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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.

Perhaps Maui.

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Tuesday, March 28 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Union Square In conversation with Gayle Forman 33 E. 17th St., New York, NY 10003 Wednesday, March 29 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Vernon Hills Shopping Center 680 Post Rd., Eastchester, NY 10583 Thursday, March 30 at 7pm Books & Greetings 271 Livingston St., Northvale, NJ 07647 Saturday, April 1 Texas Teen Book Con | Houston, TX Sunday, April 2 Alamo Drafthouse | Austin, TX Monday, April 3 at 7pm Books, Inc Opera Plaza Not Your Mother’s Book Club 601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94107 Tuesday, April 4 at 7pm Book Passage 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925 Wednesday, April 5 at 8pm Live Talks LA In conversation with Pico Iyer Ann and Jerry Moss Theatre, New Roads School 3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404 Thursday, April 6 at 7pm Elliott Bay Books 1521 10th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122 Friday, April 7 at 7pm Powell’s Books 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR 97005 Sunday, April 9 at 5pm Politics & Prose 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 Monday, April 10 at 7pm Boswell Books 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211 Tuesday, April 11 at 7pm The Book Stall at Chestnut Court In conversation with Betsy Bird 811 Elm St., Winnetka, IL 60093 Wednesday, April 12 at 7pm Talk of the Stacks Series Hennepin County Library Minneapolis Central Library 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55401 Thursday, April 13 at 6:30pm Parnassus Books Hillsboro Plaza Shopping Center 3900 Hillsboro Pike #14, Nashville, TN 37215 Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30pm Rainy Day Books At Woodneath Library 8900 N. Flintock Rd., Kansas City, MO 64157 Wednesday, April 19 at 7pm St. Louis County Library With The Novel Neighbor 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63131 Thursday, April 20 at 7pm Georgia Center for the Book With Little Shop of Stories Dekalb County Public Library 215 Sycamore St., Decatur, GA 30030 Friday, April 21 at 7pm Books & Books 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL 33134 Tuesday, April 25 at 7pm Barnes & Noble Market Fair, 3535 US-1 #400, Princeton, NJ 08540 Wednesday, April 26 at 7pm Brookline Booksmith 279 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02446 Monday, May 1 at 7pm Darien Library In conversation with Dani Shapiro 1441 Post Rd., Darien, CT 06820