Going Back in Time, Ilha de Mozambique
Sure, there are museums on the island housing sacred artifacts and ming vases to dazzle visitors, but the island is a museum to itself. Crossing the water and exploring the 2 mile Ilha de Mozambique is the equivalent of charging a souped up Delorean into a lightening storm, but much more peaceful. The island was a refuge for many fleeing a war that raged as recently as 1992. In that vein, many religions and cultures are all living together hand in hand. While we could visit the few attractions available, we rather look forward to wandering the streets preserving a time long past and welcoming conversation with those who live below sea level in Makuti Town, keeping our ears open for good local gossip, buying some fish near the shore, and possibly getting our shoes repaired by the man who’s office is a bench beneath a tree. This living history may just be our greatest escape.
Snorkeling the Indian Ocean
Freddy will glide gracefully through the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. He will arch his back in a flip through the archipelago. He will lounge with leatherbacks and loggerheads in the two mile reef. The snorkeling off the shores of Mozambique rivals diving in Egypt and Thailand with it’s own underwater paradise suitable to be explored by beginners on a near surface swim or pros diving deeper into the caves beyond the reef. Freddy will spread his water wings and rival the angelfish as the most beautiful creature of the deep blue.
Lion House in Gorongosa National Park
In the midst of Gorongosa National Park there is a house run by lions. Someone had the brilliant idea to build a lodge among the lion preserve, but less brilliant execution, since the site was placed right atop a flood plain. Every time the rain came, the lodge was flooded out and the plan was abandoned before it was finished. The lodge itself was not so much abandoned as occupied by the area lions. They live in the lodge like humans claiming their space and protecting their home from intruders, returning on regular occasion to check on the residence. It was the inspiration for “Roar” after Tippi Hedren visited while filming in Mozambique. She decided she must make a film about the lion house and called up the lion guy to order 50 lions for the film. He explained that is not how it works. You can’t throw a bunch of lions together with other lions or humans, you must socialize them from a young age so they don’t kill you or each other. “You’ve just got to live with them for a while.” So that is exactly what she did. She adopted a series of lions who lived in her home with her husband and child, Melanie Griffith. See the Life Magazine photo essay here for pictures of lions checking out the provisions in the refrigerator and wrapping their jaws around Melanie’s head in the swimming pool. Sure Melanie had to get 50 stitches in her face and the film’s Director of Photography was scalped and the film flopped. (I attempted to watch it, and cannot recommend unless you enjoy the feeling of horror watching the imminent danger of this ill-advised attempt at film making). Lessons were learned. Tippi has since decided that lions should not be pets and runs the Shambala Reserve to this day, where she also took in Michael Jackson’s wildcats and had the tough job of explaining to them about his passing.
Grande Hotel of Beira
The Grande Hotel of Beira opened in 1955 as the brainchild of a possible meglomaniac. A sprawling campus of 12,000 square meters with only 122 rooms. With so few rooms, it doesn’t calculate that it could ever pay for itself with it’s Olympic pool, grand halls, and cinema. The plans for a casino were denied by the Portuguese rule. Eventually it threw in the hotel towel and gave up it’s attempt to attract visitors. The venue was used only as an event space until it was abandoned altogether when the owners fled the war and their dreams of grandeur for the hotel. It housed soldiers and political prisoners in the 70s, then slowly grew into a country within the country of Mozambique. It is now home to some 3000 otherwise homeless squatters, and the hotel is finally earning it’s keep in a Giving Tree fashion. It has been stripped of anything of value which could be sold to survive. Barren of any metal, tubing, glass, or wiring, the building is now skeletal remains with no electricity or running water. The pool is an Olympic washing pond and the opulent bar is a urinal. The residents live under their own governance, working out disputes and community-wide cleaning schedules. As one man dismantles the concrete to sell, another builds bricks to repair and the circle of life continues under two principles: cleanliness and respect, in another example of nature taking residence in that which was once abandoned.