Sunday, May 30, 2010

Really Lucky Homecoming

I have to admit that it was jolly nice coming home. 

Someone has sent a bag of groundnuts as a gift from their field.

Jumping GK (His name from when we were at school together) has managed to produce some fresh stuff at short notice - damn difficult to grow things here because of animals - so fresh is always bloody marvellous. Looks like he is going to cook dinner.

Well I guess the cat has stuck – both of them. Someone's gift to me that I didnt actually 'accept'.  But there ya go. 

Oh dear someone's shoes look a bit walked-out. I refuse to claim them. Standards have plummeted.

The puku I raised has been seen close to the house. Here he comes and responds to my call. Long past bottles the little devil. He used to butt like mad.

 He would drag the whole herd up to my bedroom window first light every morning during his weaning.  All the herd grazing slowly behind him, the non Pied Piper. Before they realised where they were, he would dash in for his bottle - sorry chaps, I know I'm big and all but just have to pop in here for a quick bottle - the rest of his adopted herd would look rather bemused at where they had ended up and sort of drift off.

He has brought a slightly older male with horns - they spar a bit, but gently, and feed and lie down together. Probably they'll fight later but they seem to be getting it off now, in which case they must be careful because being gay is illegal here too - not only Malawi where you go to prison.

GK and I go down to the river for sundowners. The moon is going to be full.

Chat to the fisherman. He's getting his net in.

Hear feeding noises in the bushes.

Oops, behind the vehicle.

They take no notice and eventually cross behind us on their way towards the river.

It was such a dazzling early evening out in the big sky with water and rippling light that I tried to get GK to pull the moon down a bit back towards Earth.

Just  a bit. See what it would be like.

What a control freak.

Anyway he couldnt.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

We're Perfectly Safe, No?

Continuing to absorb the tourist gaze.

Becoming rather fascinated at how elephants are sometimes perceived.

We fly around the country in small planes.

Shew there is a lot of still uninhabited indiginous forest down there.

Zambia population around 10 million.

We encounter lots of elephants around the various camps of course.

Through the tent gauze

From luxury interiors

From the bedroom.

From the bed.

In yr. face.

OK I wont go on. I sense a perverse fascination with interiors here.

Actually I will go on a bit more if you dont mind too much:

From the game viewing vehicle

From the boat

Well OK but we did.

Include the lovely 'encounter' some days back.

Where it really doesnt matter a toss if you are looking AT your camera or DOWN your camera instead of watching out for your butt.

Include encountering wild camp elephants on the path to your chalet. Where surprise is expressed at the amount of caution exercised. Duh?

Lots of (protected) familiarity around elephants.

Which may account for the general feeling of safety that the profs have for elephants when they start their walking safari. Single file that's it chaps. Safer that way - whisper only please. Thanks.

I dunno, maybe the newly refurbished, over-designed lodge had something to do with it.

When I wake, I, for one, think I fell asleep by mistake in the furniture section of a shopping mall instead of the bush.  Not knocking it - a little astral travel and location confusion never hurts. Quite nice really.


Um, by the way excuse me, aren't these grave markers from Mali? I notice a lot of hotels use them as decoration.

Maybe not.

Never mind.


Perhaps it was the shopping mall look-alike habitat that has lulled them into pavement mode.

Maybe that's the reason that the dodgy elephant on the walk today didnt register with the profs.

A false sense of security? A bit of relaxed porridge brain?

Admittedly the safety briefing before the walk wasn't up to scratch – a bit vague.

But when the young bull twenty or so meters away upwind gets our scent and lifts his trunk up (just just like the good ol' big tame Danny the other day) … instead of the normal adreneline and 'what's the plan?' ... maybe the thought is;

“already got that photo. Oh what the hell I'll just take another. Right. Got that. What's next. No more need to look”).


Because when the young bull suddenly remembers that he has a Very Important Appointment somewhere directly behind us and begins walking at speed in our direction, in a Very Straight Line with the possibility of T-boning our single file ...

They dont even NOTICE.

What does it mean? Life through a lens? Only?

Not sure but I am puzzled.

I think I would be cautious on foot at that distance with a bear. Dont they bite too?

I am not even going to start thinking about elephants and grief in many lives. Its serious stuff, they are dangerous and wild. Doesnt anyone believe this?

Well, obviously not here.

We know they share the same attachment systems as us - experience grief and loss and even post-traumatic stress which can cause violent behaviour. This is especially so for the offspring and siblings of family groups that have been slaughtered or culled with disregard for family and alliances. 

That would be here. In elephant living memory. Why shouldn't even a bull become pissed off with us? They do that often enough to claim many villagers lives each year - especially from bicycles. Irrational, violent killings.

Wow - elephants and people – we got big emotional history together thats for sure.

All pics are mine even the really bad ones.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trying on the Tourist Gaze

At the moment I am looking at bits of Zambia through the four-and-five-starred eyes of a well-heeled tourist.

I'm leading an American couple of retired professors around on their first trip to Africa.

In Livingstone we are staying at a five star hotel which has a bizarre mix of décor and props apparently constructing for us a version of Zambia and the Victoria Falls that I dont quite understand - although not for want of trying.

At the reception desk, Baines-like paintings portray semi-naked savages holding spears. They stand in neo-classical, contra-posto poses like off duty ballerinas and lurk under golden baroque pineapple lamp bases.

Pineapples? Yes of course – a tropical fruit.

David Livingstone is still a local hero here. Look at him saving the day in the canoe.

He was the first white tourist to be shown the Falls by local guides.

He was in the wrong place entirely, looking for the source of the Nile, and to salve his disappointment his guides said; “you want to see a big gorge a little further downstream? Its called Mosi a Tunya – Smoke that Thunders.”

He took one look, changed its name immediately and gave it away to the queen.

Back at the hotel for that colonial touch there is the obligatory zebra skin.

and ceiling fans

And pith helmets

and stuff

And a kind of high-English-memsahib style complete with roses

The fabric on the dining chairs are reminiscent of bucolic Victorian rosy-cheeked milkmaids and wistful shepherds.

But wait, they are monkeys dressed up. Or apes? Maybe a nod to the Darwin debate of the time?

Three token wooden artifacts from Mali (many countries and thousands of miles away from Zambia) are a reminder that you are really in generic Africa.

And ostrich eggs from the Kalahari also outside Zambia. But never mind - somewhere in Africa.

Amongst other things (like a historic town tour and the museum), we've done a couple of fairly embarrassing sort of gawking-at-the-poor-people-in-the-market trips from a game viewing vehicle.

Where I'm sure (if we'd been allowed to get out) I could have got my laundry done for much less than the ten US dollars I paid for a single pair of trousers to be washed at the hotel.

Today we went on a village tour which I also found rather embarrassingly gawky - our guide giving more information than we really needed - (“we shower and do our number ones in that little grass hut over there, but number twos we do in the bush outside the village”).

Shew thanks for that – jeez, that should bring the tourist rush...

The elephant encounter was unsurprisingly moving and fantastic.

Located within the park they are free to walk in the bush and their handlers walk with them all day – no enclosures. The training is kind and reward-based.

All the handlers love Danny - a huge bull with tusks - gentle and sweet

So are the profs actually, and they had their pics taken.

Me too

Except that when we saw wild elephants on the drive back through the Game Park they didnt really want to look (already blasé I guess).

Tomorrow we fly to my own home territory for more fun and games.

And more elephants.

I wonder if they will still want to look.

I know I will.