Written August 2019
So there we are, languishing in the back of our Camper on a glorious African winter afternoon, at Victoria Falls (one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World you really must visit). On the front seat there is a magical shopping bag filled with fresh warm bread (in a brown paper packet), a block of cheddar cheese and a punnet of rosa baby tomatoes.
After many weeks’ exploring the fascinating deserts, wild parks, salt pans & canyons of Namibia & Botswana – camping, eating, sleeping in dust ….. we are desperate for bread. Oh bread, the whiff of that delicious basic food – it is akin to puppy breath and rain on parched earth! This food of the gods we bought as we entered the quaint village in Zimbabwe.
THIEF IN THE AREA
At tea time we are up, having been woken by a slight rocking of the car, with a renewed spring in our step, kettle boiling, bread knife & board out…… but where is the bread???? WHERE IS THE BREAD!!??
Bet you can identify with what followed … ………………………………. “where did you put it?”,….. “no I didn’t – you did, yes you did” …. “did you we leave it on the shop counter?” OH MY WORD …. Panic, the search is on…… slipping and sliding around in drool we were! Salivating for our loaf of heaven.
NO BREAD! Teatime consisted of sad biscuits, lettuce & cheese – eaten by even sadder campers 🙁
Later in the evening we wander around the beautiful campsite, admiring the stunning starlit sky and mysterious milky way when we happened upon an armed security guard brandishing an AK47. Wooooa, having grown up in the country as a farm girl during the terrorist war, carrying weapons on our person daily, the memories flooded back. Not good ones at that! Whaaaat is GOING ON !?
You won’t believe it – the gun was a toy – used to scare off the ROGUE BABOON who raids tents AND CAMPERS – for food. Ping, penny drops …… OUR WARM LOAF OF BREAD!!!!
Fast forward the clock – Botswana 2010…………….. drifting in between the trees, ablution blocks & other campers in search of the “best site” to set up camp we hear a vehicle hooting – hysterically! We think – elephant, snake, stuck immobilizer – but no, two women had locked themselves in the front of their SUV ………………… whilst a TROOP OF BABOON raid their kitchen & tents. My husband, and other men who appeared from all over the campsite, saved the day for the prisoners.
Primates have no fear of women. Always back off ladies – no discussion! Move away & lock yourself in your car if necessary. Leave them to get up to their hijinx and monkey business!
So, we found our gorgeous secluded spot, parked the SUV, erected a tent from (attached to) the back of the vehicle – where the whole door opened into. Our inviting bed was made up inside the vehicle so at night we slept safe n sound from creatures & critters (snakes, scorpions, spiders, hyaena, elephant, lion…… )
That year had been a very rainy one and the streams were rivers, the puddles ponds and we had nearly submerged ourselves several scary times that day. I was drying all the carpets, suitcases & boxes on the bonnet, trees & rocks in our space. All was clear, no dangerous creatures in sight – Botswana does not fence her camping areas, so Chris went off for a shower, leaving me in peace and safety to faff around camp.
SUDDENLY OUR VEHICLE BOUNCED
Suddenly the SUV rocked, peering through the open front window to come face to face with a huge baboon. Aaaaargh. In an instant I zapped him with my pepper spray (always in my pocket). His REVOLTING PINK/PURPLE BOTTOM WAS ON OUR DUVET – ON OUR BED!!! He bared his teeth & whilst I dialed the dental hygienist (those filthy fangs – eew) he grabbed a box of biscuits, packet of sweets plus a butternut out of the tent then casually loped away . The pepper spray had no EFFECT WHATSOEVER!….. or did it……
The dirty thief only retreated to gather the clan – who returned barking, jumping from branch to branch & thundering along the ground towards me. Yikes, what a heart-stopping moment – and lightening was beneath these feet. Slamming the passenger door, the back door, shimmying under the attached tent, slithering into the drivers’ seat & clicking the door shut……. Not over yet – turn on the ignition, wind up windows and with the last breath of oxygen the monster landed on the roof (which was a window) above me. So there was I!!!! Sneezing, snorting & eyes running like the rivers we had crossed earlier – from the …………………. yup, pepper spray trapped in the car. It is nasty stuff you know.
Meanwhile – back at the ranch – dawdling along, wet towel over his shoulder, whistling a merry tune, head down watching the ground pass by as he walked – Mr A is oblivious to his wife’s plight. But not the clan – they had a finger on the pulse – Suddenly the chief barked, branches snap & sand was flying as the baboon retreated ……………….. Chris didn’t even say boo to a goose! They just scrambled away. Seriously???!!!
And yet again – Zimbabwe – this time at Mana Pools. Mana is a wild and remote part of Zimbabwe which lies along the banks of the Zambezi River opposite Zambia and has a specialness all of its own. The heat exudes a blue/grey haziness that wafts between the tall leafy whispering trees beneath which amble a menagerie of grazing animals – guarded by many predators. Visitors are allowed to walk unaccompanied by a ranger or guard – which is actually dangerous and foolhardy. In most game parks this is strictly forbidden – the reason it is allowed here is beyond comprehension. More beyond comprehension – is that we did it!? Saaay whaaat One can become stupidly blase – don’t do it ! (We see it in Kruger Park where foreigners alight from vehicles and out of demarcated “safe” areas to pose for selfies near a dangerous wild animal…. again, PLEASE DON’T DO IT! FOLKS
During the afternoon those who travel in groups (families and friends) put out tables and begin preparing early for the evening meal. This is a social event where much laughter is shared and stories of the days viewings compared . Most of the time the men sit around drinking & talking, typical of the men from Africa, whilst the women do the work. I don’t know why this is – but it just is!!!!
At the close of day, after our satisfying fill of sightseeing along the River (4 x 4 testing the sweeping sinking sandy roads and paths) we took a stroll around camp to ease the aching bones and head. There were baboons everywhere, trying to unzip tents, jumping on outside furniture, sitting on the road scratching their brothers & sisters for fleas, babies tumbling over one another – screeching with delight…………. and some larger sinister ones on the war path.
Heading back from the entrance to our camper the peace was shattered by startling shrieks …. littered with some choice words!!! not suitable for children under 13 (more like under 5 these days!!!) . A rogue baboon had snatched a block of cheese and a large bottle of pickled onions off the table surrounded by working women. The cheek of it! He casually trotted off, sat himself down on the exposed roots of a nearby tree, bit a hunk of cheese off ……………………adeptly opened the bottle of pickles and stuffed his paw (hand) inside. Well – after THAT it is clear that nobody wanted to reclaim the once-precious stolen goods!
Our feminine, delicate little Australian niece visited us in Kruger National Park a couple of years ago with her new husband. Everything delighted this girl who was born in South Africa but had not returned for 20 years. We were all sitting at Tshokwane Picnic Site eating our meal when all hell broke loose. Food and hot chocolate took flight ….. landing on the table and our clothing …. as Megan screamed at / for/ about a vervet monkey who had crept up behind her and stealthily , under her arm, snatched a burger from her hands. —————————————————————–
Deja vu – action replay. Same place, different person the following year. Our good friend Bev was freaked out by the feeling on her skin – the monkey brushing by on his way to and from the snatch. Every time we alighted from the car for the remaining hours of that day , she headed straight to the ablutions to wash her arm . What a giggle – only because we escaped starvation ourselves.
Most of this behavior is due to humans feeding wild animals – this “kindness” and “innocent fun” is not only dangerous – but us humans are signing the death warrant of these animals. Remember this, it is just a matter of time before they are shot – okay. 🙁
****** All of these events were a good measure of how fast & cunning wild animals are – and a reawakening of CAUTION at all TIMES ******
One day I will tell you about Honey Badger scallywags in Etosha & Kruger