The agricultural survey firm I worked for became Loxton, Venn & Associates after Hunting, the British partner withdrew, as was the form in the early 70’s as the world tightened the screws on South Africa, with sanctions and embargoes, in the hope that it would force an end to Apartheid.
The ‘terrorist’ (Frelimo) situation in Mozambique necessitated a meeting between senior management and the Portuguese authorities as to the safety factor in the areas to be surveyed. Rumours surfaced about the possibility of switching to Brazil, which some of us welcomed, but in April 1973, a month after Greet’s 21st birthday, we loaded up our Land Rovers and set off for the Zambezi Valley, once again.Except for nearly losing a wheel, it was a slow, uneventful trip for Greet, my dog, Shakwe – once again smuggled over the border – and me. Greet had been learning Portuguese and already had more than a hundred words to use. We overnighted in Maxixe, then all assembled in Mutarara office to be allocated our areas and sort out relevant aerial photos. My new area was adjacent and south of my last one in Inhamitanga. I immediately wrote to Jack, my foreman, to let him know that we had arrived and his job was open.
Inhaminga was a town, rather than a village. It also lay on the same railway line. There was a railway workshop there with accommodation for the tradesmen and workers there. There were a few general dealers selling everything from bicycle parts to dried bacalhau fish. The town had a clinic and doctor. In fact, our first home was a couple of unused rooms belonging to, and kindly offered, by the clinic.
Greet liked the friendliness of the Portuguese she met, but was horrified at the local idea of hygiene as far as placing used toilet-paper in a box beside the loo, rather than flushing it away. She found the selection of foodstuffs very limited: potatoes, chicken and eggs were plentiful, but vegetables, especially tomatoes, were scarce.
Here we met a Portuguese guy called Henrique who became a good friend. He steered us to a pal of his who provided us with veg from his own garden. He gave us a Portuguese/English dictionary as a present. I wish I could remember his surname as he will feature in a future post and it saddens me not to pay him tribute.
Of course the first act of my work was getting a pit-siting team together to dig the pits and get to know my area.Jack (Jonas Mucongave) soon arrived from his home in Alto Moloque. It was marvelous to see him again. From a soil point of view it was very similar to the one just to the north, with a lot of sands under deciduous forest, with some wetter sections of black clay to the west, in the direction of Gorongosa. It was still hunting concession, so I had to be careful, shooting for the pot.
After a month, the clinic asked us to vacate our rooms as they would be using them for store rooms, so we moved out of town into the forest and set up our tents, intending to build a wooden house at a later date.