By the Monday, 20th August 1972, after our return to the Zambezi, I had stocked up my supplies and equipment at our survey company’s base camp in Mutarara/Dona Ana, and driven to Inhamitanga, the only village in my new area. It also lies on the railway-line from the bridge at Sena which follows the Zambezi for a bit, through Vila Fontes, then turns south on its way to Beira. The same line that was being blown up, periodically, by Frelimo as described in previous posts, but fortunately not in this area, as yet.
Besides having a railway siding, Inhamitanga was a little place with a few houses and a small shop, which doubled as a Post Office, owned by an elderly Chinaman. Because my fiancé’s letters were a life-line, Post Offices were an important part of my life, especially with our wedding looming in less than four months. My parents had agreed to host the reception on their farm, so there were arrangements to be made, a preacher man to find, a feast to organise and so on. And, as I would only get back to South Africa with a bare three weeks to spare, I was shirking most of these duties.Clearing a place a discrete distance away from the village, I set up camp. Jack, my foreman, dug my latrine pit, then I took soil samples and described the soil type. The vegetation was mostly new to me and soon had my sample press bulging. These would be sent to the Salisbury herbarium for identification which would in turn grace the legend to our vegetation maps. The bulk of my area was Semi-deciduous Millettia forest.
There were a lot of furniture timbers in the forest, giving rise to frequent Carpentry shops alongside the road, displaying signs that graded the level of expertise of the tradesman: Carpenteiro Primeiro Classe, Secundo Classe, and Terceiro Classe, working in such woods as partridge-wood or panga-panga (Millettia stuhlmannii) and kiaat or mbira (Pterocarpus angolensis) amongst others. Some craftsmen specialised in carving African ebony or mpingwe (Dalbergia melanoxylon), so I started collecting such items as sets of egg-cups, ashtrays, candlesticks and even a coffee-table which would, in time, require a glass top. (Forty years on, I still have it, unassembled, in my workshop. Maybe, one day…)
Game was plentiful. Kudu and Impala were common. Within days I saw sign of elephant, buffalo and lion, but it was in a hunting concession. I dared not be caught shooting there, although in retrospect, I probably could have got permission to shoot for the pot, as long as nobody asked to see my firearm licences…In the trees above my camp a galago (or bush-baby or nagapie) gave its unearthly shriek which had Shakwe, my dog, most puzzled.
Besides the pole and grass-walled loo, there was a similarly shaped enclosure which I used as a shower. There was a shallow pit under the poles that I stood on for the water to soak away into the sandy earth. Outside was a pole ladder that the cook would climb with his bucket of warm shower water. He would throw half of the contents over my head and I would soap myself before he threw the second half over me to rinse off.
I sawed the butt off my .410 shotgun to make a long pistol with which I could stick out of either window of my Land Rover and refurbish my meat supply with helmeted guineafowl or their forest cousins, the crested guineafowl, as well as the tiny suni antelope (Neotragus moschatus). So small are they that one hind haunch made a good meal for one person. I bought my veggies off one of the local Portuguese, grown in his back garden.
Weekly meetings were held in the village of Sena in Willem Stuurman’s camp on Saturdays. Party leader, Frank Merriweather would cross the rail bridge from Dona Ana and join us there. On Friday afternoon I would drive to Ken Greenwood’s camp at Vila Fontes and spend the night there before going on to the meeting together. Both Ken and Willem were old hands at agricultural survey, but had not spent much time in Mozambique. Phil Thomas was a newbie, as was William Bond, Joey’s botanist brother. When he had recovered from his wounded shoulder, Spine van Niekerk also joined us.