Posted by: Tommy | January 8, 2011

New Years in Tofo, Part 2

We try to book our accommodation day to day, a practice we have been
using since our unfortunate eight days at Cuba Hostel. When we tried to renew our dorm beds at Fatima’s, Fatima herself assured us
that they were sold out for the rest of our trip. She could try to
squeeze us into the camping area, but she thought it too might be full.
We had been to eat at a small ramshackle looking place called John’s
which advertised accommodation also. It was close to Fatima’s so we could
still go to the party at night and walk home, missing out on the
untz-untz-untz, so we asked. Sure enough, he had two dorm beds available
– the last two in the whole place. We excitedly took them – good
location, cheaper, and no loud music while you wanted to sleep. We went
to the party and got back to John’s around 11pm, making a point to go to
bed early because we had to leave for our dive at 7am.

The 2 available beds were the two top bunks in the tiny, 4 bed dorm.  The room was equipped with 2 sets of bunk beds and 1 small oscillating fan, exactly at the same height as the two lower bunks.  We started to sweat just putting out our sleep-sheets and arranging the nets around the beds.  Once we crawled up into the beds, the scientific fact – warm air rises – was proven again.  It must have been 100 degrees, pressed up against the ceiling of the small room.  I laid awake, trying to sleep but also fighting the urge to vomit because of the heat.  I tossed and turned for 3 hours, soaking the thin mattress in sweat.

Finally, at 2am, I climbed down from my bunk and attempted to sleep outside.  Unfortunately, Mozambique is one country where mosquito nets are essential.  I was getting eaten alive trying to sleep in John’s courtyard.  I tried going back in the room to get away from the mosquitoes – it was too hot.  Back outside.  No, too many mosquitoes – back inside.  After about 30 minutes, I woke up Tommy and insisted we figure out something else.  He agreed – I was miserable and he wasn’t feeling much better.

It is a testament to how miserable it was there that we finally decided that it would be better to: walk back to Fatimas, in the dark at 2 am, wake up Laura, get her keys and retrieve our tent from her car.  It turns out she had moved the car during the day and it was now parked in the overflow – which happened to be the camping area.  We were still wearing our Fatima’s Guest wristbands from the previous day, so we were admitted to the area and got out the tent.  We were so tired and it was so hot that we decided to just pitch the tent right there, in the sand next to the car and try to sleep there.

It worked – it takes about 2 minutes to assemble our tiny tent and we were asleep 5 minutes after that.  We’d left all of our stuff at John’s, intending to return, so we didn’t have a watch, sheets or anything else.  We literally just laid down on the sand and fell asleep, hoping to wake up in time to get to the dive shop by 7.  Tommy woke with a start with the sun in his eyes and sat up, not sure of the time.  A guy was walking by, so Tommy asked him the time.  7, says the guy.  Crap!  We were supposed to be there right now!  He woke me up and we hastily disassembled the tent and threw it in the car.  On our way back to John’s to grab our diving gear, we saw someone else and asked them the time….and they said “4:58”.  What?  Yeah, apparently the first guy had no idea what time it was and we could have slept for another 90 minutes.  But we were up and it was too late to do anything about it now.  We killed the time walking on the beach, remembering to take our Dramamine and eating toast at a restaurant.

We had signed up for a “double tank” dive, meaning we would take two tanks with us out in the boat, do one dive, drive around in the boat for an hour, then do a second dive. I was excited because we were going to two of the top 100 dive sites in the world today – Manta Reef and Giant’s. We set out in the boat with a larger group this time of experienced divers. I felt intimidated and nervous; yesterday, I was a mess, falling over when we stopped the boat, dropping my tank, etc. Now we weren’t with our friends, we were with hard core divers.

The first dive was nice but uneventful. We saw some cool fish. I saw a manta at the end, but Tommy missed it because he ran out of air before everyone else and had to go up about five minutes early. He was frustrated. Riding around in the boat between dives, we had dolphins following our boat and leaping in the air – so fun. We did not see any whale sharks, although Tofo and that area specifically are good places to see them.

Our second dive is one I will remember. Before the dive, Frida had warned us that sometimes there is a strong current and that it can be a very challenging dive. Indeed. We did our backroll into the water, went down, and as soon as we got close to the reef, the current hit. It felt like a water ride, with rushing flow pushing you along a specific path. It was impossible to swim against; the only option was to enjoy the ride. At the beginning of the dive, Frida disappeared. The rest of our group held onto bits of the reef, waiting. I thought I had seen her motion for us to follow her, but then no one else went. So I waited too, thinking perhaps I misunderstood. I had never been able to imagine how you get separated from the group while diving until that dive, and in those conditions, it would take only 30 seconds or so and you would be gone. Eventually, she reappeared (I later figured out that she had to swim against the strong current to get back to us) and we set off. You had too look quickly at anything cool because you only had a few seconds before the current swept you along. Once I realized I was fine, it was actually kind of fun. We did see one modular ray at the end, but mostly the current was the main attraction on that dive.

The Dramamine did it’s job and we had no issues with seasickness.  We were exhausted from getting almost no sleep the night before and homeless again.  And it was New Year’s Eve.  We went straight to John’s from the dive, told him we’d changed our mind and asked (not hopefully) about a refund (we’d paid for 3 nights).  He surprisingly agreed to try and re-rent our beds and to give us a refund if he was able to do so.  The nature of New Year’s Eve in Tofo allowed him to rent the room within the hour – to 1 person, so we got a half refund.  We walked over to Fatima’s and signed up for a legit campsite.

Fatima’s features a large thatched-roof restaurant, bar and lounge area.  It’s right on the water so a strong breeze comes through, keeping the heat away.  There are beach chairs and large, padded cubes (for lack of a better description) for lounging.  We were able to secure two large cubes and push them together, making a 6 ft. long, 3 ft. wide bed with an ocean breeze.  We laid down next to each other and took a much-needed 2 hour nap.  We woke up at 6, an hour after we had planned to meet Laura and Alison.  We found them and all went out to dinner at Turtle Cove (which turned out to be our favorite place, by far, in Tofo).

At Turtle Cove, we ran into everyone we’d met in Tofo so far.  The contingent of South Africans that had invited us over for the braai were there.  The Peace Corps volunteers from Botswana that we’d met in Maputo were there, including one from Dallas.  A whole group of people that work with Laura and Alison in Swaziland happened to be eating at Turtle Cove and Laura and Alison didn’t even know they’d be in Tofo.  Even Frida was there, accompanied by her boyfriend, Jay.  Jay is a former New York IT guy who earned Tommy’s great respect when he declared Austin to be his favorite place in the world.  Frida was less professional away from the dive shop; apparently she’d been admiring my mask strap, which I got in Dallas – it reads “Lone Star Scuba” on the back.  Frida really wanted it – I offered to trade.  Frida said she could get a Mozambique mask strap of similar quality, so I agreed to trade.  We made plans for her to meet me at Fatima’s the next day to swap.

Tommy and Frida at Turtle Cove

Tommy and I both knew that, in order to stay awake until midnight, alcohol would need to be involved.  After our time with the mosquitoes in Maputo, Tommy had embraced the mosquito-repellent powers of tonic – making vodka tonic the drink of choice in Tofo.  Strangely, tonic costs twice as much as vodka in Mozambique, a testament to the laws of supply and demand.  So we ordered vodka tonics and Turtle Cove and again when we arrived at Fatimas, just before midnight.  We were doing ok, still exhausted but enjoying the revelry and the excitement of New Years on the beach.

As soon as we did the midnight countdown, the party moved from the dance floor out to the beach, where people were shooting fireworks and launching parachuting red flares out over the water.  We stood in the sand, drinking vodka tonics and admiring the party.  At 1am, the headline act for the Tofo Earth Festival – 340 MIL (apparently very well known in South Africa) started up.  Joanne and her boyfriend Sean and best friend, Eliz, had come to Fatima’s and we found them near the stage.  The 7 of us took over an area on the side of the stage and enjoyed the show.

Anna and Laura

At 2, Tommy and I decided we’d had enough and we staggered back to the camping area to get some much-needed sleep.  We woke the next morning at 7 and headed back to the restaurant to get some breakfast.  The music was still blaring, the steady untz-untz-untz getting louder the closer we got the the bar.  Amazingly, there were still about 100 people partying hard on the dance floor at 7am.  And two of them were Frida and Jay.  As we walked up, the two of them were doing slow-motion, synchronized karate in the middle of the dance floor.  To their left, we watched 3 people swaying back and forth until 1 of them just fell over, toppling into the middle one who then knocked over the guy on the other side.  They collapsed in a heap and struggled like fish out of water, trying and failing to get to their feet.  We were pretty sure we wouldn’t be seeing Frida to exchange mask straps later in the day.

We ordered breakfast – 2 omelets – over the protests of party-goers still ordering drinks and reclaimed our two-cube setup on the deck. We quickly fell asleep in the cool breeze.  At 10 (2 hours after ordering) still no omelets.  Tommy went to check on them, only to be told that they had no record of us ordering any omelets.  I should probably tell you about their system – probably the least-effective system for delivering food I’ve ever seen.  When you order, one of the half-dozen guys behind the bar writes your order and your name, as best they can spell it, on a tiny slip of cardboard, usually something torn off a scrap of trash.  Then, you pay and they hand the tiny slip to someone in the kitchen.  An hour later, someone comes by carrying food and shouting the name, as best they can read it, from the scrap.

Anyway, so there are no omelets.  We convince them to remake the omelets and that we’ve already paid for them.  They promise to hurry….so 45 minutes later, Tommy goes back to check on our second batch of omelets.  “Soon” he’s told.  So at 11, 3 hours after the initial order, we have 2 omelets.  We joke about putting in a lunch order right then, in the hopes of getting lunch by 2.  Oops, should have done that.

At 1, we order lunch.  I order it this time, since Tommy fought with them about breakfast.  I choose a half-chicken and a vegetable curry.  At 2, still no food, so I go to ask.  They ran out of vegetable curry….but didn’t bother to tell me, or even to make the chicken.  I order another chicken to replace the curry.  At 3, still no food.  I go to ask again – now they have no record of me ordering two chickens.  Then they do, and they insist they came around with the chickens and I didn’t take them so they are gone.  I saw them come around with 2 chickens at about 2:30 – however, they were also shouting the name “Sergio”.  Since my name is Anna, it’s true – I didn’t take them.  I’m fed up, so I just demand a refund instead of trying to get them to make chickens for me again.  After a fight, I get my money back.  However, it’s now 4 and we haven’t eaten anything but an omelet apiece all day.  We both refuse to eat at Fatima’s again, so we set out with Laura and Alison back to Turtle Cove – our third dinner in a row there.

We’re up early the next morning, Sunday; Laura and Alison have to be back in Mbabane, Swaziland for work on Monday, which means 10 hours of driving.  Tofo was fun at times, maddening at others.  We’re excited for a quiet place to sleep and, maybe, air conditioning at some point.


  1. I loved seeing your sweet faces! You both look healthy and very happy. Not only are you seeing the world, but making some great friends along the way. Tke care & God bless you. I send you all my love. xoxoxox Kita

  2. Wow — so many experiences in one day. I love the idea of the current ride — that sounds really different. New Years sounds very memorable but the heat, mosquitos, looking for a place to sleep and difficulty ordering — not sure I have the patience for it.

  3. […] this would have been better.  But there were no lions, so I guess it could have been worse. Dec. 30 at John’s Place – you know it’s a bad night when you abandon the bed you’ve already paid for and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: