Wednesday, January 03, 2007

CHAPTER 1
AFRICA


...It was also about this time that I was invited to my first ‘Sardinhada’. This is a BBQ at which the principle item on the menu is fat, juicy, fresh sardines.

The house where the event was to take place was down Jules Street - a street more well known for its second-hand cars and even more second-hand car dealers, but also where many Portuguese lived.

I clearly recall driving cautiously down the road looking for the house number - all the while following a delicious air-borne aroma of BBQ’d sardines.

There are two ways to eat sardines at a sardinhada.

You can be civilised and sit down at a table where a serving dish groaning under the weight of dozens of the hot, tasty fishes will be plonked down to be shared between four people - where you will help yourself to three sardines at a time to add to your plate-full of boiled potatoes, salad and grilled peppers.

Or, you can eat it the way I have seen on the 13th June at the Festa de Santa António in Lisbon.

Place the cooked sardine on half a bun, then pick off the skin with your fingers (if you don’t relish it), eat half the sardine, then remove the head, spine and tail (again, if you don't relish it), then eat the other half with the juices that have seeped down onto the bun.

Yummy.

If you wish to wash your fingers and remove the smell of the fish, it is best accomplished with red wine. (What a waste of wine.)


Whilst living in Johannesburg I made another trip to Lourenço Marques.

At the time I owned a rather beaten-up blue Triumph Spitfire, but it got me to L.M. and back without missing a beat.

I became stuck in a drift of sand whilst trying to drive down a beach road and had to go looking for help - which came in the form of a local farmer and his tractor.

The locals were very friendly and helpful, pushing and pulling the Spitfire whilst the tractor gently eased the car out of the sand.

My journey took me into L.M., then up the coast road to Xaixai, then to Inhambane and Maxixe.

In L.M. I stayed at the Tivoli Hotel, which had an intricately carved, wooden reception area - a cross between Hobbit-land and Swedish modernism, whilst one floor up all beauty vanished with bedrooms as stark, bare and minimalist as they were refreshing.

At Xai-Xai I was awed by the coastal scenery, with lagoon, after crystal-clear lagoon, inviting me to dip into the tepid waters.

Which I did.

The hotel at Xai-Xai was small and unpretentious and owned the fishing rights for a huge stretch of coast, as well as a well-stocked farm. The dining table always groaned with fish, prawn, crayfish, meat dishes, fruit and vegetables.

The beach rarely had more than three people on it. (The beach stretched as far as the eye could see, in either direction.)

Driving on I reached Inhambane and decided to take lunch ‘al fresco’ at the hotel restaurant. First course was lamb soup, although I think it tasted more like goat. I found a piece of jawbone, with a manky, green tooth still embedded, at the bottom of the bowl.

From that moment and for the next three days I formed a very intimate relationship with the bathroom and eventually had to abandon the holiday and head for home.

But Inhambane and its sister village across the river, Maxixe was charming. I took the journey from one side to the other on a dhow, piloted by locals whose job seemed to be that of ferrying water in huge earthenware pots.

I was told that Maxixe didn’t have enough fresh water and Inhambane was its supply.

The river was as calm as a lake and I took some photographs from the dhow with my camera skimming inches above the placid waters.

The dhows must have been very old and true to the nature of the craft seemed as though they had been grown, rather than crafted. The sails of this particular craft must have been patched a hundred times and it was quite amazing that the vessel got anywhere with the weight of all that extra, patched canvass.

2 Comments:

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12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re. SPEED/ALCOHOL/ENFORCEMENT Reminds me of a funny story I heard here. Some years ago (maybe 2003? I don't remember exactly) the government decided to reduce the legal limit that you could drive with, in order to come more in line with the rest of Europe. All the bus, truck, taxi drivers etc. went on strike. How were they going to manage lunch without the carafe of red wine and whisky /aguadente digestives, and still stay legal? Vive la difference! Or maybe Viva a differencia I say. A

2:01 AM  

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