On January 2nd we made our way up the coast to Maxixe (pronounced ma-sheesh). Maxixe is actually the largest city in Inhambane Province with a population of over 105,000 people and serves as the economic capital of the province. Visible from the shore of Maxixe, across the bay, is the provincial capital Inhambane City. Maxixe is a busy town with much of the movement directed down to the water where people cross the bay to Inhambane by dhow or ferry boat often multiple times a day.
Orlando was born in Maxixe and both of his parents are from Inhambane Province. He still has a lot of family there and it is a place dear to his heart. Almost as soon as you leave Gaza province where we spend most of our time in Mozambique, the change in scenery is striking. Inhambane is lined with tall coconut trees and the glimpses of coastline give way to magnificent stretches of turquoise most prominently seen from a vantage point in the town of Quissico.
No photo will ever do this view justice. When I was in training in the Peace Corps we were shown a photo of this view and then told that one of the volunteers would live nearby. Needless to say it was a coveted placement that most of us dreamed of, but many of the sites were very close to the coast. Mine was actually one of the furthest inland, about an hour away from the closest beach.
The trip to Maxixe is roughly 5 hours from Chokwe. We had a special visit to make before we reached our destination for the day. A couple of years ago we became Facebook friends with a Mozambican who had won a scholarship to study at a small private college just outside of Boston. In the year he was here we were never able to connect in person. He returned to Mozambique, but stayed in touch with Orlando via phone and FB messenger. This fall he returned to complete his Master’s degree at the invitation of the college’s president. We were determined to meet this time. I invited James to spend Thanksgiving with us and he accepted. Mozambicans in general are very nice people, truly. James was no exception, and the bond was instant. He is young, intelligent, friendly, and interesting. We spent hours the first night he visited just talking and laughing.
When we said goodbye to James we promised to stop by to meet his family while we were in Mozambique. His mom lives about 15 minutes south of Maxixe in a home James proudly built for her. We were greeted with open arms and treated to a feast fit for a king. It was barely noon and we were served samosas, biscuits, two kinds of rice, matapa with crab, cabbage salad and cucumber salad (specially made for me), chicken, and more. Everything was delicious. We spent as much time as we could with James’ family before it was time to meet another friend in Maxixe. Of course we had to take a few photos of our new friends before getting back on the road. It was a wonderful experience we won’t soon forget.
I had plans to meet a dear friend and Peace Corps colleague in Maxixe around 1. She was visiting her in-laws for the holidays from Kenya where she now lives and works. We haven’t seen each other since she moved from Massachusetts to Kenya over a year ago so we had lots to catch up on. We met at a restaurant in the center of Maxixe overlooking the bay. She arrived with her step-son and 3 nieces who were all around Carlos’ age. The kids took a little time warming up to each other, but soon were fast friends. Lili and I chatted away while the kids colored and ate. The kids wanted ice cream after lunch and sadly the closest place was KFC. Yes KFC! It makes me frustrated to see fast food restaurants moving into Mozambique. No McDonald’s yet, but it’s just a matter of time I’m sure.
We spent two nights at a newer hotel in Maxixe called Farma’s Hotel. It was very nice, comfortable and we had a decent view of the bay. Carlos enjoyed the swimming pool.
His best friend Tyler and his mom made a package of envelopes for Carlos to open throughout the trip. It was such a creative and fun gift. Here he is by the Farma Hotel pool opening day 13 envelope.
We visited with Orlando’s cousin in Maxixe. Orlando and his cousin, Eliado, had a lot of catching up to do. The kids had a great time playing soccer. I took photos and tried to get Eliado’s wife to tell me how she makes her amazing matapa. Matapa is a signature Mozambican dish made with the leaves of the cassava plant.
On our second afternoon in Maxixe we took a drive to Inhambane city. We stopped at a friend’s home to visit for a bit. Then we drove out to the beach where we were hoping to stay for a couple of days. The drive to Barra beach was spectacular.
We spent the afternoon on the opposite end of the beach from where the resort was located. It was a spectacular day for relaxing and playing on the beach.
What you can’t see from my photos is the trash all over the beach. These photos were taken on January 3rd just days after the New Year. I was blown away when we stepped on the beach to find hundreds if not thousands of bottles, cans and other containers. Orlando and I started chatting with a South African couple who were doing their part to pile up the trash in a central location. They told us that everything was fine on New Year’s Eve. People celebrated and fireworks were lit. They said the next morning the beach seemed barely affected. The following day, January 1st, brought throngs of Mozambicans to the beach. They ate, drank and partied all day, and then just got up and left without cleaning up. We had seen similar stories of destruction and disrespect up and down the coast of Mozambique.
I joined the South Africans in trying to clean up the section of beach we were at, but truthfully it would have taken a full day to make any headway. The trash issue in Mozambique is disturbing. It’s not only the beaches. Trash is everywhere sometimes in piles and other times just dropped here and there. When I first met Orlando he thought nothing of throwing a wrapper or empty bottle out the bus window if we were traveling. I would gasp in horror!
Interestingly an article from October 20, 2015 recently came up in one of the Mozambique groups I belong to on Facebook. The title is Zero Tolerance for Littering the Beach. I’m glad to know that the Mozambican government is aware of the problem, but clearly the plan to patrol the beach and issue fines for littering hasn’t actually taken effect yet.
We left the beach and returned to our hotel in Maxixe for one more night. I went for a run through the town the next morning before packing up for a two night stay at Barra Beach. I got lots of interesting looks on my run. Then I decided to run along the coast. It was beautiful and peaceful until the end when I got chased by two dogs, had a guy try to join me, and then was almost unable to get up to the road where the hotel was located. I had to practically rock climb up a cliff and then I ran through someone’s yard. By then it was about 90 degrees in the shade. I was very grateful for air conditioning, a clean shower, and coffee in the hotel.