Thursday, December 21, 2006

AFRICAN IMAGES #3, TRAVEL

This is a combination of memory lane and African Images. It appears that memory lane is a quirky place to wander, it has many twists and side lanes, and some strange detours.

Amongst my old photos, I found 2 which came close to costing me my liberty. It was 1975, and I was living in Johannesburg. Some friends and I decided on the spur of the moment to drive up to Malawi for the weekend! (Did you get the impression I was young and irresponsible? Read on, you will!)
Thursday was a public holiday so we took Friday off and packed a couple of crates of beer in the back of my car, (an ancient little Mitsubishi colt 1100, definitely not the ideal car to go halfway across Africa in!!) and off we went.

We got to the Zimbabwe border by about 5am, waited for it to open at 6, and went through, stopping along the way to take photos. We finally reached the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique at Nyamapanda. After paying the obligatory bribes, we entered the country, as the sun was beginning to set.
As it turns out, I was not the only young and irresponsible one, none of is had kept up with news or current affairs because it would interfere with our partying! So we were all blissfully unaware that Frelimo, the organization that had been fighting a guerrilla war to liberate Mozambique from the Portuguese, had recently taken over as a transitional government. All the former freedom fighters, still armed to the teeth with AK47s, were being kept busy running road blocks, amongst other things.

We set off from the border post, cheerfully oblivious to what awaited us. In that strange light when it is too dark to see well, but too light for the headlights to be effective, we crested a blind rise in the road, to see a small man with a very large machine gun pointing at us. I stood on the brakes and swerved to avoid him. The next thing there he was, a 13 year old, pushing the barrel of his AK47 through the car window, against my face, and shouting that he is going to shoot us because we had tried to kill him.

The more we tried to explain that his roadblock was in a very dangerous place and we did not see him until we were almost on top of him, the more agitated he became. Luckily, an older man came out from behind a bush, and told him it would be a bad idea to shoot us because they didn’t want any bad publicity about killing tourists at that stage of taking over the country, and, after demanding cigarettes and beer from us, sent us on our way.

OK!!!!! So, if you are planning a cross border holiday, it may be a good plan to find out what is happening in the country first! That night, in the relatively short stretch between Mocambique and Malawi, we went through 17 roadblocks, and only arrived at the border at 3am.

By this time we were exhausted and, finding a flattish piece of ground close to the darkened Customs Building, we climbed into our sleeping bags to sleep until the border opened. It turned out we had made ourselves at home on the front lawn of the chief Customs Officer’s house!

As we were having our baggage searched the next morning, I was happily doing my “tourist” thing and snapping away with my camera. Suddenly one of the soldiers swung round, levelled his AK47 at me and said I was under arrest and he was going to confiscate my camera, because it was illegal to photograph soldiers! After some very quick thinking, I realised that I had just finished my film and rewound it, so I said I was TERRIBLY sorry, had no idea (which was true!) and that if I took the film out the sun would ruin it and then there would be no more pictures (which wasn’t true), but luckily he fell for it and relented. We jumped hastily into the car and sped thankfully across the border into blissfully peaceful and stable Malawi. Here are the offending photos!

Malawi was so beautiful, I'll share some of those pictures in a later post. We returned to South Africa without incident, except for finding out that one of the guys had a lovely soprano voice! We were just too tired to carry on driving, on our way back through Mozambique, and pulled over to sleep. (Being the only girl, and the car owner, I was in the privileged position of sleeping in the car, the 2 guys were in sleeping bags on the side of the road. Suddenly this shrill falsetto had us all wide awake, Barry had just seen an ENORMOUS cobra slithering past his face! We were suddenly no longer sleepy, and drove on through the rest of the night.

Due to all the delays, roadblocks etc, we were a day late. In the meantime, my parents had arrived from Zimbabwe to visit me, and were frantically phoning hospitals and police stations to try and find me. We take modern communications so much for granted now, but in those days it was impossible for me to contact them and let them know I was safe. By the time we arrived back in Johannesburg at 2am on Tuesday morning, I was as popular as a pork chop in a synagogue, as you can imagine! But I only really got the full impact of how they must have felt many years later when my son pulled a similar stunt on me! What goes around comes around!!

After that unexpectedly longwinded story, I will keep the renovations update brief….
We are still battling to finish the kitchen floor, 4 days of sanding and still not where it needs to be, but we are getting there.
And we had an OOPS, the cistern for the bottom loo dropped off the wall when the tiles around it were being removed, so the floor got an impromptu clean! Just as well though, it was hanging by a thread and Andrew has now fixed it firmly, so all's well....
Up in the en-suite bathroom there is serious demolition going on....
Look at the main bedroom, the back wall has gone
from this... to this! Cute lightfittings hey?
And finally, remember I told you about the wacky dog next door who runs on the garage roof? Here she is, checking out the neighbourhood!

2 comments:

Janet said...

OMG!! What a trip! I'm sure your parents were terrified for you. And the whole thing wasn't too bad until I got to the part about the cobra! That would have been the end for me!

The floors are looking good and I love the new light fixtures. Very pretty. And you seem to have some good security. That dog on the roof is just too funny.

muddy red shoes said...

I get so scared for my kids when they travel now and when I think what I put my folks through!
BTW I have finally linked you
Have a happy Christmas xx