Just at the moment that Harry and Urik were bonding for the first time over Vegemite sandwiches at “Everyone’s” (post-Bikram), Shelly was bonding with everyone post-biking over Mozambiquean beans. The Polana Hotel in Maputo – the jewel as it were of Portuguese tourism in the 1920’s was recently refurbished by a wealthy Croatian who had made his money brewing beer. It was one of those African icons that Christina relished as a holiday destination close to home (an hour from Jo-burg by South African Air) even more so now that it had been further improved. The food was excellent in any one of the three restaurants, the rooms were spacious, and from the large and circular pool that was positioned so elegantly at the base of the marble amphitheatre circumnavigating the patio, you had a clear view of the turquoise sea.
Unfortunately for Shelly, staying there worsened her sense of agitation such that she stopped making “sensible” choices. Having lost her camera, she took a risk and left the hotel to find another, riding in the rear of a rusted motorcycle taxi (recommended by the Maputan concierge) from which diesel fumes and cement dust from battered roads and pot holes made a mess of her hair. It broke down of course (the bike I mean) beside a parish “cathedral” – made of tin – where a mob of now African parishioners (they used to consider themselves Portuguese), emerging as the mass came to an end, gathered around to inspect it and gossip about the priest. Hot and now frazzled by the unwanted attention, and the realisation that she had managed to do exactly what Christina had advised her against (that being leave the hotel alone) Shelly was astonished to find herself taking the hand of one of the young sisters, and walking with her into an immaculate linoleum kitchen at the rear of the church, the intention being to share a meal (and just quietly one or two local beers as well – known in Maputo as “Laurentina” and interestingly also produced by the Croatian who refurbished the hotel) while the men attended to the bike….