It was with a heavy heart that I decided it was time to tear myself away from this wonderful place. Unfortunately I had a flight to catch and it was about time I embarked on the second leg of my journey and headed down to Ilha de Mocambique. I made plans to sail to Ilha Matemo on a dhow departing early the following morning, where I would spend the night sleeping in an A-frame on the beach, before sailing to the mainland and catching a chapa (groan) back to Pemba.
My last sun-drenched day in the fort was an entertaining one. An Australian couple had come to film Cadria making msiro (the white, face mask made of ground down msiro wood) and she put some on me too! I think she found it hilarious that it barely showed up on my skin.
She told me her little boy had cried after I left her house the day before,
“He said he wanted the muzungo to sleep over!” She said, laughing (again). I think I am a source of great amusement.
I said my goodbyes to everyone – Cadria was disappointed that I hadn’t given her more warning – “I wanted to give you something to remember me by, and you should have given me something too,” she said. There was something wonderfully old-fashioned about this sentiment and I was struck once again by the warmth of the Ibo islanders. We take so much for granted back at home, especially novelty; new experiences have become a kind of currency on social media, a way to rack up as many likes as possible. Here, I was confronted by such a different set of values. For Cadria, our meeting was a special and should be marked with a physical exchange of a gift, something to be treasured as much as the memory itself.
On my way home that evening, I passed a group of children sitting in a line on top of a wall cracking nuts. They waved at me with grubby hands as I went past. I had a last wander round town during the final hours of the golden afternoon – I was not ready to go!
Later that even, Sulemao turned up at the hotel with a bag of freshly roasted cashews. I don’t know whether you have ever tasted a cashew straight off the tree and freshly roasted. It is a fine thing. Similar to a roasted chestnut but with an almost peppery after taste.
“I thought you’d like these for the journey.” He said. “Travel well.”
I found myself astounded yet again at the warmth and generosity of him and Cadria. I thanked him profusely and headed upstairs.
Just as I turned on the landing and put my key into the lock of my door, I jumped. There, hanging from the ceiling just over my head, was a big, bulgy-eyed fruit bat. His snout quivered indignantly and I thought he bore a striking resemblance to a certain Italian greyhound I used to know. Was this the island’s parting gift?