There’s a quote that reads “people don’t take trips, trips take people”. One such trip was about to unfold.
I don’t remember much planning, just a mention of a possible trip up North- a week later we were on the road. Two thousand five hundred kilometers, five days and two border posts later we sat with palm tree dotted landscapes, ocean edged villages and endless blue skies. Surfboards, board shorts, bikinis were all we needed to swap a little bit of the South African winter for an early summer in Mozambique and from day one, time was never of the essence. We had a whole month of surf travel, culture integration and limitless exploration ahead of us and we planned to make every second count.
The night before departure we sat in front of the fireplace mapping our desired route; the night before our lives were ordinary and we had no idea that the journey we were about to embark on would set the standard high for all future adventures. With the Surf Cafe owner, surf coach and pocket rocket of a surfer; a man so tall that it sparks off conversations, whom pretends to work but actually explores for a living; a yoga instructor, musician extraordinaire and truth seeker and a traveling fine art jeweller, observer and the ultimate slow life lifestyle ambassador- there was no doubt that things were going to get interesting.
The morning of departure brings a howling Northerly, this meant good waves all along the coast but in order to actually reach our destination we knew we had to be selective. As we rolled onto the N2, in the distance, white sprays and blow out barrels were being framed beautifully by the VW combie windows- on any other day we’d be out there hooting and shouting but today Africa was calling. Winding roads took us through contrasting landscapes, with each passing minute the open road unfolding freed us from our everyday routine. We stopped to buy pineapples from a lady in layers of dress and trousers in shades of yellows, greens and orange. We stopped and stayed just South of the Kei Mouth.
A view of the lagoon and outstretched beach met us early the next morning, three to four foot glassy surf in the distance was enough to set the tone for the rest of the day. Darting through the Transkei always leaves me high on inspiration. The way the people live and the vast open spaces. Time and time again it reminds me that the beauty of life truly lies in the simplest of things. The colours of the houses, turquoise; peach and then some yellow- I can not help but think that creativity was born, cultivated and nurtured on African soil and within her communities that call this continent home.
After a day of rural sunlit exploration, we leave the Kei behind as last light falls. The sun sets over a world that has no value of time but a life that is guided by the sun and the moon. We pushed through to reach the lower South coast of Durban - a warm water west coast simulation. A stones throw away from the beach we arrived at a place with teepee tents, tree houses and a forest located jacuzzi, it was a world if not explored one would know nothing of. We spent the night and then another, in hope of finding waves and when we eventually did we knew that we have found a good thing. I felt challenged and outside my comfort zone as soon as we hit the water. The wave had power and punch and commitment was at the order of the day. With each passing set I could hear my heart pounding in my head. Clear water and blue skies eventually calmed my nerves, every wave thereafter had me coming back for more. There is little in this life that rattles and satisfies as much as being humbled by the ocean.
We make a quick stop in Mtinzini, where free range children wonder the garden and play make belief and dress up. We get to stay in a caravan at the far end of the property, pick avocados fresh from the tree that was to become the base of every meal from there and beyond. An hour into our drive the next morning we realize that the map and all important paperwork has been left in Mtnzini. We had no choice but to turn back. We made the most of the detour as we drank a well deserved second cup of coffee and yet another breakfast was feasted on before hitting the road once more. We make it to the Swaziland border and push through to Mozambique. Our first sunset over an empty rural landscape and we find ourselves in awe. The further we head North the more preconceived ideas fall by the wayside and instinct takes its place. The beauty of travel lies in a change of scenery and routine that leads us to discover more about ourselves than we ever knew existed; but most of all the beauty of travel lies in doing things a little differently while in quite a feral state as no one really knows you and the effort of living up to societal standards no longer means a thing. Absolute bliss. We arrived at our destination just in time for an afternoon surf, an all girls line-up had me smiling from ear to ear. We pitched our tents on Mozambican soil for the first time that evening.
We took a day to settle in and the next to visit the market. What makes this country so incredible is the Mozambican soil grown fruit and vegetables so readily available. We ate mielies from the cob, bought raw peanuts, chillies and plenty of fruit. No shiny shop fronts or glitzy blinding glamour; just local fabric, hand made wooden jewellery and fresh fish and rice from the market restaurant. Each day new faces and different places, every morning was met with surfboard under arm in hope of something brewing on the back line of the point. We were seldom disappointed, partly because we were in another country and partly because it was part of our own continent. After a week of trekking down to find a wave, one would think we’d skip a day or have a lie in, but religiously we woke up at sunrise everyday and took that walk of hope. Not by force but by choice, as if led by a deep convicted revelation of the life of the soul surfer.
Adventures unfolded in the following order surf first, eat later, explore after. We walked from one end of many ocean edged villages to the other, spending time with the locals and as I let my camera lens capture poetry in motion I slipped into the Mozambican slow life. Another market set against an ocean backdrop, where the wind brings news of a different culture, a different way of life, a different world. Days were long and it felt like we could fit a million and one things into just one second. An early morning surf, coconut bread ‘smousing’ from local barefoot children; a dhow trip across to Pansy Island,an afternoon walk-about and yet another surf well into the night. Blue skies and off-shore winds, warm water; snorkeling on unknown reefs and on the walk home the always blaring television with low budget music videos that Africa calls her own.
Void of contact with the outside world, Africa holds one in a familiar embrace as if you’ve always belonged, like this truly was your home and in hindsight you almost don’t grasp why life was ever any different. Africa took us by the hand and lead us to treasures in unexplored waters, she also showed us that being different, raw and true to yourself brings ultimate freedom and authenticity. After a month of living in a tent, making coffee on a fire, in my feral wild state, it was time to head back. Maputo brought one last night of dancing to the rhythms of Mozambican flare.
After twenty four years of surfing I thought I knew it all, but I was clearly wrong. I left with open eyes to a whole new side of surfing and a whole new side of me, a side of surfing that I always knew existed but could never seem to find. A side of surfing void of pride but filled with humbleness; void of ego but instead filled with soul, void of selfishness and instead filled with unconditional love for the ocean and all that she brings. After twenty four years of surfing it took a trip to Mozambique to remind me once more that as the ocean changes so do we.
How one trip, unexpectedly, shaped a stranger into myself, is the reason I keep on surfing, traveling, exploring.