The Africans on the boat were laughing at me. Of course they were. I was walking excruciating slowly through the low tide and holding everyone up. My flip flops slopped and threatened to break with every step. One of my bags was lost on the journey over and these were a last minute replacement for the trip. They don’t work well as water shoes, I’m sinking and suctioning into the sand making for a comical and exhausting struggle every time I lift my feet. To top it off, I felt as though I was walking through a mine field. A mine field filled with razor clams. Pointed out to me a few days earlier, it seemed as though they were everywhere. Everywhere. And as the only American on this trip I was truly and completely out of my comfort zone. This, apparently, was hilarious.
Nine days earlier I had flown from San Francisco to London. London to Johannesburg. And then, in the early hours of the morning, clutching my malaria tablets, I boarded a small plane from Johannesburg to Vilanculous, Mozambique. Thick bush surrounds the small runway in Vilanculous and on the two occasions I’ve landed here, I’ve privately marveled at what it must have been like to initially engage in cutting back those wild, thick bushes and trees in order to pour the tarmac. They probably burned it.
The risk of malaria is high in the small airport as the mosquitos get trapped inside and become bored with life. They strike while you wait to get your passport stamped in a tiny sweaty room. It’s war in there. We’ve armed ourselves with highly toxic (it must be) bug spray, mosquito repellent bracelets, and hope.
The truck ride that takes us through Vilanculous to the ocean is short and filled with the honest version of how people are surviving here. They stare as we trundle past stopping only for the occasional goat wandering around the dirt road. Men rush to be the first to load our bags onto the waiting boat. They run from the truck to the boat and back in the relentless glare of the morning sun. Cash is handed out to our porters and we take off into the flat expanse of ocean, leaving the dust and depression of Vilanculous behind us. The full force of fresh air forcing its way into my lungs as we hurtle toward our remote destination.
The days pass with lazy swims, gin and tonics, and zero cell service or WiFi. It is a holiday-makers dream watching the dramatic tidal movements and the flocks of flamingoes during the day. Evening boat rides on waters filled with bioluminescence follow breathtaking sunsets and scenery that makes one appreciate the great beauty of our planet.
The evenings are filled with wine and storytelling. And we laugh when my sister-in-law tells the story of her friend who stepped on a razor clam while out for a swim the last time they were here. It sliced straight though her foot just like a razor, it is an aptly named sea creature. She was rushed to the hospital in Vilanculous and almost lost her foot. Everyone nods, they all have a story like this. I clutch my wine glass. I look at the dark sea. I’m not a brave person in the wilderness, I prefer the threats of a city. I feel the thrill of terror run along my spine as I imagine the mass of razor clams hiding just beneath the sand ready to slice and dice my feet. Why am I just now hearing about these little hidden monsters? No-one else in the party seems to think this is a big deal.
It is in this small moment that I realize how out of my comfort zone I am and just how far away from any civilization I’ve gotten myself. It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last time. Because in spite of my fears I continue to charge head first into adventure when the opportunity presents itself. In spite of my natural state of caution. How strange. How wonderful.
And so I find myself taking every precaution imaginable to avoid the possible foot amputation trap of the razor clam. Taking my time, holding up the boat that will take us back to Vilanculous and the tiny malaria filled airport. The South Africans laugh at my precaution and slow progress. The tide is low and the boat is half a mile off shore. I pause. I’m half way there. I smile to myself and, as I often do in travel moments like this, I imagine myself as an updated Indiana Jones and charge forward.
When you travel to Mozambique, remember to pack a good pair of water shoes or sandals. Here are the ones that will be easy to walk in low tide with:
From L to R: Birkenstock Arizona Essentials ($39.95), Birkenstock Gizeh Essentials ($39.95), Teva Original Universal Sandal ($50)
Here’s what else you’ll want to make sure is in you bag:
From Top L to R (clockwise): Eric Javits Classic Packable Fedora ($250), J.Crew tie-front bikini top ($58), J.Crew high-waisted bikini bottom ($56), J.Crew scoopneck beach top ($59.50), J.Crew Tiered beach tunic in crinkle cotton ($79.50), Loeffler Randall Maya Woven Leather Tote ($495), J.Crew Drapey crinkle-cotton beach pant ($54.50), J.Crew solid long-sleeve rash guard ($75), Turkish Towel Company Peshtemal ($36)
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