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Nicola and I were waiting in front of a friend's bungalow when we had
the idea to climb the massive dune at the point of Ponta, a brilliant
plan considering the massive sign prohibiting such expeditions.
We got to the top, explored a bit and I shot some video (my still
camera at this point had completely crapped out). On our way down we
ran into a uniformed man with an ancient six-shooter at his hip. He
said we weren't allowed to be there because of erosion, I asked him
why he'd climbed half way up himself to tell us that. He just looked
at me, and then replied that we should follow him to the police
station. We were in 'very big trouble,' he said.
We were marched, wearing just our baggies, through the camp ground and
to the police station. It was an airy two-storey building with some
guys lounging on the porch smoking cigarettes and a few more in the
back playing cards. When we entered a man behind a large wooden desk
shouted something and everyone stiffened up a bit, it was official
We were sat down on a long wooden bench in front of the man's desk
while the arresting officer and he talked a bit. I heard the word
'fumar' and interrupted. "Um, sorry, fumar? We weren't smoking up
there." The big man behind the desk smiled and opened his hands, "oh,
you understand Portuguese? So you know how much trouble you're in?"
"um, no, but I do know that word, and we weren't smoking." I knew
where this was going. People go to jail for a good while for marijuana
in Mozambique and the charge is great leverage for extortion.
(Actually a couple months later when I randomly ran into Tom again in
Durban he was with a French guy who had been living in Ponta. The
French guy said he'd seen us being escorted to the police station and
later told us how his boss there had been imprisoned for two months
for giving someone a joint.)
After the officer who had brought us left the real fun began. The big
man at the desk told us again that we were in 'big trouble' but that
he could help us if we would just tell him what happened. I said we'd
climbed the dune, we knew it was wrong but we did it anyway, and
whatever fine or penalty came with that we'd gladly pay for it. He
shook his head, said that we were in 'very big trouble' again, and
that he wanted to help us but we had to help him to help us.
We played this game a few more times, Nicola and I taking turns
explaining that we certainly did break the law Ã¯Â¿Â½ by climbing the dune.
I dumped out the contents of my bag, held it up for him to smell it.
There was no smoking going on. But each time we got to the smoking
part he would just shake his head like he was giving up.
"I guess you boys don't need my help," he said, "without my help you
will go to jail for a long time. So what can we do?"
We shrugged. We had no money and plenty of time.
The big man sat us down outside and told us to wait while he called
for the officer who had brought us. We waited, the big man coming to
check on us every once and a while. After about an hour we noticed it
had gotten very quite at the police station. No one, including the big
man was around. I said to Nicola that we could really just walk out of
here if we wanted to. He said, "no, no. They want that. Then they come
get us later and we really go to jail. Ha ha."
"You sneaky Italian bastard you're right!" I said, and sure enough
about fifteen minutes later I saw the big man's head peaking at us
from behind the station. When I noticed him he jerked as if to hide
before resuming his official air and walking up to us. He told us that
it would take too long for the other officer to get there and that we
should figure something out. "So what can we do?" he said.
We sat in silence for a while before he asked us where we were
staying. We said we were staying at 'Mama's' house, the cook in the
He started to laugh and asked why we hadn't told him that sooner. He
shook our hands and told us to leave and to say hi to Lucia for him.
27th Jun 2008, 21:57