Last year in Pomene, Mozambique, I spotted a fish between the roots of the mangrove trees I was paddling my surfboard through. It looked big enough to eat, by which I mean it looked large enough to hit with a spear – thrown or shot, buy someone with minimal experience – me. I planned to go back for that fish and its friends the next day with a stick I’d sharpened on one end, but bad weather rolled in and because we were camped on the beach, we moved south the next day. The image of that fish has plagued me ever since, something about it instilled in me a primal need to stab it and then cook it over an open fire. So about three seconds after confirming my next trip to Mozam, I logged onto Gumtree in search of others who once too felt these urges, but now, due to family commitments and ongoing costly renovations to their houses, would be offloading their spearguns, diving equipment, and dreams, at a reasonable price.
I found a dude dealing in spearguns pretty quickly. He was one of only two arms dealers in a sea of recreational sports equipment pawn men, but I knew he was my guy straight away. He looked like a pro. When it comes to Gumtree ads, I’m quite fussy. I’ll often skip over an item just because the ad doesn’t look good, there aren’t enough pics, or too little info. This dude nailed it. Multiple pics – one group and then several individual shots, and a full breakdown with costs in the description. I trusted this guy.
And, also, he had enough weaponry to stage a successful attack on Lesotho. Four small guns, two large, some shark pods, life vests, and a couple of diving knifes for sale. I emailed him expressing interest in a long and short gun – the long because obviously it’s the biggest, and the short because I’d seen a Mozambican fisherman use one for crayfish, and we arranged to meet in the parking lot outside the News Cafe in Bedfordview.
After two last-minute cancelations, we finally agreed on yesterday. I arrived fifteen minutes early and left the engine running. I’d heard somewhere that one should never arrive late to a gun fight, and I assumed this at least partially applied to a gun deal, also, I was sweaty and needed the aircon.
My contact arrived three minutes late, so basically on time. We shook hands and he asked if I’d like to follow him to the back because he didn’t like dealing in spearguns in public. I’d never traded openly in spears, so I thought it best to follow him. We walked through the restaurant and into secure parking lot at the back. His panel van, wrapped in some racing team vinyl, was the only car in the yard.
He opened it up and handed me a bag with the small gun first. I pretended I knew what I was looking at, and didn’t ask him what the one thing in the bag did. I acted indifferent and took a look at the long gun, again, pretending to know what faults I was looking for – I didn’t because I’ve even touch a spear gun before. He told me about some other off-line product he was looking to move. I told him I was interested in three masks.
After I checked out the stuff he told me to fetch my car and bring it round the back to the yard. On my way around I did a quick online price check of spearguns. I realising for the first time that I hadn’t checked any prices and had no idea if what this guy was asking was fair. His prices seemed fine, according to my comprehensive forty fife second search, but I knew that he was selling the stuff for his dad, and I’d moved items for my mom, so I knew the deal.
I pulled into the yard, and asked for R200 off, he accepted a little too quickly, and five minutes later I was driving down the road, the proud new owner of a second hand speargun, wondering if I should have tried to knock R400 off, but overcome with the thought of shooting and eating that goddamn fish.
From where I sit I can see the speargun leaning up against a wall, a sign that I have now truly joined the ranks of the Joburgers, because if you want to live in Joburg you had better own some form of recreational gear that can only be used once a year in a body of water hundreds of kilometers from where you live , or on the weekend at the Vaal.
Read about my other Gumtree experiences here.