GOING on Honeymoon
My first father-in-law was a generous man, and he showed his appreciation for me taking
his daughter away and out of his home in a very tangible manner: he fully paid for a ten
day honeymoon in Mauritius, luxury hotel, car rental, pocket money and flights included.
It was 1976, when South Africans of a lighter skin tone were considered non-gratia on
This marriage thing didn't start off well, firstly I had to replace my best friend with my
strongest to keep me upright in front of the pulpit, and stem my argumentative nature
when canned, while speaking to the priest.
At the after-the-fact party we all got tanked up even more! Somehow my new mother-in-law got her daughter and me into the hotel near the airport, from where we would catch a taxi to the terminal the next morning for our flight to Mauritius. After battling to remove
the tight wedding dress over my now wife's compressed bulges, we decided to delay the
traditional first night experimentations till we have reached Mauritius, and both passed
Getting to the airport, through customs and checked in wasn't too much of trouble,
maybe we just didn't notice as both our minds were hanging over a bit.
At that stage of my life I have had no experience of aircraft and flying, but despite this
virginity on flight I became apprehensive once we started walking across the tarmac to
our aircraft. Firstly, we were suppose to be flying 'Air Mauritius', but the faded and
peeling lettering on the plane unclearly read 'Air Madagascar'. An airhostess later
explained in Creolic English that it was a former 'Air Madagascar' craft, then on lease to
'Air Mauritius'. I was also convinced that I had noticed huge puddles of oil under the
engines, from leaks I presumed, and that the patches on the tyres would have made any traffic cop look forward to a huge Xmas bonus.
We were pointed to our seats, roped in and waited for departure.
With balls of white smoke, seven coughs and a grunt the tired motors started pushing us
down the runway. I am sure that if I was fit enough to run the same distance I would also
have taken off at the end of the runway. We scraped the trees on the perimeter of the
airport, just missed a couple of office blocks and were on our way.
The aircraft hopped, skipped and jumped from cloud to cloud, and I needed a drink. On
ordering from the hostess I was firmly told that no alcohol will be served on that flight,
but we could have coffee if we wished.
So we duly ordered two cups, and mine I received with ease. But as my new wife was
about to take her cup, the plane jumped from a high cloud to a lower one, and the hot
coffee was spilled over her chest. Except for her discomfort and pain, the resultant burns
put off my exploration of that part of her body for at least a week.
Then an announcement in an unknown version of English, but I did decipher the words
refuel and Maputo. Shocking, why would a plane of this size need to refuel so soon after
take off, and then tackle the long journey across the Indian Ocean to Mauritius?
Not to worry, I knew Maputo from the days it was Lorenzo Marques, not a bad place for
a stop over.
I was in for a surprise, as we approached the Maputo airport the announcement came: "All passengers with non-South African Passports may alight for the refueling, all South African passport holders are to remain on the aircraft".
As we hit the runway in balls of smoke from the tyres I noticed through the porthole that
the plane was being escorted on the ground by a large number of military vehicles, jeeps
and armored cars, with machine guns and cannons pointed at the aircraft. Once the
aircraft had come to a halt, it was surrounded by the military who was obviously ready
for any eventuality. This made us very very apprehensive: Did we land in the middle of
another African coup-de-tat? Apparently not, it was normal procedure when any South
Africans were aboard an aircraft, we were told. Did the Mozambicans really think that a
dozen or so hangovered honeymooners and a few middle aged 'lets-find-our-youth- againers' would attempt to invade their country? Be that as it may.
When an aircraft is refueling no engines are allowed to run, so, no lights, no airconditioning! There we sat on knobby seats for four hours, two dozen or so South
Africans in a dark and hot aircraft while the ground crew was siphoning fuel from
200 litre drums into the aircrafts tanks. Nor could we get anything to drink, the
airhostesses did not have South African passports, and thus could spend their time
sightseeing the ruins of Maputo.
The toilets were also out of bounds, the Mozambicans did not want anything originating
in South Africa lying on the runways of their airports.
Eventually our fellow passengers and some of the crew returned to the craft, and we wing flapped back into the air, heading more or less east. After a few hours another
announcement, we will be landing at Tenerife Madagascar for refueling. All South
Africans then had tears in their eyes when again told to remain behind while all others
would be allowed to step off the aircraft.
It wasn't that bad, once our fellow passengers were aground, we were allowed to follow.
Only thing was that we had to report to two tables which had been set up by officials at
the bottom of the gangway. Strange, all government officials across the world, regardless the country, look, sound and smell the same.
At the tables we had to hand over our passports, and five dollar American each. There
were two exceptions, young Indian honeymooners from Durban who were allowed to
pass without having to pay five dollar American.
In return for our five dollar American we each received an official Madagascar dog
license, to be pinned on our shirts for the duration of hour visit. After purchasing our
licenses, we were allowed to enter the in-transit lounge where we were not subjected to
any further degrading.
Refueling did not take to long, and after two or three whiskeys we were back flapping our
way towards our honeymoon, without any further incident.
The honeymoon itself? That is another story altogether.