Honeymoon in Eden
By Andrew McCarthy
In life we are assured all too often that it is not the destination, but the journey that matters. I’m not so sure.
Take my Honeymoon in Mozambique.
At the time, Mozambique was not a destination high on the honeymoon hit list (I’m not sure it is now) – it was certainly no Florence or Hawaii. But the idea had been simple – “a little safari, a little beach.” The country had recently emerged from a fifteen year Civil War and word on the street to those in the know was that the game parks were empty of tourists and the beaches sublime. What could go wrong?
We arrived in Gorongoza National Park on a hot, late summer day. There was only one outfit set up to guide people through all that the park had to offer. It turned out to be offering not too much. All the animals had been poached during the war.
Save for a smattering of elephants that we (apparently) heard but never saw, there were no recognizable African game on the loose; let alone any of the “Big 5”. What was in evidence were abundant tress with visible bullet scares, and a few small and happy looking creatures scampering about, none of which I recognized.
“There are no large predators here,” our guide boasted. “It’s almost liked a mini Eden.”
But wasn’t the very point of a safari to sneak up as close as possible to large predators without getting eaten? Oh well, my new wife looked happy as we bounced over the washboard-scarred dirt roads so I kept the thought to myself.
On the morning of our departure our guide neglected to wake us. Then the man with the key to the Park’s gate couldn’t be found. Once we were finally clear and on our way, the back door of the van swung open wide, causing our bags, including computers, to tumble out and burst apart on the dirt road in the predawn.
Baggage reclaimed, the sun rose and with it our spirits too. We were on our way now. Then we got a flat. There was no spare. We sat by the side of the road and wondered what else could go wrong. That was when we heard the drumming— insistent, angry drumming coming from the bush.
We waited for what might come next. Nothing came next. For hours. Whoever was pounding those drums eventually grew tired and we waited some more. Finally a car passed and we made it to the airport. Our flight was long gone. There was not another until the following day.
We stayed in a hotel in Beira beside an unfinished shell of a building over-filled with squatters, a glorious ménage of communal living without pluming.
Back at the airport a woman approached us about transporting a small parcel—a parcel about the size and shape of one of those bowling ball bombs of my childhood imagination. We demurred, but the man behind us happily agreed. There was a plane going further up the coast in the general direction of our destination. We got on it.
Waiting for our connection in Nempula, we decided to go into town to have some lunch and see the sights. We ate in a restaurant overlooking the street where a collection of teenage boys jumped on the hoods of cars, extorting money from drivers and encircling pedestrians. We returned to the airport.
On the way, a policeman at a checkpoint stepped into the road and raised his hand—the universal signal to stop. Our driver pressed down on the accelerator. The officer dove out of the way.
“They just want your money,” our driver shrugged.
Another night, then another blood curdling flight in another rusting prop plane, and in the end we made it to Vamizi, long after dark and hungry. My wife’s indomitable spirit had finally been battered into submission on the herniating final drive. She fell into despair.
A midnight swim under a three quarter moon in the placid Indian Ocean went a long way to restoring her will to live, as did the sumptuous bed we slept in— open to the trade breezes and rustling palm fronds.
Morning brought a glorious day and a stroll over butter soft sand. We departed an hour later. We had talked about changing our return flights and staying on, but we missed the kids and life beckoned.
Occasionally now, when things are not going my way at home, my wife will remind me that I owe her a honeymoon.