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On the Cutting Edge of Tourism - Accidental Tourist, Mozambique with Tom the Pom

A hidden sharp object and fear of discovery make for a paranoid ride

“Why do you have a chainsaw in the car?” A Kruger gate-guard. It is a long story, we say, but we have no alcohol and the generator is irrelevant too. Do we look like rhino-poachers? He seems to buy that.

Back on the road, pre-prepared choccachinos in hand, the possibilities are endless. We hadn’t planned for the chainsaw to be discovered, of course, buried under a pile of tents and other necessities for a visit to a truly third world country.

Innocent smiles restored, we head into the bundu. A few minutes, a couple of zebras and a small klomp of wildebeest later, a white Suzuki hoves into view and signals to us conspiratorially that we should pull over. We wonder. How could he know about our in-vehicle bush management armoury?

“On the right, 50 metres in, look carefully, two lions mating’” he whispers. Erm. Thanks.

On the right, only five metres in, just discernible between the giveaway Toyota hordes, two lions obviously mating, just as the man said. A roar louder than anything our power tool could hope to emit, and it is all over for twenty minutes. No time to wait.

Onwards, Croc Bridge- and Moz-bound, a large amorphous dead mass lies in the road ahead, a crane and a number of khaki-clad rangers of the long-sock variety looming over it. A car-struck hippo, thank goodness; no fear of suspicion that we might have de-horned a rare pachyderm with our kettingsaag.

Gathered after a coffee in Maputu and the chainsaw now so deep into the camping gear that it risks re-emerging through the exhaust, we push north.

A scream of sirens skirts the capital and we seep a little deeper into our seats. A blurred, motorbike-perched ball of authority swerves by, launching a sharp knee-length, leather-booted kick at an oblivious taxi-flank in front of us, before a pod of slick dark Mercedes arrogantly cruises past. A seemingly-rushed Presidential escort; no doubt it would have displayed a little more caution in its queue-barging had it known of the deadly assassinatory weapon cached between the hot chocolate and tent pegs in the back of our bakkie.

 

A hundred kilometres on, a rolled bus tumbling across the Limpopo causeway towards us looks as if its top has been hacked off with a saw. Time to flee again lest we come under suspicion. Oddly, we drive into a Xai-Xai carnival with an anti-speeding theme.

Through a hazy road-peak, a brown figure. “O Kak,” mumbles Tom the Pom, slipping into unaccustomed Afrikaans. No, a traffic cop.

We both know we’ve been going a smidgeon too fast, a fact reflected in the broad smug smile greeting us below the raised open hand.

He scans the car. Too fast, 2000 Mets. Maybe 1000, for cash. Unaccustomed Tom the Pom stares at his toes, fearful of being forced to expose his cutting gear stash to alien authoritarian eyes. A speeding fine in a foreign land is shame enough without being found to be in possession of lethal tools.

“Receipt please. We do not pay bribes,” say I, primly, from the passenger’s seat.

Not to be defeated in the quest for free cash, the self-proclaimed oke-in-charge then waddles up to Tom’s window. Reading each other’s thoughts and abandoning the available violent approach of chain-silencing the man, we refuse him too. And get our receipt.

A few days later, homeward-bound and lost in search of an escape route from an overgrown Transfrontier park, our path is blocked by elephant-damaged trees and the bonnet-clogging nets of myriad golden orb spiders’ webs. It is a situation screaming out for suitable tree-decimation paraphernalia, but we have sadly left the chainsaw with our coastal host, at his behest, leaving us to explain to Customs at the border, why, precisely when we had needed one and having declared one on entry into Mozambique, we no longer have a chainsaw in the car.

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