The thing I like most about Mozambique is that it feels so decadent, so self-indulgent, that you experience a freedom that all holidays should offer, yet seldom do. Perhaps it’s because you eat prawns, not as a special treat, but because they’re reasonable; perhaps it’s because the local beer is an awesome antidote to the climate; perhaps it’s because the country truly lives up to its billing as a tropical destination.

We begin in Maputo, the capital, which – like many African cities – is not pretty, but it bustles with energy and salesmen of every kind. I marvel at the variety of things you can buy from the comfort of your restaurant table: double-adaptors, clothes pegs, a set of kitchen knives. We’re at the legendary (and expensive) Mundo’s, and I wonder out loud whether these people make a living selling such seemingly arbitrary stuff.

“If you live here,” says Susan, our host from Out ‘n About Gay Travel, “you know that you can buy just about anything off the street. So if you need tea towels, your staff will run out and get them for you. In the old days, there were no supermarkets, so these people were the suppliers.” The arrival of big name shops seems to have done little to dent the trade.

We’re off to catch the ferry across Maputo Bay to Katembe. “Feel like a beer while we wait for our turn?” asks Susan, and turns around to a guy selling alcohol on the pavement. I glance nervously at a nearby policeman, but as he takes a swig of his beer, I remember that I’m in Mozambique, and they have no issue with drinking in public. The ferry is exceptionally busy, with Mozambicans going to and fro to ply their various trades. Instructions fly in Portuguese as the ferry officials load as many cars and trucks on as possible.

A little to the left, leave a centimetre between bumpers and, hey presto, you can squeeze in another vehicle. Our car is safely loaded, and the on-board entertainment begins. A truck battles up the ramp, engine revving high so as to force the weary vehicle onto the ferry and, as I’d suspected while sipping on my beer, ploughs into a rather nice looking SUV.

Sometimes I think beer is medicinal in Mozambique. No matter, though. The driver is not terribly concerned about the damage and after much shuffling around, we all fit. The truck driver secures his position by planting large blocks of wood behind his tyres. After a ten-minute journey, we all file off in an orderly fashion, no real harm done.

Katembe seems to consist of just bars and restaurants, and after a quick look around, we park our car in the queue to go back. We’re off to the fish market tonight, to buy from and eat among the locals. As we arrive, there are shouts of recognition and a dozen guys swarm to guard the car. “Donna Sue,” they shout and Susan picks one of them to do the job.

The fish market sells today’s catch, and once you’ve wandered through the stalls, there’s an area at the back where several restaurants will prepare the seafood for you. Susan goes with our waiter to negotiate with the vendors, and about 45 minutes later, our feast arrives: Clams, mussels, calamari, prawns, lobster, crab, all washed down with the right amount of alcohol – and the bill of R500 for four of us!

Bilene is our next destination, about two hours north of Maputo. On our way, we stop at one of dozens of barracas, and I’m amazed to discover that in the middle of the bush you can buy not only cold beer, but Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Black. As I’m soon to discover, these little oases plot the course all the way up through Mozambique.

In a bid to stimulate entrepreneurial activity, Mozambique requires its vendors to have an inexpensive trading licence that then allows them to sell whatever they want, where they want, when they want. It’s this that contributes to the sense of freedom, the knowledge that no one else gives a damn if you want a beer on a pavement at ten o’clock in the morning.

It was that way, until recently, with smoking too. Now the government has introduced draconian anti-smoking laws that, fortunately, only seem to apply to foreign-run establishments. Most of the restaurants and barracas we went to were open-air and the non-smokers among us didn’t seem to be bothered, so it’s a pity that this freedom has been somewhat eroded.

Praia do Sol is charmingly set among the dunes of Bilene, its chalets a combination of rock, reeds and thatch that belies the comfortable interiors. A welcoming bar overlooks the multi-hued lagoon, bordered by the white sands required of tropical destinations. The water beckons us, and after a swim, we laze around on lilos, soaking up the sun, cut off from the rest of the world and its problems.

A waiter appears to take our drinks order and we laugh and joke the afternoon away. Dinner is a three-course meal, and I can’t finish the calamari/prawn combo. Afterwards, we adjourn to the bar and managers Val and Arnold regale us with Mozambique stories. They let us know that breakfast will be served most of the morning, which suits me fine because I hate getting up early on holiday.

Bilene is a lazy destination. It inspires you to do nothing but eat, sleep and drink – and lie on the beach. Susan takes us off to another local restaurant called Tamar, which also boasts a night club. We choose to place our table on the beach sand, and order away – chicken, crab, prawns and Mozambican peri-peri, which is addictive once you’ve acquired the taste for it. Another cheap meal later – the crab was R20, and it’s time to sleep off the gluttony.

The next day, we’re off to Inhambane, home to two-million palm trees. Flamingo Bay is our first port of call, an exquisite water lodge built among the mangroves. The rooms are chalets perched on stilts, with private decks and sliding glass doors that open up completely to give you the illusion of being on your very own houseboat. From my bed, I see the water flowing past and hear it lapping against the stilts.

A lone fisherman sails by in his dhow to remind me that there is still a real world out there. I have no need for it, though, and it seems criminal not to enjoy the view from the deck chair. If I can’t live like this, I at least want to holiday like this. There are ‘Things To Do’, such as yacht trips, paddling through the mangroves, waterskiing, but I can’t muster up the energy even for the spa. I sit in the restaurant, watching the tide come in to merge with the infinity pool. Flamingo Bay is not for the faint-walleted, but you can’t fault their standards, service levels or food.

Our final stop is Barra Lodge, a place that just screams “party” yet, curiously, has signs up demanding silence after 10 p.m.. The pool area is a major attraction, since it has two palm tree-bearing islands in it that allow you to park off in the shade. It’s hot, and most people are standing around in the water, chatting away to each other. Closer to the sea is a beach bar that pumps music onto pristine sands, while waves heave and crash onto the shore.

Apparently, the seas were unusually high at the time – Inhambane is normally quite flat, and so lends itself to activities such as diving and snorkelling. The chalets are functional, serving only as a place to rest your head after a day filled with sun, surf and sand. The surrounds are just too nice to spend any length of time in your chalet. The great thing about Barra Lodge is that you don’t have to go anywhere else. All

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