bigger than the boat. It was enormous, and spotted. After a few seconds I realised that I recognised the creature. It was a whale shark and I was relieved to remember it was harmless. Eventually plucking up the courage to swim up to it and touch it. Touch a whale shark…check. One more thing to check off my bucket list, knowing that I had a privilege not many had. Eventually, I was forced to leave the lagoon that I had made my home for the duration of the day.
Sitting on the shore after the snorkeling adventure, gazing at the sunset over the ocean, while sipping pineapple juice from a hollow pineapple, I could not help but feel sad that I would have to leave the next morning. It was only the fact that I would be heading to another amazing adventure that cheered me up and, with a quick wipe of the tear that ran down my cheek, I turned my back to the ocean and went into the hotel, coming to terms with the fact that I had just experienced…paradise.