It may amuse you, but maybe not surprise you; to know that there are still some people out there in the world (and not just children) still have a quite ignorant perception of Africa. People still assume lions, elephants, giraffes, snakes etc, are in abundance and frequent all parts of the country, and that you are likely to come across them as a common occurrence. Being in the jungle and living in mud huts is another supposition. And what about all of the flies and insects?
Well, yes I’ve seen some of the big five, but not at Sam Levy’s village or walking along Fourth Street. In fact, I’ve been lucky enough to spend some prime time in some of the local safari / conservation lodges: Imirie at Wedza and Pamuzinda at Selous (both highly recommended) and I’ve been down the Zambezi at Victoria Falls; Wow! And tracking Rhinos on foot at the Matobo Hills and seeing a fish eagle take off just in front of me on a canoeing trip are certainly among the highlights of my life, thus far.
Zimbabwe has an abundance of wonderful wildlife out there to see. Even the most common place inhabitants, which most people are oblivious to, have been of great interest to me. Especially on my initial visits to Zimbabwe; even the ants (twice as big as in the UK), the beetles and the bugs fascinated me. And watching Lizards move across the durawalls, I find akin to some kind of relaxation therapy. Their unique colouring and patterns are quite beautiful and as for their distant cousin, the chameleon; well, they just blow my mind. Although, they are not so common, as most of the time they are hard to spot, disguised and camouflaged like nature’s spy. Fortunately, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has not yet worked out how to use them for surveillance purposes….or have they?
Of course Zimbabweans will think that I, this Murungu, am like an excitable small child, as I am enthralled and point to some of these unappreciated treasures. On my very first trip I found a dead scorpion in the bedroom. I even took a photograph of it to impress my family and friends back in England. My partner, Mercy, just raised her eyebrows and rolled her eyes and stated, “So what…it’s just a dead scorpion.”
However, some of my experiences have not been so positive. I once stayed at a place which had no piped water and no borehole and had not been lived in for a while. I visited the toilet, lifted the lid and sat down. I was shocked to feel pain across my buttocks and quickly jumped up. For some reason, the toilet seat was jagged around the inside edges, which had lacerated my bottom. Yes, it sounds funny now, but at the time it certainly wasn’t. So, what had caused this? Well, after some logical thinking, I got to the bottom of the mystery, as it were. As there had not previously been any water in the toilet or the pipes down to the drain, a rat had managed to get through and had chewed the plastic seat, in an effort to get out.
I’ve watched baboons and monkeys roaming around waiting for an opportunity to steal food or anything that is left unattended. They are incredibly quick and the minute you turn your back, they are there, quick as a flash. I once saw a woman sitting outside a restaurant, just about to tuck into her lunch, when a Vervet monkey dropped from a nearby branch, leapt onto the table and in one swift move stole her sandwich. Who knew monkeys were partial to chicken, bacon and avocado with mayo.
We once stayed in a lodge somewhere, where we had just showered and changed to go out for the evening. I locked the front door and we commenced a leisurely stroll. After a minute or so, I realised I had not closed the bathroom window. I ran back, unlocked the door and burst into the bathroom. Too late: toiletries were scattered all over the floor, as if they had been inspected and discarded as not being of any use. A glass bottle of perfume was broken and a disposable razor had been casually disposed of in the toilet. I had only been gone a couple of minutes, but in that time, a monkey had got in and out. So, clever; it had had us under surveillance and the second we had left, it had swooped. However, not that clever; as the only things missing were a tube of toothpaste and a small packet of tissues. Not really the crime of the century. It amused me to think of it eating the whole tube and then neatly wiping its mouth on one of the tissues.
Which brings me to mosquitoes. Now, I used to hate the constantly irritating flies which infuriate me beyond any rational basis. But, compared to mosquitoes, I positively love the flies. You may not know this, but mosquitoes discriminate against Murungu Englishmen, and feast on us, at will. As far as I can see, most of the indigenous population are not bothered by them at all, are oblivious to them and ignore them. Unlike this Murungu, who regularly has to wage a one man war against them. My weapon of choice is either a rolled up newspaper or a plastic slipper. At night I cannot sleep until I have conquered the buzzing beasts. But, in the outside shower, I am unprotected and unarmed. One evening, after having enjoyed a cold shower, I reached for my towel and began to dry myself. So far so good. I hadn’t heard any buzzing, therefore no evidence of the dreaded Mozzies. I looked down as I dried my nether regions and was shocked to my core to see my….well you can guess. It was black and swollen and I was traumatised. I initially didn’t make the connection, I thought I must have somehow developed a tropical disease or perhaps upset someone with a past indiscretion, who had requested for a N’anga to curse me. It then crossed my mind that it was Mwedzi Wambudzi: the month of the goat. November – the traditional Zimbabwean Shona custom when awful things can happen.But then my rational, logical thought process kicked back in and I realised that I had been bitten by another damned mosquito.
I HATE MOSQUITOS.
But as my future father in law tells me – “Don’t forget they are all God’s creatures.”
…..Oh, and talking about all of God’s creatures; someone asked me the other day what I thought of Mopane worms. I replied that I really liked them…….especially crispy and fried in garlic.
Pic Cred: Unsplash.com (free images)
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