A Warthog for the Chief

For this week I thought I’d return to my hinted promise of more stories about the Bruegel picture which I wrote about on the 17th Nov 2019. For some context it might be good to scan it again. This story is about a wonderful old chief and a rogue hippo and the Chefe du Posto who was with us. We left the nomadic bush family the next day and headed northeast, roughly in the direction of the Zambezi delta – as good a direction as any, I thought. About two or three days on, walking along an old elephant...

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Earth Art and a Story

It was visible from some way off, this ancient camel thorn. It demanded to be viewed in its full glory, with nothing of the shrub-land obscuring it. Even in death it still towered over its surroundings, more mesmerising than in life.  A piece of sublime earth art. It tells, with agonising clarity, of hundreds of years of life in its brutal world. How it had hopefully pushed out its new growth. How the rough winds and the eland bull’s horns had torn at it and split it, how the long droughts had slowed it, then stopped it, and its...

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Unrest in the ranks

The male had planted his forefeet wide and lowered his body and lapped from the thin sheet of water running from the seep amongst the reeds.  Then he had crossed the stream and lain down on the cool sand with a casualness that said, “I fear nothing here.” It is his right front paw in the centre of the picture. The left hind is partly visible on the edge to the left. The marks to the front of his toes are small drag marks made by his pads as he lifted his paw forward. If you look carefully you will...

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An Old Warrior’s Life

  There were no dry streams or other signs of water around. Just the seep. It was pushed up by some mysterious force from below; gently, so that it was enough for the few zebra, hartebeest and sable and the lone kudu bull whose tracks said they regularly showed up – and for the solitary elephant bull that had left his big pale smudges,  and for the old dagga boy. He had been here less than an hour ago, his saucer-sized prints told us. He had waded in, drank with muzzle stretched to the cleanest spot, then splashed deeper...

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Beware!

I stare down at the mirror-smooth surface of the pool with its eclectic decorations of fallen leaves. They could mean almost anything I want them to. The water is clear as polished glass, right down to the bottom. A few tadpoles cling to the edge like a row of suckling piglets. It is almost a choreographed picture of stillness and peace. Clean water that we don’t need to dig for, or that is not hoof-churned soup with bits of dung floating in it, is rare. The swathes of shade around it from trees growing verdant in the moisture, is...

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Terror

The right front paw of a wild dog. We found this single imprint in a sandy spot that was bare of vegetation. But we found more, when we looked around carefully – six, eight, maybe ten more sets. Their paws are soft, so their sign is easily missed… We had been wondering why the bush had been so strangely empty of medium-sized and smaller ungulates for something like the last two days – almost no zebra, no hartebeest, no impala, no kudu, no waterbuck, no wildebeest, no eland… The ones we did glimpse seemed unusually skittish. The wild dog...

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Ready for the Day’s Trek

My four companions on this sojourn, ready for the day’s trek. “The day’s trek,” would be a meander in a general direction, say north, but easily deviated from to investigate bush phenomena we might notice, or to search for water, or to explore stories we might pick up from local bush people,  and the like. On the right is Jacqui, whom I recruited as bush medium. He spoke a few words of English and a few of Fanagolo. Fanagolo is a pidgin language based on Zulu that developed on the South African gold mines as a kind of lingua...

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The Bruegel Picture

This week’s picture is like a Bruegel painting. It carries many stories, of wandering and of bush people and of an opportunistic Chefe du Posto, and a gentlemanly old chief and a rogue hippo in a far place; much too much to try and squeeze in here. But let me start with a few remarks about the picture itself. Maybe some of the other stories will emerge, each in its own time. It is like that with stories.  Each one comes when its time and its place is right. The picture is of the living area of the dwelling...

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Water Tales

You can listen to the voice recording below, or read through the story. Enjoy!   It took two days of meandering tracks and then three days of hard bush bashing to reach the pan. By then I had about sixty litres of water left. If I did not find water here, I would have to return to my previous source when I was down to about forty litres, or I might not make it back. That would limit my stay at the pan to a maximum of four days. The pan was a huge calcareous flat some four hundred...

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Too close…

You can read through the text below,or listen to the narrative. Enjoy! We could not see him yet, but we could hear the crack and thump of his browsing as he shouldered aside the seemingly impenetrable tangle of the thickets. He was close. So close that when he stopped, I could hear the grind of the great molars chewing through bundles of vegetation. A pinch of fine dust from between my feet told that the air was almost still, with an eddy now and then. We should have moved out of his way, but I could not resist the...

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