The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View -

MOZAM­BIQUE has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing a coun­try that con­tin­u­ally hosts an in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion of malaria- bear­ing mos­qui­toes.

We went there for the buzz that sur­rounds a na­tion re­build­ing it­self. Dur­ing our seven- day so­journ, we de­liv­ered, in trop­i­cal heat, a choco­late cake bought three days pre­vi­ously to a tribal elder on the north coast who had hun­dreds of wives and mil­lions of chil­dren. We be­came bogged in mud up to our eye­balls, surged op­ti­misti­cally across a crocodile­in­fested es­tu­ary in a boat that fi­nally sank, and laughed like drains.

It was a re­union with Monique, a South African friend for 40 years, her hus­band Michel, a for­mer Ser­bian no­ble­man, her brother Dave, once a great white hunter, and his Zulu fac­to­tum Rob­bie, who wields the span­ner, changes tyres, boils the wa­ter and re­moves any un­nec­es­sary con­cealed tree stumps. And my hus­band who, in Africa, plays the part of kib­itzer with an air of great aplomb. In his hon­our, at Dave’s shack, he had a tree named af­ter him: the ton­sil tree.

We are all a bit past it. Be­tween us we have a miss­ing lung, poor cir­cu­la­tion, al­ler­gies to bees, deep- vein throm­bo­sis: in the ab­sence of wild an­i­mals, the only loud noise was the crunch­ing of antacids.

The ton­sil tree is a fast grower. Last time he was there, Dave was fu­ri­ous it had been pruned. He said that if it was touched again he’d cut off the cul­prit’s hand. The tree was not touched and it grew al­most 2m . . . through the side of the boat, which is why it sank.

On our in­trepid ven­ture we had a cou­ple of four- wheel- drives and the um­bil­i­cal cord of a two- way ra­dio, which crack­led with con­ver­sa­tion. ‘‘ Where are you?’’ ‘‘ Don’t know. Where are you ?’’ ‘‘ Don’t know, but I’m some­where ahead of you.’’ ‘‘ OK, so I must be be­hind you, then.’’ ‘‘ Why have you stopped?’’ ‘‘ Dave’s gone be­hind a bush: some­thing he ate.’’ ‘‘ Why didn’t he take toi­let pa­per? Haven’t we gone be­yond us­ing leaves?’’ ‘‘ He has made it clear that it would make his day if I got stuck in the mud, so I hope he wipes him­self with a sting­ing bloody net­tle.’’

There’s the bush tele­graph: the tribal elder who, three years ear­lier, had asked Monique to bring him a cake was wait­ing for us. He’s a blind thatcher who weaves roofs with his toes. She said she had tried to bring him a wind- up torch but they were sold out. Michel asked what use a torch would be to a blind man. Looks were ex­changed.

There is no game be­cause it’s all been eaten by the na­tives of the war- rav­aged land, now liv­ing in rel­a­tive peace. But it is com­ing back grad­u­ally. So are the birds. While much of the con­ti­nent is a bas­ket case, the coun­try holds great hope. Tourism is be­gin­ning to thrive, deep- sea div­ing and great white shark en­coun­ters are non­pareil. Mod­ern re­sorts are be­ing built. In Africa, at least, Mozam­bique is the new black.

re­view@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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