How interesting is it that deep within all of us, there is a yearning for seeking the wilds; the wild outdoors where we sense connection with creation.
For those who are raised in the cities, the fast moving people, even faster moving traffic, sounds of the human, of machinery, it is a life that only knows one definition, ‘noisy rush’. It starts early in the day and continues with slow diminishing until the late night, where nearly all will come to a place of stillness. A stillness that will only exist for few hours, before, once again, she is swallowed up in the cacophony of the new day.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, we are favored with abundant wilds, mountains, plains, mighty rivers, waterfalls and yes, even desserts. As if this weren’t enough, we have wild animal life consisting of every animal, bird and fish species that one could imagine.
The countries in this area attract thousands of tourists who come to see the wild life and enjoy the most amazing climate, to say nothing of the friendliness and hospitality of its peoples and climate. Residents as well as tourists experience the confluence of the greatest wild game parks in the world.
Farmers have turned to the enterprise of ‘game farms’,[i] filled with their own distinctive collection of wild animals and the busy city dwellers, local and global, flock to these places, just to escape, if only a short while, to the peace and tranquilities of the wilds.
My mother, myself and my three younger siblings took a four night train journey northwards, in search of a new life, a new country, far away in the African wilds.
As we drew further away from the land of my birth, a busy country, which was, filled with cities, factories, smoke, soot, noise and plenty busyness; I was awestruck with this new vast land, devoid of buildings, rushing people, cars and trains.
On looking out the carriage window, on the second day, for the first time in my life, I saw a herd of antelope running alongside the train. In fact, they leapt more than ran and for a while they seemed to keep pace, before, inexplicably, veering away from the train and then coming to a standstill. For the next two days we saw, elephant, giraffe, and many other different species of buck.
I instantly loved this great land and when we finally arrived and were taken to our new house by my father, I knew this land would always be my home.
What an interesting country, there were no cities, as I had known them, just towns and mines. The roads were either gravel, or at best, two strips of asphalt. Everyone knew each other and most wonderful of all, we never had to go far to see the beautiful wild animals.
Regularly, as we travelled between the mining towns I saw lions, leopards, elephant, buffalo – right from our car window, as they wandered in the bush, it was like an enormous (natural) game park.
I recall visiting the greatest waterfall in the word – The Victoria Falls, “Mosi-ao-Tunya” – ‘The Smoke That Thunders’, one of the seven wonders of the world. The mighty Zambezi River falls four hundred feet into a narrow gorge one mile wide. The effect of megatons of water cascading down into the gorge below sends a spray up, hundreds of feet into the air above. Gentle breezes, a Godsend, in the blazing African heat, guide the spray over thick foliage on the opposite bank of the gorge and, over millennia, have created a ‘rain forest’. The forest is host to a large diverse population of wild game. There are baboons, monkeys, all manner of snakes and birdlife is prolific.
Whilst walking through the forest we heard a car horn sounding off. Further investigation brought us to a group of hapless picnickers who had gone off for a walk leaving their picnic gear and lunch in the back of their truck. Seated on the tailgate of the truck, sat a very large baboon, having a picnic feast of his own. Around the back of the truck sat a troop of monkeys in a semicircle, catching various bits of leftovers from the large Baboon as he tossed them backwards. The whole scene was so comical, except for an older lady, sitting inside the driver’s seat of the truck pushing the horn and screaming in terror. We, as a group rushed in on the picnicking primates and fortunately they took to the trees in escape.
Sometime later, I was taken to another waterfall, Kalambo Falls, Zambia and although not too wide, nonetheless fell, seven hundred and seventy feet into large pool below.
Climbing up a hill, overlooking the falls, we had an unobstructed view of Lake Tanganyika. This lake has a record of ‘seconds’:
Lake Tanganyika is the second oldest natural lake in the world. It’s the second largest by volume and the second deepest.
Looking through binoculars whilst standing on the hill, it was breathtaking. Local folklore has it that in one of its bays, there was a very large crocodile population. Two enterprising local farmers, who were brothers, would go out into the bay. They would shoot a large crocodile and one of the brothers would, with a rope around his waist, and another, in his hand, dive over the side of their boat, among all the other crocodiles and secure the dead one, so it could be raised to the surface. Well, it is folklore and I can’t authenticate it, so you decide.
I also visited Lake Nyasa (now renamed Lake Malawi) a freshwater lake that is three hundred miles long having an average width of thirty miles. This lake has a most amazing marine life, (some 500 – 1000 varietals) out of which comes ‘Chambo’, a most delicious fish. What a treat, I could easily spend the rest of my life eating Chambo!
It was on a beautiful beach, here, among the great marine life and crystal clear waters that I met Steffen. Steffen was German, an adopted son of Africa, who loved the wild outdoors. We sat on the beach, watching the sunset; a sunset, the beauty of which, even the greatest writer in the world could describe adequately (what good would it do for me to try). “Mark” (he pronounced my name ‘Maak’), Steffen said. ”I am sad this evening.” “Why is this Steff?” I asked. “It’s a year ago now my Rosie is dead” he mumbled. Now, I knew Steff had a wife and two children and they were quite alive this morning, so who was Rosie? “Rosie”? I questioned. “My pet Hippo” he stated matter-of-factly. I’m African of Dutch ancestry and I know for absolutely certain, there is noooo such a thing as a “pet Hippo”! “Steff, how many whiskies’ you had?” I enquired, on a man-to-man-basis. “So, you sink I am dronk Ja”? “Kum I show you” grunted Steff.
I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. Steff took me to his beach cottage, the walls of which were plastered with pictures of himself and yes, a hippo, all three tonnes (estimate) of it. Some pictures showed him feeding the hippo with cabbages. Pouring a local Coca-Cola and even a beer down the huge (teeth filled) mouth. Today I can accept that such pictures can be ‘engineered’, but I don’t think it was possible in 1968, especially in full color!
Just for interest sake, Hippos are one of the most dangerous of all African animals. They have the most incredibly strong jaws – their size denies their speed and agility, in addition, they are amphibious; we have a saying here, ‘Pasop’! (Watch out)!
Anyway, it was not local folklore; I saw the pictures with my own eyes – so make of it what you will.
Next was the Zimbabwe Ruins. Google it and see for yourself, I am not able to describe a three thousand year old ruin, that still stands proud and firm today.
But not far from the ruins, on the man-made Lake Kyle, I did some water skiing, dodging hippos and crocodiles – not folklore- fact!
Why not Jump onto a plane and come visit us, underneath the African sun, but pleeze mind the hippos!
Buy your guide on the below link:
[i] This is a boon for business and a blessing for ecology, in a world where poaching is endemic.