In Mozambique, there are numerous police checkpoints along the roads and the underpaid policemen have perfected the art of fleecing South African tourists for a bribe. Nevertheless, I have successfully avoided ninety nine percent of road blockades. If there are no weapons in sight, there is no reason to stop. But a few policemen did actually bother standing in the middle of the road blinding me with spotlights, so I didn’t risk running them over.

The cops didn’t even bother disguising their attempts to pick on something to fine me for. They stopped the car as if for an inspection, but didn’t even bother looking for drugs or weapons. Seeing I didn’t have my seatbelt on, one policeman literally skipped with joy (no joke) and pointed to me with unhidden delight in his eyes: “Aha! I fine you!” After driving all day and most of the night, I was in the mood for entertainment, so instead of performing a drama, I chose physical comedy. Leaving my travel mates in the car, I made the officer understand that I spoke neither Portuguese nor English, only Russian and blabbed about everything that came to mind, trying not to burst out laughing watching the policeman’s confused face.

I took him on a tour of the car, showing him the wheels and telling him how I had a flat in Zambia, accompanying the rhetoric with comic sounds, but the man had patience. Whenever he got a chance to slide in a word or two, which was difficult, he kept explaining my wrongdoing and demanding 4000 rand (about $400) to let me go. I made sure he understood that I understood nothing. Finally, I managed to break his stern exterior with a flamboyant pantomime demonstrating the absence of firearms among the camping equipment in the trunk, which looked like a war zone. The words “no boom-boom” have brought all men, both inside the car and out, to tears, but only the cop was jumping with frustration. It was hopeless. He had to let me go.