Special report from Sir John Manktank, travel agent by royal appointment to HRH Prince Richard.
Walking through Fingoe, Mozambique one would think they had entered a perpetual winter wonderland. Close the Zambian border one can spot penguins, polar bear and reindeer. It’s the least likely place one could conceive of such delights and yet here before my eyes was a fantasy land like no other.
Fingoe is most notable for being the first place snow falls during the African winter season. While the majority of Africa will not enjoy snow until May, Fingoe gets its snow by mid-April.
The locals make a big fuss of this and over the years, mostly due to the influence of educated European businessmen, they have created a relay to rival the Greek olympic torch, except this one is with snow and much longer.
One needs to understand that in Fingoe there are no luxuries such as motor cars, buses and trains. The only mode of transport available to Fingoe and most of Mozambique is the human foot.
UNSATR, the United Nations Special Agency for Transport and Refugees, delivered five brand-new cars, Toyoda pickups, to Mozambique in a humanitarian gesture after a very successful crowdfunding campaign raised $10,000,000. Sadly most of the money was spent on administration but those cars were very well received and the Government of Mozambique uses the cars for all its officials.
The relay starts with Mbutu Sgui, mayor of Fingoe, who scoops up snow that has fallen on his hut roof and carefully puts it in a box made of reeds. Immediately, the snow will start to melt even in winter because African hands are warmer than colonial cold Western ones.
The running boy take the box and sprints the first 160 miles to relay position two and running boy two takes over. To make the boys reach their maximum potential as runners, a pack of dogs is starved for a week and the boys are bathed in raw meat juices. The ensuing chase is a wonder to behold.
We lunched from a hamper of food provided by the locals, which was ordered from Mortnum and Fason, in London, a kind gesture although the champagne was a little warm, even in the freezing mountains. From our viewpoint, we watched as the running boys became tiny dots on the landscape as they raced to their final destination, the presidential palace in the country’s capital Maputo.
We really have no idea if the boys reached Maputo and to be honest we didn’t bother to find out. Instead we chose to focus on a jolly good day out in Africa.