24/20

IMG_2576

This is the ‘nickname’ of the actions of the Mozambican Government towards the Portuguese remaining in the country after independence in 1975. The reason behind the name being incredibly sad and really quite shocking.

Back in 1975 when Mozambique gained independence and waved goodbye to years of colonial rule it was decided that with the end of Portuguese rule should be the end of Portuguese life in Mozambique. Any remaining Portuguese in Mozambique found soldiers on their doorstep threatening them with 24/20; they had 24 hours to leave Mozambique and could take just 20kgs of belongings with them.

Think about the last time you had a good clear out or you moved house. Us humans like to collect. Or think about the last time you packed a suitcase before a long haul flight. Many of these families had considered Mozambique as home for 2 or 3 generations. 20 kgs is NOT alot.

One hotel owner, whose life and savings were invested in his business, in a moment of desperation poured concrete into the water pipes of his hotel. A despondent attempt at ‘well if I can’t have this place then neither can you’. It was a desperate, desperate time.

Recently a friend of mine took on a huge expanse of forested mountain from the government. An investment tied in with an environmental interest in preservation of the ever decreasing forests in Mozambique. With farming the main occupation for the majority of Mozambicans, good fertile land is in high demand.

Mozambique is not actually a very densely populated country but once a family is farming an area it is preferred to expand and expand in that area rather than up-sticks and move to a completely new area. This means though as the lower areas are over cultivated families slowly inch up and up hillsides in the search for untouched fertile soil. I guess like the slash and burn of the rainforest.

Part of his project will be to protect the forests being inched into. An added bonus of my friend’s project is that on top of his newly acquired mountain (as you do!) is one of the many abandoned 24/20 Portuguese houses. I say house but actually I should say mansion.

On first arrival at the foot of the mountain the road up to the mansion was utterly overgrown. Living on the road with his team of locals with axes and machetes they steadily hacked away at the trees growing up through and laying across the road. Camping on the road at night and starting all over again the following day.

It took them 2 weeks to reach the top!

Although there was talk of this mansion, there was no sign of it when they arrived. A local pointed to a clump of trees and they started hacking again. Completely enveloped in the forest itself the house slowly slowly came into view. What they found was unbelievable…

IMG_2570

After nearly 35 years not only was the house still standing (sans roof!) but the impressive sweeping staircase and grand open fireplaces were still intact. The house had been pilfered within an inch of its life but wandering around the shell of this magnificent building, you could easily tell which rooms had been bedrooms and bathrooms and imagine life as it had been in colonial times.

Being a total romantic for such things I fell in love with the place.

This weekend we headed up there to camp out in this tumble down relic. It’s 2000mhigh so cold at night so we lit a roaring fire in the old fireplace, had a guitar singsong and drank whisky…it was like a boozy girl-guide camp!

IMG_2564The next day the guard offered to show us to a waterfall. Sometimes these things sound better than they are but we thought while we are here (and being oh-so-British) we politely accepted. We were gobsmacked when we arrived, the waterfall cascaded right off the mountain summit into the forest below – it was a view to die for.

It felt a privilege to be somewhere most people in the entire world don’t even know exists never mind will ever visit. The whole weekend was the experience you only get living somewhere rather than visiting as a tourist – exactly the experience I yearned for the many times in the past where I was spending a month here or a month there working overseas.

What a lucky girl I am!

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Neal said,

    May 25, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    I wonder who it was who built this mansion? Any information about the history of this mansion would be greatly appreciated.

    I recently, on Google Earth, found this mansion, along with a couple of pictures of it in it’s glory years.

    Beautiful, beyond words, to explain.

    When was it built?

    Again, any information would be greatly appriciated.

    • misshelen said,

      May 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Yes it really is a stunning relic of the old Colonial days in Mozambique. I’m not sure when it was built but it was apparently built by the family who lived there – now long gone from Mozambique. Before the mansion could be built, they first had to construct the road up to the top of the mountain! Spending the night there, it was so easy to imagine it in its glory days.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s