Soon after earning my Private Pilot’s License, I was sitting in the left seat of a Piper Cherokee single-engine airplane flying at 5,000 feet over the Mozambique jungle on a course for Lourenco Marques. I had no idea that soon thereafter the beautiful landscape beneath me would be transformed into a bloody battlefield of a civil war, resulting in the mass exodus of about a quarter of a million skilled Portuguese citizens and the destruction of an Indian Ocean paradise.
On that sunny afternoon, however, I was accompanied by a British friend who was visiting me. We rented a plane in Johannesburg, and with my fresh piloting skills, we set out to fly to the coastal resort now known as Maputo.
I tell you this partially in the spirit of self-indulgent nostalgia, but mainly to describe what happened when John, comfortably ensconced in the right seat, excitedly spotted a large herd of elephants below. I immediately threw the P-32 into a bank and began carving a large circle through the clear African skies so we could keep the mesmerizing sight in view. I must have done two or three complete circles as we gazed in wonder at that herd of one of God’s most astounding creatures.