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Shooting Hell's Gate

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 • Rookie writersSurvival and Bush Craft • True North •

I remember the moon. It was clear and big and hung over the ocean. Far across the water I could see the outline of Mozambique’s ilha de Bazaruto. I looked down, toward the beach. A hundred yards from me, double-anchored and bright in the moon’s light was the CR II, the 24-foot twin outboard boat of Louwrens Mahoney and Rocco Gioia.

Mozambique was still climbing out of the darkness of civil war. The peace accords between FRELIMO and RENAMO that had been signed not quite four years earlier, in 1992, had called for all of the rebels to turn in their weapons, but there were still a few bands of armed thugs roaming the war-ravaged countryside. To protect the boat and our gear Louwrens had hired two locals armed with AK47s to sleep on the boat. He also hired two others to keep watch on our chalet while we slept and also during the day while we were fishing. While I was watching the moon one of the chalet guards walked past me, smiling and nodding.

Louwrens was standing on the chalet’s veranda and he walked over and sat in the beach chair beside me.

"Things do change in Africa," Louwrens said.

"How so?" I asked.

"A few years ago a black man with an AK would have probably been trying to kill us."

"And now we hire them to be our guards."

"Yes," Louwrens said slowly. "Now they are protecting us, probably from their old comrades. It is our Africa, theirs and ours and why we love it."

He wasn’t being nostalgic or sarcastic but stating what for him, a South African, was simple fact. Then he said that he was happy with the peace and the changes. "I want the blacks to have their country. If they will import good management in ten years Mozambique will again be the African Rivera."

The guard passed again and again nodded and smiled. "A black man with an AK protecting a white man from another black man," Louwrens said. "This is Africa."

Louwrens didn’t say anything else but stood and walked to the chalet, closing the screen door behind him. I sat for a few more minutes, realizing that the moon had climbed high overhead. I stood up and turned for the door.

From the night’s shadow the guard said, "Goodnight, sir."

"Goodnight to you," I said, and then added, "stay safe."

"Yes sir."

Morning would come too early. We would bring the boat trailer down to the beach with the Seta Hotel’s tractor then we could load the boat. As I made my way to my room I could hear the heavy breathing of the others. I was sitting on my bed when I heard Carolee open her door.

"Decent?" She asked.

"Yeah. What’s up?
She stood in the night shadow. "I don’t know. I wanted to ask if you are ready to go home."

In few more days we would be leaving Africa. Our flight from Johannesburg’s International Airport would take us directly to Miami, Florida.

"Not really. I’ve been in Africa for a month now so it’s time to go. I’ve got to get home and take care of things."

"Me too," she said. I sensed her reluctance.

"You’re not ready to go home."

"No. Three weeks hasn’t been enough."

I didn’t answer. There wasn’t any need to answer. For several years Carolee and I had hunted together and we were on our third trip through South Africa. We’d been fishing, hunting, touristing, and visiting friends. It was good. "You still plan to come back next year?" I asked, and then added: "I warned you before you came the first time that no one goes to Africa once."

She laughed and moved out of the shadow. Her long brown hair caught the still bright moon glow. "If you love Africa, you don’t ever really leave it; you just go do something else for a while," she said.

Moon glow shimmered on her long, green nightgown when she opened the door to her room. "Every trip is an adventure."

"Like hell’s gate?" I asked.

"I didn’t have time to be scared—did you?" She answered.

"No."

She opened the door and left, pulling it closed behind her. No, I didn’t have time to be scared; I was too busy holding on for dear life."

To Seek Adventure

Each of us knows men who carve their place in the world by defining themselves, not by being defined. Both Louwrens Mahoney and Rocco Gioia are those sorts of men. Raised as brothers the two men’s inheritance from Rocco’s father was one of South Africa’s premier pipeline construction companies and a sprawling cattle ranch between Hoedspruit and Kruger Park. In a division of management Louwrens manages the construction company and Rocco managed the more than 2100 hectare Casketts Ranch. Rocco and his (then) wife Renee, were both medical doctors, and they transformed Casketts into a world renowned hunting preserve.

Shortly after the lodge was finished in the early 1980s one of the first "name" clients to hunt Casketts was the American rock star Ted Nugent. Because Nugent is an avid and internationally known bow hunter Rocco enlisted Nugent’s expertise to design the ranch’s system of bow hunter hides. Over the years Nugent made several trips to the ranch and Rocco has frequently said that Ted Nugent "the best hunter who had ever hunted the ranch." The Nugent-Gioia friendship was celebrated by Nugent and his wife Shemane when they named their second son Rocco Winchester Nugent, after Rocco.

I first hunted the ranch in 1992 and then on five more occasions through the 1990s. Each visit included additional adventures, a practice that begin in 1992 when we flew to Zambia to check on a game capture Rocco was financing, plus visiting a new hunting concession and safari camp he was having built near Kafue National Park in eastern Zambia. The native workers who were building the camp needed more meat rations and Rocco obtained hunting permits in Lusaka and after a torturous two day drive to the camp I was sent out to hunt impala for camp meat. Years later the trip and hunt was the inspiration for part two of my short story "Borrowed Hunts."

Pemba

The following year Rocco, Louwrens, and two other South Africans, Wynand du Plessis and Tom Steenkamp, plus me, drove two Land Cruisers from Komatiport, South Africa over the sand road to Maputo, Mozambique. The road paralleled the highway and we could only hope all of the landmines had been picked up or exploded. (Later we learned that the next day a car hit a mine and the occupants were killed.)

We passed the rusting remains of convoys of civilian cars that had been ambushed and their occupants killed in the final days of the war for independence, when the white government collapsed. The convoys had been filled with the descendants of the Europeans, mostly Portuguese, who were fleeing Mozambique for South Africa. Many of them never reached the border. The shattered and rusting hulks of cars and trucks were grim monuments to the nation’s suffering.

In Maputo a friend of Rocco’s stored both Land Cruisers then drove us to the airport for our Zambian Airlines flight to Pemba. The plane made a stop at Beira where bored guards ordered all of the passengers to deplane and the baggage removed, searched, and then put back aboard. While the local authorities were doing their thing we drank warm Black Label beer in what (then) passed for a bar and watched our pile of fishing tackle get searched.

At the time only a few months had passed since the General Peace Accords between FRELIMO (Front For Liberation of Mozambique) and RENAMO (Mozambique Resistance Movement) had been signed in Rome, Italy. Rocco and Louwrens wanted to investigate the possibilities of establishing a fishing safari operation in Pemba with camps on the islands. Rocco had chartered a boat to take us from Pemba to ilha de Ibo, by slow tour of the sand and mangrove islands along the coast. Tom Steenkamp, an international big game angler who had won tournaments around the world was the fishing expert, and Wynand du Plessis was to look at the investment potential. Rumors abounded that the fabled sport fishery had survived both decades of constant warfare and rape by the Russian fishing fleet.

Welcome to the Nautilus

So soon after the outbreak of peace there were few hotel choices in Pemba. The Hotel Nautilus, situated on the beach of Pemba Bay, offered accommodations in rondavel chalets. The hotel complex was an irregular grouping of whitewashed buildings with parking in front, the beach and bay behind it. The social center of the hotel (such as it was) was the restaurant and the social center of the restaurant was the large, covered, open air patio that faced the bay.

The boat Rocco and Louwrens chartered was a 40-foot, wooden hulled, diesel-powered fishing boat that was equipped with a galley, head, sleeping berth in the bow, bridge cabin, and was crewed by two deck hands. The boat was owned and skippered by two intrepid South Africans, Steve Anderson and Clive Gauutlett, who were trying to establish a dive shop in Pemba. They wanted to cash in on the tourist trade that would return to Mozambique.

We planned to spend two days fishing the bay and immediate coastal areas around Pemba then begin a leisurely trip through the coastal islands of the Quirmbas Archipelago north of Pemba, going as far north as ilha de Matemo. Between the islands we would, of course, be fishing.

Nothing ever goes according to plan and our two days at the hotel became four days of frustration. The first day, as planned, Rocco rented the hotel manager’s car and we drove into town to buy supplies, and obtain permits by dealing with the chaos of a new government that was still trying to sort itself out.

The government building was grim. The outside walls were pockmarked by small arms fire, broken windows were waiting for repair, and a long dead grass lawn surrounded it. Inside, broken light bulbs were in the sockets and the elevators were not working. Every desk without a worker was covered with a layer of dust. After buying fishing permits we bought supplies, stopping at a half-dozen sparsely stocked shops to fill our shopping list.

That night we ate our first meal at the hotel restaurant. I ordered a grilled chicken and was served road killed seagull! The second night we drove into town to meet and have dinner with one of the few Europeans who had stayed in Pemba through the war years.

Dinner was at a local restaurant and we were served a main course of mystery meat that closely resembled thick slices of fried tainted bologna. Overhead, the restaurant’s two glaring light bulbs hung from the ceiling on long, twisted cords and they swayed constantly in the slight breeze, causing our shadows to drift across the dingy walls. Wine was served in clear bottles that were refilled from large wooden casks perched behind the bar. Before leaving we helped the proprietor pour the wine we hadn’t drunk back into the casks.

At the Nautilus we collapsed onto our beds and let the slowly rotating fan push air past our sweating and diarrhea tortured bodies. By morning the mystery meat’s effects had passed on. Every day we faced new obstacles, either from the government or a breakdown on the boat. To break up the boredom we snorkeled the coral reefs, fished around the bay, drank beer, rum and whiskey. Louwrens swore that if he drank his rum or whiskey neat, over ice, the alcohol would kill the bugs in the ice. He was wrong, of course.

The day before we were finally going to start north Rocco and I were sitting on the restaurant’s patio, drinking beer and talking about Africa’s future when one of the local boys who were always trying to sell us jewelry made from sea turtle shells brought us a fresh crab.

"Você pode adquirir mais destes?" Rocco asked. He was adept at using his mix of Spanish and Portuguese to communicate.

"Sim," the boy said.

"Bom, quanto?" Rocco asked.

"Muitos! Muitos!"

"Bom! Os traga aqui e eu os comprarei."

The boy took off, chattering as he ran, obviously counting up the Meticals he would be paid. That afternoon he returned with a burlap bag bulging with fresh crabs. After dutifully paying the boy Rocco and Louwrens carried the sack into the kitchen and instructed the cook that our dinner that night would be crab and fried potatoes—no rice.

We gorged ourselves on crab and bottles of Pinot Greigio. The next day we shuttled our gear to the boat that anchored several hundred yards out. We also had a surprise guest passenger, Tine Karlsson, a twenty-something Norwegian bombshell from the local UN offices. She was the target of Clive and Steve’s amorous intentions.

On the Indian Ocean side of Mozambique’s coastal islands the Russian fishing fleet had used nets and long lines to decimate the fish populations but their ships’ draft was too deep to venture inside the island chains, so the fishing had survived. What had not survived were the skills of the native fishing guides. The men who had worked for the Europeans as fishing guides and crewed boats taking clients out for marlin and sailfish were now dead. Either they had died fighting in the war or had been executed by one side or the other. Now there were just stories, passed down from men who had been too old to fight or execute. Where the marlin were caught, the techniques and tackle used, was lost. It would be rebuilt in a post war Mozambique.

The morning after the crab fest we left the hotel at 0600 hrs, but were forced back into Pemba Bay by high winds. Frustrated, we set out trolling baits and a few minutes before 0900 Louwrens’s rod was jerked violently and he was fast into a large Wahoo. The fish was finally boated and weighed; it cleared 38 kg. When the winds dropped we turned for the sea, cruising past Pointe Diablo at 1330 hrs. and an hour later two rods were hit and our Norwegian guest, Tine, caught the first fish of her life, a blue spotted kingfish.

We trolled past the ilha de Quiziva, then the ilha de Mefunto before dropping anchor off the beach of ilha de Quilalea. We lowered ourselves into the warm waters and waded to shore to cook fish and bake potatoes over a beach fire. Sitting around the fire we ate the fish and baked potatoes with our fingers. As the fire burned down Louwrens asked Steve where he’d packed the bedding and offered to fetch it from the boat.

"I didn’t pack any bedding," Steve said, adding that he thought we’d bring our own.

We stared at Steve and Clive. "You can’t be serious!" Louwrens demanded.

"I figured Clive, Tine and I would sleep on the boat and you guys on the beach in your sleeping bags."

"Do we have anything for bedding?" Louwrens asked.

"Beach towels," Rocco said. "We’ve got beach towels."

There was also a small tent on the boat. We drew straws for the tent and Rocco and I would sleep in it, using beach towels for blankets. The little bedding in the sleeping berth was divided among the others, all of whom slept on the boat. The next night a steady rain kept all of us on the boat, reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart on The African Queen. Interestingly Tine slept on deck, leaving the berth for others.

By the time we reached ilha de Ibo we’d cruised the mangrove islands, camped on pristine, white sand beaches and discovered why Mozambique had been Africa’s Rivera. Even the islands with small local populations were held in timelessness. The only clutter we found were piles of seashells. The world and its problems had skipped the islands.

"In ten years it will be destroyed," Rocco said while standing on the beach of Ibo and looking out to sea.

"What will?" I asked.

"The islands, the clean water, the beaches, and the fishing. The tourists will come and greed will ruin it."

I didn’t answer.

By the beginning of 1994 the question on my mind, and on the minds of many others, was if Mozambique was truly changing and welcoming tourists. The answer to the question was not in tour books, they were probably packed with lies, but in Mozambique—we had to go there. In January of 1994, Rocco, Louwrens, and I began planning our trip only this time we would fish the waters in and around Maputo Bay and we would do the fishing from our own boat. Rocco and Louwrens reserved two chalets at the Hotel Inhaca, on ilha de Inhaca 40 km across the bay from Maputo. Both Rocco and Louwrens had already visited the island and fished the waters so they were familiar with the area but tour operators were advertising the refurbished hotel was under new, European management, and that the salt water fishing opportunities were as good as they had ever been. Rocco wanted me to form my own opinion.

Two others would join us for the trip; Louwrens’s fishing partner, Mike Hughes and my hunting friend, Carolee. Before leaving we celebrated Louwrens’s 42nd birthday. Early in the morning on the 27th of May we left for Mozambique.

Unlike the trip to Pemba in 1993 that had been exploratory this was a true fishing trip. Carolee and I wanted material for magazine articles. Rocco, Louwrens and Mike were on holiday. When we’d driven over the sand road to Maputo it was because of landmines and potholes and after a year’s work most of the four lane highway was repaved and open to traffic. The war’s wreckage had not been cleared. The rusting hulks of the cars and trucks of people who tried to flee Mozambique for South Africa and never made it, and the remains of military vehicles, lined parts of the road. Tractors that had been abandoned by farmers forced to flee the country were mute in the fields.

Even with the progress of nearly two years of peace there were still permit issues to be overcome, complicated because we’d brought Rocco and Louwrens’s boat, the CR II. Still, they were resolved and with permits in hand we launched the boat, using the old and crumbling yacht club’s ramp. While Louwrens parked the Land Cruiser and trailer inside the club’s fenced and locked parking lot we stowed our gear for the trip across the bay.

In my journal for May 27, 1995 I wrote that we had a calm sea crossing the bay and after moving our personal gear into our chalets at the Hotel Inhaca we returned to the boat that was anchored just a few yards from the beach:

We went fishing for a few hours in the late afternoon. Caught several cudas. [There is a dispute in my notes regarding the actual species.] The water was being pushed just a little by the wind so we had some moderate [?] seas. On the way in I saw [sic] spectacular sunset that I describe [sic] as follows:

A fiery scarlet globe slipping behind thin strips of clouds on the horizon and topped with a jeweled crown of gold. (Journal of G. Geer)

The following morning, following intermittent rains throughout the night, we awoke to the threat of more rains. We decided to tour the island’s Marine Museum. To get there we rode the island’s mass transit--a wagon with seats that was pulled by an aging tractor. The twenty minute ride to the museum was uneventful, though through a lush landscape. At the museum we signed in and were quickly amazed that the museum had survived the revolution’s aftermath when vestiges of colonial rule had been wantonly destroyed.

Even more remarkable was it had survived the civil war. Inhaca, we were told, had largely been ignored during the civil war because of the difficulty reaching it, which also explained how the museum escaped destruction during the anti-colonialism rampage.

Carolee, who holds a Master of Science in Conservation and Natural Resources, discovered trays of type specimens, some dating back more than a century that had been protected and maintained by the small group of self-appointed museum guards. With Rocco translating she asked the guards if they knew what they had been protecting.

"Você sabe o que estas coisas são?" Rocco carefully and slowly asked the guard.

"Não. Era importante para professores e outro antes da guerra assim que nós permanecemos aqui para mantê-la segura." The guard answered. Several times Rocco asked him to repeat what he said until he understood what the guard was saying then he turned to Carolee and translated the conversation.

"I asked him if he knew what he was guarding."

"What did he say?" she asked.

"He said that no, but that he knew it was important because teachers and others came and worked here."

Carolee’s eyes welled with emotion, realizing that more than a century of important biological scientific knowledge had been saved from destruction by a small group of islanders who recognized its value without understanding it. "Tell them I am grateful for what they have done. Tell them, ‘Thank you.’"

Rocco did and they smiled at Carolee and nodded, pleased.

After another tractor ride back to the hotel over a longer, more scenic island road we ate lunch at the hotel then went fishing. We were trolling around the point of the island, toward the open sea, when my reel was solidly hit and I was into a king fish that fought hard and sounded twice before I had pulled it close enough for Louwrens to gaff. We caught three more fish before we quit for the day. After securing the boat and our tackle we decided to escape the hotel and have dinner in Inhaca village at "the" eating spot on the island—Restaurante Lucas. Louwrens sent the king fish over to Lucas’ to be prepared for our dinner. It was early evening when we walked from the hotel to Lucas’s

Lucas, the restaurant’s owner, had been the hotel’s chef, beginning when the hotel was built by the Portuguese in 1970. When the new management arrived he was demoted to cook. Frustrated and unwilling to accept the demotion he quit and opened his restaurant—Inhaca Restaurante Lucas. (He is still in business.)

When we pushed the door open Lucas immediately recognized his friends, Louwrens and Rocco, and hurried across the one room, bamboo-walled restaurant to eagerly shake their hands.

"Once more, my friends, you visit me," Lucas said.

Louwrens introduced each of us to Lucas, who then settled us at a table that was held level by pieces of wood pressed between the floor and the table legs. Customers had sent Lucas their flags from around the world, including a number of USA states, and he’d them hung from the ceiling to provide a bohemian sort of color for atmosphere.

One end of the restaurant was the kitchen and the cooking was over wood fires in cement fireplaces. A single table for preparing the meals separated the kitchen from the tables. Lucas brought us each a cold Castle® beer.

"So, my friends," Lucas said, leaning against the counter, "the fishing has been good?"

"It could be better," Louwrens said.

"You know," Lucas said, "before the revolution people came from around world and they would stay in the hotel and fish from the boats. Now they are gone."

"The fishermen?" Rocco asked.

"The fishermen, the guides, the boats, the men who owned the boats, they are all gone."

"Did they go to South Africa, Europe?" I asked.

Lucas looked sad and shook his head "no." He didn’t smile. "Most of them died in the fighting. Some in the revolution, others in the war but now no one remembers how to catch the big fish." He turned and walked into the kitchen area and I thought he was going to start serving our meal. Instead, Lucas dug something out from under the counter and returned with an envelope. He handed it to me. "Those pictures are from the hotel, of the fish they caught."

The small black and white prints were yellowing pictures of marlin, sailfish and other trophy fish. "We want to catch a marlin," I said.

"The season for marlin begins in September, sometimes August," Lucas said. "But this time of year the king fish, wahoo and cuda are caught."

The cook called to him and Lucas turned to the business of serving dinner. Even now, 14 years after that night at Lucas’s, I remember the delicate aromas of dinner being prepared on the wood fire. He had rolled the fillets in a blend of flour and coconut shavings and fried them quickly so they were golden brown and the sweetness of the fish was locked inside.

The next day, Monday, May 29, was our last full day of fishing. We were on the water by 9 a.m. and as we cruised around the island to fish the ocean side Carolee’s bait was inhaled by a large king fish only minutes after Louwrens had poured the better part of a beer in the water, his daily offering to King Neptune. By noon each of us had caught several nice fish for the cooler. Louwrens turned the boat toward the island and we cruised into the bay of the Marine Reserve for a shore lunch. We would clean and grill one of the morning’s fish.

Two young men materialized from the sand dunes and we learned they were guards for the reserve and they had come to check our camp. We invited them to join us for lunch and in return, before we left, they took us on a tour of their part of the island and served us tea in the small boma that surrounded their thatch home. We learned they hadn’t been paid for six months but they stayed on their job because they knew it was important. Louwrens promised to make some inquires among his government contacts about getting them paid.

Hell’s Gate

In mid-afternoon King Neptune shut the fishing off and we knew it was time to quit. Our trolling had taken us farther south than we anticipated and by the time we were opposite the northern point of the Machangulo Peninsula it was late afternoon.

"Everyone want some excitement?" Louwrens asked.

"Sure," I answered, "like what?"

"We’ll take a short cut to the hotel."

"I think the boat is a little heavy to carry," I said.

"No," Louwrens said, grinning like a pixilated leprechaun, "through Hell’s Gate."

"What’s Hell’s Gate?"

"That," Louwrens said, pointing it out as we crested an ocean swell. At the top of each swell we could see a very narrow opening between Inhaca Island and the tip of the peninsula. "It’s called Hell’s Gate. It’s where the bay and the Indian Ocean crash into each other. The tide is good now and we can go through there—maybe."

"What’s the maybe?" Carolee asked.

"Not easy and not everyone makes it," Louwrens said.

I looked at Rocco, he was helping Mike put the tackle away and by the way he was doing it I knew the decision had been made. "So, do you know how to get through it?"

Louwrens laughed again, and said he did, and then he added we, meaning myself and Carolee, should put on our life jackets. He was maneuvering the boat closer to the island. "It’s what is called a tidal surge," Louwrens said in a matter-of-fact tone.

"I know what a tidal surge is," Carolee said, moving to stand beside me and look over the boat’s windscreen. "You ever go through this one?"

Louwrens looked at her and said he had, once. "It’s scary and you’ll see the wrecks of boats that didn’t make it. You going to put your life jackets on?"

I looked at the crashing bodies of water between the rocks of what I later learned is Ponta Torres and the southern tip of Inhaca. Each time they collided spray shot into the air. I asked Louwrens how wide the opening was.

"About five hundred yards."

"How deep is the water?"

"I don’t know," Louwrens said. I suppose it is on a chart but we don’t have time to look."

I was quiet for a few second then said, "No."

"No what?"

"If you screw it up and we crash into the rocks what are the chances we’d survive?" I asked, staring sternly at Louwrens.

He laughed and said, "Not much."

"Then I guess we don’t need life vests do we?"

Louwrens laughed again. Rocco moved up so he could stand with us and Mike stayed in the back of the boat to make sure nothing was tossed over the side. Louwrens explained that he would cruise back and forth, just outside the gate until he could catch a wave and then he’d turn the boat, push the motors to full throttle to get up on the crest of the surge and ride it over the rocks and into the water of the bay. "We’ve got to be on top of the wave not surfing it or the water will crash down on us and drive the boat down, the bow under the wave and the next wave will flip us."

No one answered. We held on while Louwrens cruised back and forth, fifty yards from the gate, careful not to get caught by the wave and forced into the gate before he was ready. Suddenly, without warning, Louwrens pushed the throttles to their limit and spun the wheel, turning the CM II hard in the water. He climbed up the surging wave until he was on top and we heard the props begin to cavitate as they clawed at the disappearing water. Just as fast as he had pushed the throttles open he pulled back, letting the stern of the boat settle slightly in the water but maintaining the CM II’s precarious position near the top, but on the backside, of the onrushing surge of water.

As we were carried toward and then into the gate, for a brief few seconds, the shattered hulks of two fishing boats that hadn’t cleared the rocks were visible before they disappeared behind the crashing water. Ahead of us we could see the spray of the two bodies of water colliding in a massive collision of energy.

Suddenly we felt the water begin to fall away from under us and Louwrens pressed the throttles again, pushing the CM over the crest of one mass of water and across the narrow opening of the two and onto the water that was the surge of water from the bay. There was a tremendous spray of water that fell around and on us and just as quickly we rushed into the calm waters of Maputo Bay. The entire experience, from the time he’d gunned the motors until we slid into the bay had lasted less than a minute. We laughed crazily because we’d made it. I turned loose of the windscreen’s frame and walked to the back of the boat. As the rush of adrenalin drained from my body I felt tired. Louwrens was standing easily, casually, the concentration on every detail had been routine for him and taken nothing unusual from him.

The cruise to the hotel was quiet. That night the hotels’ manager, Edwardo, hosted us to dinner and ordered the hotel’s chef to prepare a special meal for us. The following morning we returned to Maputo, loaded the boat and drove to South Africa. Another adventure was ending.

Inhassoro

In time everything changes. We could feel the changes sweeping over Mozambique. The year before, when we drove to Maputo with the CM II in tow we still had to drive around a few large potholes but now we could make the entire drive over a four-lane highway without weaving. In Maputo, Louwrens refilled the Land Cruiser’s fuel tanks then filled the extra fuel containers for the boat. Once again we had to go through the fishing permits drill but this time there were no "extra fees" and all was finished in minutes.

We spent the night in Maputo with a friend who had a walled courtyard where the boat could be parked. Dinner was to be in one of Maputo’s best known and long lasting night spot restaurants—the Piri-Piri on Avenue de Julho. The restaurant was packed with revelers, mostly Europeans who were rediscovering Maputo, so we ate outside at a sidewalk table and when an artist came by I bought his highly stylized oil cloth paintings.

The next morning we drove north, stopping once in the afternoon to refuel before we reached our destination—Inhassoro, then 15 km farther to the Hotel Seta. After checking in with the hotel’s manager, a beautiful and well educated local woman who had returned to her home after the fighting ended; we moved our gear into our chalet then pulled the boat down to the beach.

Because of the tides and long, gentle slope of the beach, to launch the CM II we hired a tractor, hooked the boat trailer to the tractor, and then backed the boat into the water. Once it was floating free the boat trailer was pulled back to the chalet and chained to a tree.

On our second day, while taking a break from fishing, I was sitting at a table sheltered by a massive and ancient mahogany tree when I heard my name. Eduardo, the manager of Hotel Inhaca when we had stayed there the year before, was walking toward me. We shook hands and he sat down.

"What are you doing here, at the Hotel Seta?" he asked.

"We’re fishing of course. Today Rocco is in town with Carolee buying provisions but Louwrens and Mike are in the chalet."

"Get them!" Eduardo said briskly, "I’ll meet you in the bar and I’ll buy the beer."

Edwardo brought us up to date on Mozambique’s changes and his promotion to general manager of a new lodge on Bazaurto Island.

"Come over tomorrow," Edward said, ‘I’ll treat all of you to lunch."

The promise was made and after another round of beer Eduardo went off to catch his water taxi to the island. We kept our appointment to visit the island and toured the new lodge. On a wall was an old photograph of a fisherman with a giant marlin.

"This will bring them back," Rocco said, pointing to the picture.

"The fish?" I asked.

"Yes, Galen, the fish and stories about the fish," Rocco said, dryly.

The next day, after we’d returned from fishing, one of the local fishermen delivered a burlap sack of lobsters to the chalet and we cooked them in a pot of water we boiled over an open fire. There were too many for us to eat and the extras Louwrens put in a cool box then he packed it with ice.

The world around us changes and we change as well. The following year my trip to Africa was cancelled at the last minute. So much of what defined me began to change in ways I didn’t understand. My brothers began dying of the diseases from exposure to Agent Orange and my doctor warned me that my health was beginning to crack.

Galen L. Geer is a former United States Marine Drill Instructor and Vietnam veteran. A professional outdoor hunting, shooting and gun writer, he published 2000 magazine articles. He has been a contributing editor to Soldier of Fortune magazine for thirty years and is the author of seven books.

Now, with the diseases progress seemingly an unavoidable rush not so different from the onrushing water of Hell’s Gate, in my living room I enjoy the wooden masks, spears and trophies from my African trips. Hanging among these treasures are the paintings I bought on the sidewalk outside the Piri Piri. They are framed and behind protective glass and when I look at them I never fail to be carried back to the sultry heat of that night, the nights that followed and those before it.

So often when I remember those nights and the adventures I also remember Rocco standing on the beach at ilha de Ibo, his arms folded, and his wind breaker whipping in the wind. He was looking out to sea and as if to wonder if it would last. Where he stood and we cooked on the beaches there are lodges and resorts. You can go there and try to capture what Rocco saw and felt and maybe you’ll find a Hell’s Gate of your own.


• Kayak Fishing •
• Flyfishing •
• Spearfishing •
• Shooting Hell's Gate •
• Dorado Tactics - catch gold •
• Trolling Dynamics •
• Catching yellowfin tuna •
• The Saltwater Drop Shot •
• Think like a fish •
• Rigging for marlin •


•  •


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