We worked hard, but we played hard, too.
Besides raising hell in Pretoria the weekend before Easter, Bruce Barichievy and I went there to buy basic skin-diving kit with a trip to Mozambique in mind. We stayed in a small private hotel on Church Street, opposite the Union Hotel which was our watering hole. After a long session in the pub, I raced Bruce up the brickwork of the wall outside and pounded triumphantly on the roof three storeys up before Bruce had got half way. The manager was not amused.
The Easter long weekend arrived. In Bruce’s Land Rover, we headed from Shangaan-land towards the Mozambique border at Komatipoort. We stopped at the only pub in Hoedspruit, had a few beers, then refuelled up at a wayside filling station, where Bruce started a party with the black petrol attendant and a stray passer-by. Between us, we flattened a bottle of whisky. As a parting gift, Bruce gave them each a cigar and several chunks of kudu biltong, made from a beast that he had poached one night, a couple of weeks before!
Late Friday night found us booking into a hotel in Nelspruit. The night watchman thought we were somebody else and gave us their room.
At the border, being the Easter long-weekend, there was a queue of vehicles stretching miles back. We offered a lift to two foreign hitch-hikers who were walking past the queue, settling them under the canopy at the back. At the border, I was refused entry as I had no cholera shot, but, after several hours and a change of shift and using a nameless page out of the German’s book to forge a certificate, I got through.
In the rear-view mirror, we saw the Australian bird and the German fellow having words. We agreed that she was a bit of alright and that, as they seemed to be falling out, we should get rid of the German and invite the bird to come with us to our diving destination at Malongane, just north of Ponto da Oro. The arrogance of youth.
But first, a night on the town in Lorenço Marques, now Maputo.
LM, as it was popularly called, was a favourite holiday destination for South Africans; cheap prawns and cashew nuts, stunning beaches and coral reefs being just a few of the attractions. We finally arrived in the late afternoon.
Bruce dropped us at the Tivoli Hotel near the waterfront where we booked two rooms that shared a bathroom, and went to find parking for his Landy. Bruce, the German, Gerald Fiedler, to whom I now felt indebted for his help with the cholera certificate, and I shared one room. The Australian girl, of Dutch origin, Liza Theunissen, got the other.
Bruce got annoyed that he had left the key to his trunk in his Landy and said I should fetch it. I refused, not knowing where he had parked. He took out his .22 automatic pistol and shot the padlock off, one shot!
I think he was as surprised as we were, but he acted as if he did that every day. Fiedler was wide-eyed with shock. He leaped to record it in his diary.
After a night of frivolity in LM, we left Herr Fiedler at a pensão and set off the next morning with Liza, back-tracking to the village of Boane to skirt the Rio Teribe which empties into Maputo Bay. From there we went south through tropical bush on a dirt road, another ninety miles to Malongane on the coast. Bruce hired a tent while Eliza and I took the last remaining rondawel.
It was idyllic. When the weather was fine, for three of the seven days we were there, we snorkelled and dived to the coral reefs, spearfishing and admiring. It was my first experience of both skindiving and coral wonder-worlds. Amongst a myriad of unknown fish, there were gorgeous parrot-fish, moon-fish, kingfish, potato bass and tassle-fish. A fellow with a paddle-ski invited us to join him to dive from it.
When the weather was miserable, a group of us South Africans partied and caused havoc.
For the whole of that week, Liza was my first live-in girlfriend. She was easy on the eye, was good company and had a generous nature. I showed off my knowledge of Banjo Paterson’s Australian verse and she came up with a few I had not heard of.
On our return to Shangaan-land, we dropped her off in Nelspruit to catch a train back to Johannesburg where she was living at the time. I was to see a bit more of this Aussie lass in the months to come.