'If more than 32 people are getting on, we're getting off.' The little boats have a tendency to sink in such circumstances, writer Lisa St Aubin de Teran drily explains. She and I are sitting on the back of a small Arabian dhow waiting to cross from Ilha de Mocambique to Cabaceira. I came to interview St Aubin on her new book on her life and work here Northern Mozambique. Transport to this location only is an adventure that, apart from the dhows with endlessly repaired cotton sails, involves pickup trukcs, bikes and inevitably wet feet.
It is hardly possible to exaggerate the remoteness of Cabaceira Grande. Paved road don't lead there, let alone that there is any form of public transportation. When I arrive in the afternoon at airport of Nampula, the capital of the province with the same name, I get into a taxi and rush off to the chapas station. Chapas are the minibuses that commute between towns and stop all over the place.
I stuff myself into a minibus to nowhere, where I have to get off at the gas station. There I'll have to find a passing pickup that goes my way, repeat this a couple of times to eventuallt get to the Ilha. I'll have to spend the night there because one can only cross to the Cabaceira's on low tide.
At noon on the next day I take the boat to my final destination. Nobodies excapes getting their feit wet when they arrive: the last party of the journey goes through the mangroves. With my luggage on my back I wade my way to the beach.
The way back is a bit less complicated, because a machibombo to Nampula leaves from a village five kilometers away every morning at half past four. The rattling bus does not come up to Cabaceira for lack of proper roads, so at quarter passed three me and my back pack get ready to walk the five kilometers of sandy roads.
I even got myself a taxi. A lean young man with a bike is going to take me there. The idea to ride with me on the back prooves to be a little bit optimistic: it is hardly possible to ride a bike with such extra baggage. So we end up walking together in silence the whole way. The Cabaceiras houses are scattered over the land and in the light of the moon the village even looks more peaceful than by night time. Only the cries of bush-babies once in a while break the silence.
We arrive at the bus stop way before time. The bus announces it's coming minutes before it arrives because one can see the lights of the vehicle from afar in this place without electricity. When I finally get on the plane back to Maputo in the afternoon, I already miss the calm of Cabaceira. Sometimes it is not so terrible to be hard to reach.