1 Dec 2011
Man, man, man..
Much as I love living a free, unfettered life in the wilds where the beauty and sometimes brutal honesty of nature is ever-inspiring, there come those moments when I feel I should rather have been lolling in a pool back in the beautiful Valley of Eternal Wine, with a tinkling glass in my hand, fair company on the other arm, and good blues wafting off the stoep.
I started packing early this morning to go to the bank in Massingir and attend to a few other bits of business. In these parts you don’t just grab your cellphone, keys and wallet, you pack, because a day trip can easily turn into long weekend camping by the roadside.
I was stocking the coolbox with enough liquids and sustenance when, as I opened the kitchen cupboard, I felt a soft spray of something fluid in my eye. It took a moment for the cogs to click, then I realised it could only mean one thing.
So I ran for water.
The Mozambique spitting cobra, also known as the mfezi, is a deadly snake quite common to this area. It has a reputation as a ready spitter, invariably aiming its venom at the victim’s eyes.
After only a minute of splashing water in my eye, my suspicion was confirmed. The fury of a thousand bees unleashed itself on my left cornea and its surrounds.
While I was stomping about, clutching at the hellfire in my head and cussin’ the scales off every serpent as far as Chicualacuala 120km to the north, Man Friday used his long range vision to spot the coils of the culprit behind a stack of dinner plates.
His alarm call brought all hands on deck with every weapon they could raise. My kitchen, the heart of every home, turned into a war zone with battle lines drawn. After a lot of poking and nervous jumping, a spitting mad mfezi finally popped out of its lair and rose to the challenge.
All hell broke loose. I have been enforcing a policy of not harming snakes but in my blinded state there was no controlling the guys in theirs. Somehow I only just managed to stop them smashing the crockery too.
This little outburst of domestic violence caused some delay, so I only managed to get on the road at 8.30, which is almost afternoon already here where the sun rises early.
It was a trip from hell.
The bush track, which has probably never seen a spade or a machine since it was first blazed, is a skull-numbing drive at the best of times. It requires full attention to read the right line over the countless holes, rocks, washaways, roots, stumps, and the greedy black mudholes that can be hard ruts on the surface, but mushy underneath. Several rivers that have to be crossed don’t make thing any easier. Quite simply it’s a mf of a road. The kind that leaves you drained, with a stiff neck and sore hands afterwards.
Shadrick, who was going on leave, sat quietly while I swore my way through all this. The fire was still raging in my eye and it was extremely light sensitive. This made it really difficult to read the road because my depth perception was impaired by having to drive with one eye. Besides, through some quirk of the nervous system, my one good eye kept trying to shut itself in sympathy with the other.
But there’s an end to all things. When, 120km and more than four hours later, I pulled up to have my papers renewed by the bored gentlemen at Giriyondo border post, the fire was gone and I was left with only a sore, slightly lame eyeball, but otherwise good vision.
I got an exit and entry stamp in my passport at the same time, then doubled back on the two hour drive to Massingir along a better, but still nasty strip of sand, gravel and stones.
In sweltering Massingir the modern, air-conditioned realm of BCI bank (the only such place in town) and the friendly service of Mz Albetura da Conta was a welcome respite. Afterwards – obviously – I headed for an ice-cold, frothy 2M, which soon restored me to full normal dementia again after a perfectly shittatious day.
So what the hell – Viva Afrika!