[You can read earlier posts in this series, by clicking on “Contents” at the top.]
African Safari – Part Twelve
Tubu was the last camp in our two-week Botswana safari. Tubu means “place of dust” and, indeed, the Kalahari desert’s powdery gray/brown sand sifted into everything. We felt gritty and even though we wore hiking boots and socks, our feet were gray. No matter how often I washed my dufflebag for the next several years, tiny piles of dust dribbled from its crevices.
If I could, I’d go back tomorrow, pardon my dust!
Tubu had a resident elephant, an old male who ambled around like a pet dog. He didn’t have a name like the three at Jacana did, but I thought of him as “Tom.” No matter how frail he seemed, we were warned to be wary. He was a wild animal after all.
The first night, after lanterns out, we noticed how windy it was. The sides of the tent billowed in and out as if we were in the belly of a huge animal. Lions roared in the distance. Every now and then there was an extra-strong gust followed by something — it sounded like hail! — hitting the roof. Nothing bothered husband Peter who fell asleep quickly.
Next morning, I described what I’d heard to guide Russell and his sidekick Kate. They thought it was probably “Tom” who hankered after palm nuts. That afternoon I sat on our little porch to spy on the old guy who was a few yards away. I watched as he drew an elephantine breath, exhaled mightly, then head-butted a palm tree. Nuts rained. So that was the “hail” I’d heard. “Tom” must have been right beside our tent the night before. Would we have slept so well if we’d known? Peter would have, for sure.
Palm nuts look a bit like our black walnuts in their green hulls. Ellies slurp them around in their mouths like kids with jawbreakers and suck off the gingerbread-flavored green part. They swallow the nuts whole, and in a day or two, more palm trees are planted. Russell stripped several nuts of their hulls and gave us strips to taste. With a little whipped cream…yu-um!
I don’t know if everyone in our group was so lucky, but our tent had an outdoor shower built around a tree about twelve feet up. How luxurious to shampoo my hair, warm water streaming from two showerheads, while in the distance, wild animals went about their business. Well, luxurious untiI I stepped in something squishy. Baboon poop! I should’ve remembered they hang around wherever there’s the chance of finding shampoo and soap.
The plastic snakes that were wrapped around railings and posts in all the camps theoretically keep baboons away. They’re almost as terrified of snakes as I am. If there’d been a fake snake in our shower, there would’ve been no baboon, and no me!
Ol’ Tom must’ve had his fill of palm nuts because the second night all I heard were lions. Native wisdom says, if your collarbones don’t reverberate when when you hear lions roar, then they’re no closer than five miles. No worries.
I went to sleep with visions of gingerbread men dancing around a campfire.
* * *
Some months later I read Marian Keyes’ Anybody out there? in which she described a shower similar to my own. Keye’s protagonist, Anna, described her sister’s experience more graphically:
… I told him the story of how Claire had been having an outdoor shower in a safari camp in Botswana and had caught a baboon watching her and having a good old wank for himself.”
[Anna’s husband replied,] “She’s making it up…a baboon wouldn’t react that way to a human woman. …It would only happen if he was watching a lady baboon.”
Anna said, “A lady baboon wouldn’t take a shower.”
Well remember the wonderful ‘bucket showers’, as they were called in Kenya and, each tent had a canvas walled ‘bathroom’. A request for hot water had the bucket filled and pulling on a rope tipped it just enough for a wetting between lathering. It became a competition to see how long you could make the water last. A treat as welcome as the hot water bottles in our beds each night.
Thankfully it was only abundant clumps of black hair that found it’s way into our daughter’s ‘en-suite,’ after an nasty altercation between an old buffalo and a hyena just the other side of her tent wall. She didn’t get up to look.
Somehow baboon poop sounds better! Who knew?
I don’t think I ever heard this story before.
Well, good. A new story to repeat to everyone. 😉