In July 1972, after my friend Charles Howard (Jed) was flown out of the Zambezi Valley, Mozambique, with blackwater fever, and Terry Haffern with hepatitis, the rest of the team shared their survey areas to finish the mapping and wrap up that section.
My staff was now reduced to foreman, Jack, cook Rosario and one assistant.
Rain kept us in our tents, one day, so I got to know my staff a bit better. Both Jack and Rosario had spent some years in Rhodesia, the latter most of his life. Not only did he speak good English and had his junior certificate, but he had taken a typing course for six months! He said he had learned to cook from a cookery-book, but while the rest of the ingredients were there, such as the limited availability allowed, he frequently forgot the salt. One Sunday morning he made me pancakes as a surprise. They were. Saltless.
Nico Jaspers, my friend from Swakopmund, who would be my brother-in-law by the end of the year, had now joined the agricultural survey company that employed me. He wrote to say it was only temporary but was hoping that they would give him a permanent post. He was based in Ovamboland near Mahanene, South West Africa. At the last co-ordination gathering, I had been told by Tony Venn, a senior manager, that they could not take him on because of his deafness, despite the fact that he was doing a good job.
With the mapping of what we called Block 6 complete, all the field staff assembled at the head office in Mutarara in mid-August to draw up the maps and reports. Our next job was supposed to be Block 7. It ran along Rio Luenha from the Rhodesian border to the Zambezi on eastern side of the Luenha. Some terrorist activity, lately had been reported. My old part-leader from Alto Moloque, Spine B.J. van Niekerk, was already there, doing a recce expedition. Then we got the shocking news.
On his second night there, Spine got shot in the back by terrorists (sorry, freedom fighters?) while asleep in his tent. The bullet just missed his lung. His Land Rover also got superficially shot up. Thankfully, nobody came to check on Spine as he lay beneath his overturned stretcher. When the terrorists went away, he managed to get up and drive, one handed, to find the police. It took a lot of pleading before they were convinced that he was not a threat and he was allowed into their compound. After waiting about in his short pyjamas for 6 hours, he was flown to the Zambezi town of Tete, then to Salisbury, where he was when we got the news, in hospital.
Block 7 was abandoned. My next area would now be the Inhamitanga section of Block 5, adjacent to and East of Block 7.)
But first, a few days off at the coast.