“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.” John Holt in Teach Your Own
Travelling is a fantastic example of ‘doing’. Would I rather my children be stuck in a classroom, waiting until the holidays come along to fit in their one annual trip? Or would I prefer to take as many opportunities of travelling as is financially viable throughout the year? Is it best to learn about Mozambique by reading a book or going there and experiencing it? Is it best to learn about dolphins watching them on TV or by swimming with them?
This week’s blog is all about our swimming with dolphin trip to Malongane in Mozambique, just over the Kosi Bay boarder. Considering we were only there for 4 nights; 3 full days in Moz and a day travelling either side – I feel that I’ve learnt much. Packing for the trip and getting the dogs food ready took up the remaining days of the week, so little else was achieved this week. We had to cart all our food with us, right down to our drinking water.
The journey in South Africa was long but on well maintained roads. Most of the sights were uninteresting. I was kept entertained Whatsapping my friend in her car, as we travelled in convoy and keeping in check with my other friend who decided to go on ahead. It was only as we neared Swaziland that the scenery improved. However I was conscious of the litter strewn along side of the road. Why, oh why, do people litter our planet so thoughtlessly?
The border crossing was uneventful, but as we are travelling with two members of the family still on British passports we had a shock waiting for us. Being the unorganised person that I am I didn’t check the price of the visa’s for British citizens entering Mozambique. I knew that we could purchase visas at the border – yet it was a shock to find out that the visas were R650 each! I must say they did produce very pretty visas, inclusive of photograph and fingerprints – perhaps they feel it justifies their ridiculous fee. Luckily we were travelling with our generous friends, who lent us some cash for the duration of trip. We unfortunately hadn’t brought along loads of cash due to everything having been prepaid, including our food. This also meant I had little spare cash to spend at the curios market, which was a god send. I would have been sorely tempted if we had the money. The Mozambique curios were lovely, refreshingly different from what I’ve seen in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The roads after the boarder were of the deepest, finest sand, it was like driving on a beach. Our tyres had to be let down to 1 bar, only a 4×4 could make it through these conditions. Our directions were clear; take the tracks leading straight, make no extreme left or right turns and after 30 to 40 mins we should arrive at the camp. Huh! Often we were confronted with a fork in the road, one veering off to the right the other to the left – now which one should we take? An hour and a half later we were saved by a kindly truck driver who directed us back in the direction we had just come from and then we were finally on track. I’m please to write that our two drivers were amazing and even though we witnessed another car stuck in the sand, our drivers negotiated these treacherous roads like pro’s without us getting stuck in the sand once. Eventually as the light was fading, having left home at 4 in the morning, we arrived at the camp. We were greeted like long lost travellers by the rest of our friends and shown to our quaint, tiny but adequate log cabin. We were staying in a dive camp, with a communal kitchen and ablutions block. I kicked off my shoes and sank my toes into the softest sand ever and this is how I lived, bare foot, for the remainder of the trip.
Unfortunately our late arrival meant we couldn’t swim in the sea. Oh I lie … JJ managed a quick swim with her friends before darkness fell as we unpacked the cars. We sat down to pre-prepared pasta and afterwards retired to a spiritual, open aired, lounge area for tea, hot chocolate and biscuits – all chatting excitedly about our planned launch the following day.
Unfortunately the following day was overcast and rainy so the launch was cancelled. It provided me with an opportunity to orientate myself. Apart from the comforting open air lounge mentioned before there was a stunning decked, bar area overlooking the beach. An onsite shop sold delicious Portuguese bread Pao – lethal for the waist line! The beach was perfect white, soft sand with a gentle slope into the sea which meant it was ideal for the children to swim and snorkel in. When the sun peeped out later in the afternoon, and the tide went out exposing rocks perfect for snorkelling, us three moms joined our children in the warm sea. In preparation for our trip the following day we tried out our new diving paraphernalia (snorkel, goggles and flippers). We were entertained by a huge shoal of silver fish, a pipe fish and a fish disguised as a leopard. Initially I felt claustrophobic breathing through the snorkel. After several attempts I managed to rewire my brain explaining away this illogical feeling, as clearly air was coming in via my snorkel. It was plain sailing from then on once my lungs had convinced my brain.
My only other disconcerting moment was the realisation that I was now one of those middle aged people that I used to see walking along the beach. I obviously don’t visit beaches often enough. Overweight and unfit, how is it possible that I’ve been jettisoned into this phase of life and haven’t previously been so viscerally confronted with my physical reality prior to this moment. Was it the donning of my swimming costume offering no hiding place for my wobbly bits, which confronted me with the reality of my age. Was it the unconscious comparisons between myself and Courtney, organiser of the trip, and ten years my junior? Or perhaps it was the experience of three friends striding towards the sea, the feeling of youth still fresh in our hearts, yet if I was to catch a glance of us passing what is it would I see?
The big day dawned and there were some really nervous faces around that breakfast table, having received our pre-launch chat the previous evening, we were ready in mind yet not in body. The launch moment arrived and there I was, along with all the teenagers and adults, pushing our rubber duck into the waves. Then the command ‘ladies’ was called out, I started an unsuccessful attempt of jumping and trying to haul myself into the rubber duck. Unsurprisingly my upper body strength does not have the power to lift my aging body. One of the crew ran over to my aid and shoved me in my bum, yes I said ‘in’, which had the magical effect of propelling me onto the edge of the boat. There I lay wobbling on the side, like a beached whale, trying to get myself into a more lady like position as quickly as possible. Luckily many others were in a similar predicament so we all chose to ignore each other’s plight. For me this shared experience of humiliation has had the effect of cementing our friendships a little deeper. Although I imagine the unfortunate crew member who came in contact with my private parts probably wishes never to set eyes, or should I say lay hands, on me again.
Then we were off. This has been a dream of mine since I was a child. The skipper quickly gained my trust as he effortlessly negotiated the breaking waves. When clear he stopped the engines so we could remove our life jackets. Then we all began eagerly to look for dolphins. And there they were a pod of 14 bottlenose dolphins swimming close to our boat. Courtney, our gorgeous guide and a much younger (and thinner) home school mom, gracefully entered the water first to engage the dolphins. One of them reacted for a short while but it seems they were still sleeping. Did you know dolphins switch off half their brain while they sleep? However the decision was for us all to get ready and enter the water with them. The skipper manoeuvred the boat and the next moment we were in the water. AA and some others of our group enjoyed the dolphins as they swam right next to them. JJ and I found ourselves above the dolphins when they decided to dive deeper and we watched the pod descend beneath us. It was a magical moment. Something made me look up and I saw the prearranged distress call from one of our group, not sure who it was I left the dolphins and swam quickly towards them. The boat hadn’t spotted them yet. When I got there it was one of my friends with her daughter struggling to hold her up. I took over supporting her daughter while she attracted the attention of the boat. It is an overwhelming, humbling experience floating in the middle of the ocean with the huge expanse of sea all around, it wasn’t surprising that this had happened. Soon both mother and daughter were safely onboard the boat. I looked around for the dolphins but they were long gone, suddenly realising I was tired after the swim I also, not so elegantly, was hauled onto the boat.
We stopped over a reef for a snorkel where we saw a variety of different fish. The previous group had apparently seen loads of turtles; although I looked and looked I didn’t have the same luck. JJ and AA were amazing. AA had previously said he wouldn’t come out on the boat trips yet once in Moz he was caught up with the excitement and decided to join in. This is a typical AA approach to life, don’t commit, first watch and then decided. Unlike JJ who dives into every experience, without much thought or consideration. Both of them enjoyed the experience, even though both experienced sea sickness on the return journeys. The return journey is like a rollercoaster ride. The skipper negotiates the waves and then rushes towards the beach with such speed that you are convinced that you will be thrown over the prow of the boat when it inevitably comes to a sudden halt. The sudden halt did occur, as predicted, but our bodies managed to defy physics and we remained safely in the boat. I gingerly exited the rubber duck and walked on jelly legs up the beach whilst chatting animatedly to my fellow adventure seekers.
The following day’s trip was less stressful as we all knew what to expect. Everyone had more colour and looked decidedly more relaxed. I prepared my bum for a potential invasion, yet was pleasantly surprised that I managed to enter the boat this time without a repeat of the previous humiliation. Yet in my vast experience, of two trips, the inevitable ungainly wobbly on the side of the rubber duck seems to be unavoidable. On this trip we unfortunately didn’t see any dolphins, but some of the group saw a humped back whale in the distance. We spent time at a different reef. Again we were rewarded with a variety of fish, this time the water was much clearer. At one point AA caught my eye and asked me if I was experiencing little stings on my body, up until that moment I had been unaware of any, but suddenly my whole body became a mass of stings from the water infused with Zooplankton. Amazing how we learn something every day of our life and equally amazing how I only became aware of the sensation after AA brought my attention to it. The stings continued for a good 10 minutes back on the boat. It is an uncomfortable experience yet not very painful.
The rest of the short break was peppered with a hilarious drumming session, a special St. John’s celebration, a delicious meal out in the local village, a wander around an extremely colourful curio market, loads of snorkelling and body surfing. Unfortunately we missed out on a special sound journey, on the final day, as we all chose instead to spend the afternoon on the beach – not sure how long it will be before we get the opportunity to visit one again. All of us feeling like we wish we could stay a little longer.
The children were constantly in the water or in the shower, it seemed. Due to the shallow water I felt comfortable with them on this beach. JJ and her friend did get stung by a jelly fish but bravely returned to the sea before the welts had receded.
Our final evening was the perfect conclusion to a magical experience, B had generously brought along 12 hot air lanterns to let off over the beach into the night sky. There we stood fourteen friends having grown ever closer by this shared experience. If anyone wants to experience a trip of a life time you can contact Courtney at Halo Gaia. If you are a homeschooler she offers marine lessons as a prelude in preparation for the trip – don’t forget to ask.
One decision of mine cast a small shadow over the trip. On the first morning I watched all the girl’s playing with Monster High dolls – whilst the whole of Mozambique stood there waiting for them to explore. In addition I noticed that D was sitting alone, the only boy and the same age as the girls, and felt for his exclusion. It was very unschooling of me to interfere yet I decided to call JJ over and explain my feelings, suggesting that she shouldn’t play with the dolls whilst at Mozambique. JJ seemed OK with this decision. B made the same decision for her daughter S. We explained our reasoning to the remaining girl’s and they packed away the dolls. Everyone, including D, went off and played on the beach. Little did I realise what major repercussions would occur as a result of this decision. One girl in particular really struggled with JJ and S not allowed to play with the dolls and it turned into a battle of wills. I’m still pondering over the impact my interference had on the children. JJ seemed happy enough with the decision and had a lovely time. She understood my logic and was content to accommodate the decision, for that I am pleased with the outcome. Unfortunately the resultant fall out is upsetting. It makes me realise how careful and sure we have to be when making a decision that impacts on the lives of others.
Many photos this week have been supplied by my talented photographer friend Brenda, if you say to yourself wow that’s a good photo then it was taken by her.
I realized that I hadn’t searched up online a song that we were going to sing at St. John’s the song was called We Kill the World so I did and emailed it to Courtney – it was cool. Then I played Sumdog and Minecraft they were very fun.
We got up at 04:00 in the morning on the one day we left for Mozambique to swim with the dolphins. I was soooooo exited. We travelled for 12 hours to get there but I played on my DS and my phone and stuff so time went by pretty fast. But it was tiring. After we crossed the border we drove on the sand road for over an hour (it was meant to be 45 minutes but we got lost he he). Then we were there it looked pretty cool, my other friend was already there and the one that goes there nearly every two months was also there. They had just been for a swim in the sea.
When I got there I went for a swim in the sea with them – it was so cool. The water was so warm and the sea wasn’t too rough, it was just right. We got back from swimming and we sorted out where people were going to sleep. At first my brother and I were going to sleep together and my one friend and her brother sleep together and my other friend was going to sleep with her mom and brother and the friend that organized the trip, was going to sleep with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend. Then we changed it to me and my friend was going to sleep together and my brother was going to share with her brother. Then my other friend joined us then we decided that it wasn’t fair for the other friend that always goes to Mozambique, so she slept with us – it was all sorted then. That night I didn’t sleep well but it was cool.
When I woke up everyone else was awake and everyone else was up, apart from me and my friend whose mom organised the trip. Everyone was telling us to wake up and get up because they were going for a swim in the sea, we were so lazy he he. Eventually we got up and got in our costumes then we swam, we were screaming because it was cold but it wasn’t really he he. Then we had breakfast and then lunch it was awesome and then we swam again it was soooo cool.
One day passed and then the day came to swim with dolphins yay I was so exited we had breakfast and then the time came yay. We got told what to do on the boat and then we got on the boat, all of the adults pushed the boat into the sea including my brother and my friend’s brother. Then we started to go out at sea it was so much fun soaring threw the wind he he. I didn’t get sick, then we spotted dolphins there were at least 14 of them, we got on our gear and got in the sea. It was quite cold but I didn’t care I went in and swam, I spotted the dolphins and swam to where they were. I was on top of millions of dolphins wow I thought I was swimming with dolphins he he it was amazing. The next day we went again out at sea, but this time we didn’t see any dolphins but it was ok. We went to swim in a reef, there was Zooplankton there and I got zapped by it. If you don’t know what Zooplankton is it is a type of plankton that sort of stings you but it isn’t anything serious. By the way this time I did feel sick but I didn’t throw up (luckily).
We had a drumming session. It was really nice, we learnt a new pattern to play together on the drums, we also had to clap and also had to make funny noises to each other. It was exciting.
On the last night we went to the curio market and I saw a Mozambiquan dress that I wanted, but we didn’t have much money so I couldn’t get it. Then we went for dinner at this really nice restaurant, I had rissoles and chips. We played with our Monster High’s there. Then me and my friends went outside to play, my friend and I got scared of this movement we saw and we ran away screaming. Then we kept on doing it. We wanted to see who it was so we walked closer and we saw a little boy from the village, then another boy was walking down the street and we ran away. We went out again and now both boys were together. The boys showed us something that was amazing, the one boy stood on the shoulders of the other boy and walked, one of the guys did a dance for us. I think they were very talented. When we came back we went to the beach, in the dark, and I let of two orange flying lanterns into the sky.
Mozambique was really awesome. I liked everything.