Holidays from Hell

Steve pic

Steve Honeysett

I am sure each and every one of us have had a holiday that just has not gone right from the very start and has either left a bad taste in our mouths or is kept in memory for one of those times like now – a Seaweed story .

One that comes to mind was a sea kayak trip from Maputo, Mozambique across the bay to Inhaca Island for a few days of relaxation and mild recreation in April 2002.

Ok so it’s not all relaxation and mild recreation when it comes to my lifestyle and the friends I do these trips with, it normally involves some intense activity and the planning that goes with it to ensure all ends on a safe note.

The trip entailed a drive up to Maputo towing an inflatable boat and another trailer of sea kayaks for a paddle across the Maputo Bay, a distance of around 25km, stopping off at the prison island of Xafina. This is just 3 to 4 kilometres off Maputo’s Marginal or beach front and, once we got across to the island, we would do some exploring around Inhaca and Portuguese islands.

As romantic as that sounds, it started to go pear shaped from the start when one of the team who owned one of the vehicles that was to be towing our kayaks, had to pull out.

No problem – my brother came to the rescue with a backup vehicle, but with a catch -it needed a service, which added some unplanned cost to the exercise. .

The day dawned and we began the trek up to Maputo at 03h30 in convoy. All went well until we approached Mkuze where the boat trailer experienced a tyre blow out. We had forgotten to load a spare wheel so we have to make a plan and drive into Mkuze to the garage to purchase another tyre to get us on our way.

By now we have had two setbacks but the thought of a few days on an island paradise spurred us on.

Border one Swaziland ok. Border two – Namaacha Mozambique – and chaos convincing custom officials that we were not smuggling anything. This became a two hour challenge that would have prompted the fairest of travellers to about turn and head home.

Oh well, only two more hours and we would be in Maputo and the welcome of a nice lunch and refreshment beckoned so on we pressed.

We had planned to park our vehicles for the week at a friend’s home in Maputo and he was to meet us at around 15h30 to unlock and allow us to park the vehicles. This would give us time to have a lunch of prawns and 2M beer and then prep our boats for the trip across to Xhifina Island were we were to camp on the beach for the night.

As the afternoon progressed, we had completed the formalities of boat inspection by the Port Captain and packed the boats with all our gear. It was time to park the vehicles, but Louie our Maputo contact was nowhere in sight… and we had to park those cars.

Time was ticking on and it was getting late, so we decided to send the boat across to the island with two kayak paddlers and my brother. I would continue to wait for Louie and park the cars.

The last words to the team going across to the island was, if it gets dark, make sure someone has a head torch on to guide us in when we paddle across .

It was getting dark and a storm was brewing over Maputo when Louie arrived after 17h00 and we knew that we were going to be paddling across to the island in the dark. After a quick compass bearing of the general direction, we headed out and into the dark unknown.

Lightning began to flare moments into our paddle and holding carbon fibre paddles was a scary thought. One strike and we would be toast, but we continued looking for a sign of that head torch and listening for the sound of and approaching ships or boats as we had no navigation lights on our kayaks .

An hour into the paddle and no light, only my trusty deck compass to direct us. Then our fears became our reality. The sound of a boat engine , from which direction  we could not figure out, was getting louder and closer to us and we were sure it was going to ride us over   .

For a few tense moments, we sat in the darkness, but it passed us by meters continuing its journey into Maputo. Another half hour and I was beginning to doubt our compass heading when, suddenly, a dance of light ahead and we paddled in on it to the safety of the island of Xhafina.

The night was a pearl; stars in the sky as we set up our camp and began the task of preparing supper – spaghetti bolognaise – on the beach. We thought all the effort and drama was behind us and tomorrow would bring fresh things.

Boy, were we wrong. Later that night, that storm over Maputo intensified and all hell broke loose. Tents were ripped to pieces, and with the wind driven tidal surge, we were in trouble.

We had to get to high ground and fast. So, up the sand dune and into the bush we dashed to where we found a clearing and managed to put up the only tent left standing for the ladies to shelter in. After securing all equipment with no shelter, the guys took our surfboards out of their covers and used the covers as shelter .Sand was everywhere and we did not sleep a wink.

In the morning, all was clear except for the wind, so we decided to run the boat across the channel to Inhaca Island in two trips, taking the ladies and most of the gear. The guys would paddle their kayaks across, once the wind dropped off later in the day.

The boat laden with people and equipment laboured into the channel against the wind making slow progress, but it wasn’t long before another problem reared its ugly head. The inflatable boat was falling apart in mid channel, and we had another five kilometres to cover. Well, that was pretty nerve-wracking, wondering if the boat’s inflatable tubes would hold. I remember telling my brother not to let on that the boat was falling apart. Thankfully everyone else was enjoying the ride completely oblivious to the disintegrating boat.

Two hours later we pulled into the island harbour and got everyone to the dive camp that we had booked for the week. We then prepped the boat for the return trip to get the guys.

It was not to be – 100m outside the harbour, the outboard boat motor died on us, forcing us to turn around and paddle the boat back into the harbour. Dirt had blocked the carburettor.

To cut a long story short, we hired the dive camp boat and returned to Xhifina where we collected the rest of the team and made it back to Inhaca Island to enjoy a well-earned rest.

The rest of the holiday was not without incident. The next day we had planned to walk out the light house to do some surfing. Following directions from the locals we began what was to be a ten kilometre round trip up to the point of the island with our surfboards in hope of catching perfect waves. Well, no. By the time we got out to the light house, the wind had blown the surf out and we could not get in, so we trekked all the way back.

Another incident was the crazy dash we had to make each time we went into the village for food or a visit to the local bar. There was a lone donkey living in the field between the camp and town who hated men and you had to run the 100m across the field like Usane Bolt to avoid getting bitten by it. It loved the ladies and he allowed the women to touch him, but the men had to run like hell or face getting a bite or a kick.

An island holiday on its own, despite all the obstacles we faced on that trip, is well worth it doing and it’s a way of experiencing a different kind of holiday. Dodging every problem kind of makes you want to holiday with the same team more often, knowing that between the lot of us we can overcome just about anything.

A trip across to Inhaca Island from the city of Maputo is truly a magical holiday and to sit on its beaches and watch the Dhows sailing in and out of the harbour delivering people and supplies makes us appreciate life as we know it back home.

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