This is not a letter about Cornavirus, it’s one for the campfire when next you get there and I write it today for everyone struggling to save lives in this dark time in our history.
On a steaming hot night when even the thinnest sheet was too heavy and wet with sweat, a friend and I decided to drag our mattresses outside and sleep under the stars. It had been a scorching day with temperatures up in the 40’s (Celsius) and finding respite from the sun hadn’t been easy with the trees still mostly bare of leaves and hardly a breath of air stirring in the late September sky.
Tales around the campfire earlier that evening had of course included allegations, denials and much laughter about our last trip here when allegedly I and my two girl friends had gone on a mega bird watching foray the moment we arrived because someone had seen the Narina Trogon. When we got back to unload the car an hour later, babbling and excited, our old friend Steve had unpacked everything on his own and was not amused; not even placated by our scores of photographs of the magnificent bird or our assurances that people came to Zimbabwe from all over the world to see the Narina Trogon.
For a while it went quiet in the darkness as the four of us watched the fireflies flickering their silent signals to their mates and then a Pookie (Night Ape) came down a thick vine and ever so carefully lifted a chicken bone off the braai with its long fingers before hastily disappearing back into the darkness. Pookies eat meat? That was a first for me and a reminder that there’s always something new to learn if you take the time to watch.
It wasn’t long after we’d all turned in for the night that Steve and I carried our mattresses outside. Steve wanted to go under the trees but I wanted to see the stars so we lay looking up at the spectacle in the night sky. Watching for shooting stars I fell into a deep sleep and was woken by the sound of urgent whispering: “hippo, hippo!” In the direct beam of the torch light two huge hippo were grazing about 25 metres away and obviously coming in our direction. “Switch that ***** torch off!” I exclaimed knowing from past encounters that hippos, elephants and bright lights at night don’t end up at all well. What happened next is a bit of blur. I said run and in the pith black we ran, I tripped over and lay on the ground desperately calling: “help, help I’ve fallen down.” A foot hit my hip, a hand came down and rescued me and we ran, staggered and stumbled in the direction the chalet, almost going through the wall when we got there. From the safety of the verandah, hearts pumping, Adrenalin racing we shone the torch low so as not to dazzle them and the two hippo, completely unconcerned by our absurd midnight dash, were grazing ever closer to our abandoned beds.
It was going to be some time before we could rescue our beds and taking turns to swig from a bottle of Amarula seemed as good a way as any to pass the time, steady our heart rates, giggle at our stupidity and swop more tales about adventures and encounters in our beautiful Zimbabwe. The next morning when the others emerged from the chalet and found us headachy and hung over on the verandah the story of the hippos in our beds grew ever more exaggerated in the re-telling.
Wherever you are in the world today, I hope you can find a happy memory to make you smile and give you hope. I especially want to thank all the people who can’t go to into isolation at this time as they work to keep people alive, systems functioning and maintain the essentials of modern life that we usually take for granted. Thank you to so many people in so many countries for years and years of reading my Letters from Zimbabwe and my books about life in this beautiful, temporarily broken country. With love from Cathy. 22 March 2020. Copyright © Cathy Buckle. http://cathybuckle.co.zw/
For information on my books about Zimbabwe go to www.lulu.com/spotlight/