Holiday then home alone (with stolen photos)

self-portrait

 

 

 

After the last couple of months sharing with a couple of colleagues, I now have my apartment all to myself!!

 

Although it’s awesome having the place to myself, it’s suddenly gone oh so very quiet…you become pretty good pals living and working together so I knew I would miss my buddy, Itty, when it was time for him to head home.

 

 

 the-3-amigos1

 

We decided it was only right to send him off in style so – as he is as mad on scuba diving as I – we headed down the coast towards South Africa for a weekend of diving and braai (South African for barbecuing – a bit of the local lingo for you!!)

 

 

chauffeur-h

 

The adventure starts leaving Maputo as you have to catch the ferry boat across the bay…an experience in itself… let’s just say it’s not exactly the cross channel hovercraft!! How some of the boats stay afloat is beyond me!!

 

 how-they-stay-afloat

 

 

Even manoeuvring onto the boat is a mission – the first time I tried this I drove into the side of the boat – much to the amusement of the passengers (especially as I happened to have my Programme Manager in the car with me!! Oops!!)

 

 

 

leaving-maputo

 

 

 

Safely on dry land we set off for the beautiful beach of Ponta D’Ouro. It’s only about 3km from the border so an absolute honey pot for South Africans, who just lurve their camping. In fact you can walk to the border along the beach!

 

 

beautiful-beaches

early-morning-on-the-beach

 

 

We arrived and pitched up at the South African owned place we were staying…a dive shop with accommodation basically! Yes, diving was on the following day. Yes, plenty of accommodation. Yes, you can do your own braai…oh and if you have beers and food you can use the fridges in the kitchen, oh and there’s tea and coffee there so help yourselves!!

 

ready-made-braai-hangout

 

The Mozambican’s call the South African’s “the banana and bread people” – they come camping from South Africa absolutely and utterly self contained so all they buy from the Mozambican’s is bananas and bread!

 

They obviously know their own kind pretty well so this place was totally set up for a great night of barbecuing, beers and banter (and we didn’t even have to buy any bananas or bread!!)

 

marshmallow-toasting

 

 

Sadly, diving the next day was an utter disappointment…not much to see, not a great dive outfit…and very chilly water!

 

Still, a great weekend was had by all and before we knew it Maputo was looming on the horizon and Monday morning beckoned

 

 nearly-home

 

p.s I’ve temporarily ‘donated’ my camera to one of my survey boys as we were a bit equipment short! So all these photo are courtesy of Itty who has a very posh camera..hence better photos than I normally snap!

 

1 become 72

Even though we are on the hunt for mines buried during the war, sadly there are many other remnants and reminders of the terrible war which raged here.

 

We are often approached by police or village leaders who have been told about a stash of ammunition which was simply abandoned once the fighting stopped or a piece of ordnance found by someone in the community which no-one is sure what to do with.

 

speaking with local informants

So we are all equipped and qualified to destroy these items as we go round surveying. Scarily they can be found in the most ‘inconvenient’ of places and more often than not they are not safe to move so we have to destroy them where they are.

 

Recently we were called to destroy a mortar bomb found next to the back wall of a hospital. This meant evacuating the entire hospital – no mean feat – although there is a certain sense of satisfaction blowing the dammed thing to smithereens!

 

Last week we were approached by a policeman who said a mortar bomb had been spotted sticking out of the ground just to the side of a path winding through the bush. We turned up expecting to go through our normal procedure of destroying it – this involves digging a little around the area so we can put the explosives next to it – as we excavated a little there was an unmistakable sound of metal on metal…

 

To cut a long story short we were still there 5 hours later!

 

counting-everything-up-for-reporting

 

As we unearthed more and more ordnance we thought we would never reach the bottom of the pit. What had happened was during the war, soldiers had buried a huge stash of bombs, ammunition and guns with the intention of coming back for them. The war ended and of course they were completely forgotten about!

 

I don’t think the policeman could quite believe his eyes by the time we had finished!

 

unbelievable

 

 Helpfully for us, they had also buried an anti tank mine. These make great ‘donor charges’ (the explosive you use to start the main explosion). We spent an entire day digging out the stash, what we thought was 1 mortar ended up being about 70! As well as hand grenades, guns and boxes of ammunition!

 

george-on-100s-of-bullets

 

Destroying that stash was what one might consider a ‘good day at the office’!

 

An unusual passenger…

Because my original job – to set up a new location further up North – has not materialised….yet (we are playing the age old charity game of waiting for money from funders)…I have been moved on to survey.

 

Basically mapping any minefields which have not yet been identified and surveyed.

 

Quite often I get asked – “but are there still landmines in Mozambique?” The short answer is YES! And sadly, plenty of them.

 

 

posing-with-our-stash2

 

 

A huge survey has already been done so we know the extent of the problem but occasionally when we open up a new minefield task in a community, they see our deminers and hear us destroying the mines we have found.

 

We get approached by the village leader who tells us about a family who found a hand grenade in their back yard after the fighting stopped or an area of land which locals still fear.

 

 

Madomal quizzing local informants

 

Our job is to follow up these leads and map the minefield so we can go back once we have extra manpower and clear the area of mines.

 

So a couple of weeks ago, we set off on our first job…eventually!

 

There was much…we leave in 5 mins, one car won’t start so move all the kit to another, fill up with fuel, sign for kitty money, authorise kitty money, get kitty money from finance officer, where’s the driver gone, who has the car keys etc etc…

 

 

There was even new survey-hat buying to be done (and my word…what a hat!)

 

 

georges-new-survey-hat

 

But we eventually hit the road.

 

These are my survey ‘dons’…

 

Mr Boss – the most persistent and leader of the pack, last seen speaking with 3 local village chiefs in his bare feet (he forgot his boots and it was too muddy for shoes!)

 

too muddy for shoes

 

Mr Comedian – never without a smile on his face but excellent at gleaning information from reluctant officials with good humour

 

Mr Strong & Silent – the quietest of the bunch but for sure tough as anything and an experienced survey officer

 

Each of them choose a paramedic trained deminer and a driver to make up their 3 man teams.

 

the-3-amigos

 

Our job consists of explaining ourselves to local Government officials then finding and speaking – at length! – with local informants, this might be the village chief, an ex-combatant or an old boy who has lived in the area for pretty much ever!

 

And boy, do you meet some characters!

 

I take my landrover too so I can move between the teams while they work. At one point I had an old old village chief straight out the fields still with hoe in hand sitting in the front of my car in his bare feet with 2 of my survey boys in the back quizzing him – one translating from local language to Portuguese while the other translated from Portuguese to English!

 

Goodness knows how much we lost in translation!!

 

Bob Dylan at church

This is just a quicky but quite amusing…I decided to venture to the Catholic church closest to my house on Sunday. It’s always quite an interesting experience going to church in countries where religion plays such a huge part of life.

It was a fairly musical affair (even by reserved Catholic standards), lots of african drums and clapping of hands but the best part was one of the ‘hymns’…after a few bars I recognised the tune…a rather unique cover of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind!! I kid you not!! Not your usual church hymn shall we say!!

I quietly sang along – the original English version of course smiling to myself!!