Restaurant in the eastern part of Mozambique Island
The great Portuguese navigator and adventurer Vasco de Gama arrived 515 years before me to Mozambique Island. In my defense I must say that he left much earlier and did not have to take 4 or 5 buses and badges (collective vans with which you can travel all over Mozambique) on almost non-existent roads. Upon arrival on the island, it became the oldest European settlement on the African continent.
The Portuguese took over from the Arabs and built forts and Manueline-style churches. Mozambique Island became a tiny place of burgeoning economy. Not surprisingly, it was the transit point for goods trafficked between Asia and Europe. Indian spices, fabrics and beads were exchanged for gold, ivory and slaves. It would be the latter, and embarrassing, business that would give new economic momentum to the Island after a period of decline of about 100 years. However, the independence of Brazil (1822) - the main client in the sale of slaves - and the transfer of the capital of Mozambique to Lourenço Marques (current Maputo), were blows that could no longer be recovered.
When I arrived in Mozambique Island on the sheet that left Nampula I was struck by the great architectural difference of the two halves into which such a tiny place seems to be divided. In its 3 kilometers long and 400 meters wide, two parts can be distinguished: crowded houses, built with precarious materials that distill poverty, from the southern part; and the colonial houses and buildings of the northern part. There is a common factor that the fact that it was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1991 It seems not to have palliated: the houses of the whole island seem to be collapsing at any moment.
Having a beer with Andy, the day of our arrival in Isla
We got off the sheet and our new friend Andy - a Mozambican rasta we had met in Nampula - led us to a small guest house located in the North. Ophir and I left things and ran towards the small beach located almost on the northern tip of the Island. The heat was unbearable and we could only think of diving into the blue waters of the Indian Ocean.
Just north of the beach, it seemed to be watching us, imposing, which was the most powerful southern stronghold: The Fortress of San Sebastián (built between 1558 and 1620). We do not visit inside and we just bathe in the turquoise waters that surround its walls.
On the beach, two or three groups of random children were hanging around with a wide smile, waiting to establish a conversation that was impossible. Finally, they took the initiative and approached us chattering in Portuguese. Their faces lit up with surprise and triumph when they saw that I spoke their language. Since that day, the Lost Children of Mozambiqu Islandand they would accompany us in most.
The seller of sweets on the beach. In the distance, the fortress of San Sebastián