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,
"Goodnight to you," I said, and then added, "stay
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."
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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
"Sim," the boy said.
"Bom, quanto?" Rocco asked.
"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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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."
"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.
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
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
"We’re fishing of course. Today Rocco is in town
with Carolee buying provisions but Louwrens and Mike are in the
"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
"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 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
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
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.