When the 1993 construction Christmas shut-down rolled around, Sheila and our two pairs of children agreed to come with me to Mozambique. Specifically, I wanted to revisit Ibo Island where I had taken the eight-month-old infant Nicci Earle and her mother back in June 1974. Nicci was now twenty, studying physiotherapy in Stellenbosch University in the Cape. Her brother, Ryan Earle, had just completed his first year studying mechanical engineering at the Technical College in Pretoria. Sheila’s younger son, Tim Simkin, had just written his matric and his brother, Nick, had sufficiently recovered from his accident to be back at work with the South African Police.
The six of us congregated at Sheila’s brother, Tom Maling’s home in Johannesburg, from where Tom put us on the flight to Maputo, Mozambique. We flew north from there on the national airline to Pemba, the new name for the picturesque town of Porto Amelia. A fellow passenger was Tomas, a government official of the Department of Mines, a tall mulatto from Maputo with whom we became friendly.
The beach was beautiful; white sand and coconut palms, with coral reefs nearby. However, it was a sad shock to see how the reefs had been stripped of most of their larger fish-life. On enquiry, it seemed that they were in fact slowly recovering after plunder by Russian fishing trawlers in the previous decade.
A reminder of the Russian influence was a Lada that served as a taxi. We were uncertain of arriving in Pemba town when we went exploring, and uncertain of stopping when we got there. Sensibly, the owner parked with a wheel firmly against the kerb.