By John Roff
Mozambique is full of surprises, beauty and absolute chaos. And I have only been here for eighteen hours. After spending several of those hours navigating the wonders of Maputo's road network, and experiencing the minor miracle of emerging from that city sane and punctureless, a small group of us are heading off for a week into some wild bush for a good holiday.
Of primary concern to me is the quality of the coffee in the large metal trunk in the back of the vehicle, and whether or not it is overheating in Mozambique's subtropical temperatures. Closely related to this is concern for the integrity of the glass plunger, our only hope of making said coffee into something worth drinking. The very thought of those blue enamel camping coffee pots that boil the coffee into charred hopelessness is enough to make one's teeth start furring over.
All thoughts of coffee are suddenly overturned as we screech to a stop beside three large Cane Rats hanging from a tree on the side of the national road. This is not an unusual sight really - these large grass-eating rodents are not true rats, and have a significant reputation for being good to eat. None of us have tried one before.
After some judicious prodding, we buy what we consider to be the best one, wrap it in a pillowcase, then lob it into a coolbox with the boerewors, apples and a very sad lettuce. Why do people take lettuce on a camping trip? I don't know either.
We bounce over some of Mozambique’s more appalling roads, at one stage driving next to the road to avoid potholes. In fact I’m sure I saw an entire coffee plantation inside one of those potholes…
After negotiating the nervous mystery that embodies all border posts, and managing to enter Swaziland twice and leave it only once, we head for camp. I am now thinking about coffee again – it is getting late, how long will it take to get water to the requisite 90 degrees, my fingers are missing the interlocking comfort of entwining with each other around a steaming mug. The road goes on.
In the last hour of sunlight, we arrive at a camp site, then head surreptitiously into the bush to cut up the Cane Rat. The deed is done, the fire is prepared, and joys of joys, my friends get a gas stove going and heat the water. An undamaged plunger appears, and out from the metal trunk emerges a silver bag of happiness.
Everything is lining up - I love coffees from different countries, here is a fresh, unopened bag of Café Sol from Mozambique, I have never tried this make before… then, aaargh! - a culinary death sentence - the word decafinado on the packet.
I have always spurned decaf (arrogant twit), but the current euphoria of getting through several border posts without being arrested, and having a Cane Rat steak turning slowly on the fire rescues me from potential despondency.
Later, with a cup of Sol decafinado between my thirsty fingers, I eat humble pie (with a side of Cane Rat) and enjoy a nutty , mild acidity, earthy, rich cup of contentment as the sun goes down into a gold evening, amidst the shrill call of nightjars and the background of that immense bushveld silence.
And theoretically, I am still in Swaziland.