Category Archives: Zimbabwe

Promise…

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I wonder what the Statute of Limitations is on a promise?

Lets hope its only a year, because a year ago, I made a promise not to split, on pain of death!

Almost exactly year ago, we were called to a mine to find water…they had an English consultant tell them that the water from the (tiny) existing dam would be adequate! The moment they commissioned the new plant, management realised this evaluation was not even close to accurate.

They wanted to be panicking but they couldn’t, because they had all their investors and future buyers visiting! The place was packed with them, the first day we arrived, so we sort of sneaked in, spoke to the manager and the major shareholder and went about our business.

The orebody was mined until the mid 70’s when it was bombed during the war. The buildings were later used by a safari operator who held the hunting concession for the National Parks land. They built a “lapa” or large oval thatched building, (pictured below) to entertain their clients and when the property reverted to the mine, the new management used it to eat, and hold meetings; entertain investors!

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With a kitchen at one end and a game viewing platform on the other, the lapa faces the setting sun, across the vlei. To one side is a sunken fire pit with seats built around it. The hunting season, here in Zimbabwe, spans the winter months, and its cold! Sitting under the wide African skies around a roaring fire, singing along to a guitar, is a favourite with hunters.

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Right next to the kitchen are two ablution units, only one of which has a lock. With a thin common wall, they are not sound-proofed, each unit consisting of a loo separated from the shower by a low wall, (which is stupid really, because the water bounces off the wall and wets the loo seat, the loo rolls, your clothes etc…)

It’s pretty rudimentary, the pipes exposed and a hole in the wall for the water to drain out off. BUT for us, it was luxury. Most places we go, there is absolutely NO water, and certainly not a shower!

When I was shown the shower (the men’s ablutions, near the camping area are rather open plan!) I made a mental note to check for snakes. The number of times I have seen snakes in showers with a drain like that! Slittering along the outside wall, snakes head for a ‘dark hole,’ conveniently located near the ground, only to find themselves trapped inside a slippery cubicle.

The water is heated with this:

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It’s called a “Donkey boiler,” in most parts of the world, but here in Zimbabwe, its called a “Rhodesian Boiler.” As you can see, its only a few metres tall, so the pressure isn’t enough for more than one person to shower at a time.

The day we arrived, the lapa was packed with people and it was pretty difficult to catch everyone’s name and occupation. I didn’t like to ask a question such as “Are you an investor in this mine?” only to have the reply, “No I’m a metallurgist…!”

But by the third day, most of the investors had left and the remainder were mostly checking on the plant, fixing glitches, or like us, catching up on things that should have been done long ago.

Coming in from the bush, dirty and sweaty, I went into the unit with the door-lock (I’d been told repeatedly by the camp manager that although these showers were not for general use, some people still went into them, too lazy to walk to the ablution block) and began showering.

When I heard someone go into the unit next to mine, I immediately rinsed off. I’ve been left too many times with soap suds all over me when someone turns on a second shower, reducing the flow to a dribble.

I dried off and about to get dressed, heard a distressed squeak from next door followed by a very quiet, wavering howl, “help…please no…” Followed by something else in a language I didn’t recognise.

The guy was clearly terrified, he wasn’t making up that noise, I knew.

Convinced that a snake had slithered through the drain, I wrapped the towel around my boobs and dashed off to the next door unit. I opened the door to find a man crouched on the partitioning wall, pale and shaking – pointing into the shower. I carefully peered around the edge of the half wall, (anticipating a poisonous jet from a spitting cobra) but…no snake. Nothing at all in the shower cubicle.

Something had turned this guy into a gibbering wreck, but I couldn’t see what.

“What is it?” I asked.

He didn’t reply, only pointed at the opposite wall.

I couldn’t see anything until a water droplet landed and a teenie tiny spider, smaller than a daddy long legs, dashed over to it, hoping it was prey.

“This?” I asked the guy. He nodded and shuddered. He pointed to several more I had not noticed, one of them on the loo side of the unit!

I picked the poor thing up (the spider, not the guy) and pushed it out through the drain hole. I chased the one on the loo side up the wall and out of the room. I handed the chap his towel and helped him off the wall.

And through all of this, I didn’t laugh once, I swear.

A little uncomfortable with discussing creepy crawlies and the dangers of snakes in showers, while dressed only in a towel, I scuttled next door intending to dress and make my way back to our tent.

When I opened the door, I found the guy standing outside, already fully dressed and looking more human! With his clothes on, I took a longer look at him. Mid forties I guessed, slim, wiry build, about six foot, dark hair just going grey; big nose.

“I’m terrified of spiders,” he said and I nodded. Duh!

“Actually all creepy crawlies. I can’t stand this place…” he shuddered. “It’s full of them, and then last night the lions…” Again I nodded. The lions had come right into the camp and spent most of the night roaring and growling right outside our tent. A man who was scared of a spider must have nearly died of fright at that sound!

“I thought it was a snake…” I began, but stopped before telling him I presumed it had slithered in through the drain hole. It was obvious that it hadn’t occurred to him that we get snakes too, as well as the creepy crawlies he abhorred.

He thanked me, over and over, begging me not to tell anyone, all the while speaking in a low voice as if he were scared someone would over-hear.

He had me crowded against the door and just when I thought I’d never get away, the camp manager interrupted us, concerned that my shower had been cut short!

“He is a foreigner,” he said, after he had shoo’d the guy away.

“He doesn’t know that two people can’t shower with this kind of boiler. And anyway, he is supposed to  be showering in the camp ablutions there,” he said, pointing to a newly built block, visible behind the tents.

“I don’t recognise his accent,” I said.

“Oh, he’s Israeli. A minerals buyer,” he added. “Ex special forces. Extra tough guy.”

“He is?”

“Yup, all sorts of martial arts belts; can kill you with his bare hands, type guy. He goes all over the world buying, diamonds, gold, platinum…anything. You gotta be tough and able to protect yourself, be in dangerous places,” he added authoritatively. “And the Israeli Army is no walk in the park!”

Once again, I swear, I didn’t laugh!

I took my supper to the sunken fire pit and was immediately followed by this Israeli guy. He sat right next to me staring soulfully at me while I ate.

I tried to make conversation; change the subject away from spiders and lions. When that didnt work, I tried to talk to someone else, but he butted in, glaring and I guess since he had a reputation for being a scary type, the other guy backed off leaving me with Mr. Special Forces Man again!

I tried to make him laugh, to no avail! I could not get him to believe that I wouldn’t tell everyone I’d found him cowering in the shower! I couldn’t get him to change the subject either, away from creepy crawlies, or his HE man image. He told me over and over that he had spent years in the army, had killed people, infiltrated the enemy…blah blah blah

Clearly his enemy didn’t know, that all they need do, is throw a handful of spiders at their attacker and he would end up a jelly!

Staring deep into my eyes, he made me solemnly promise never to say anything to anyone about his fear of spiders. He insisted it would forever tarnish his reputation and he would lose the edge he had as a buyer of precious commodities! I got the feeling, that if I did break my promise, I’d be tracked down and made to pay!

Eventually I gave up trying to talk sense into him and went to bed but for a whole year, this story has been burning a hole in my brain.

I’m sure by now, Mr Special Forces Tough Guy has forgotten about his trip to darkest Africa, to the mine full of creepy crawlies, snakes and lions and women who gently persuade spiders to vacate the shower.

Well here’s hoping…!

SafLodge…

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I want to paint a mind picture. A picture of Africa. I’ll splash the broad brush-strokes across the canvas, but I’m hoping you will fill in the detail.
Picture a vlei with a pan at the bottom. Giraffe awkwardly drinking.
Hippo grunt in the early morning. Yawn. Zebra graze peacefully with wildebeeste, close to the pan. Perhaps there is a crocodile in the water, I don’t know. Paint in his nostrils, two little bumps above the water, if you wish. There are birds. Lots of them. I don’t know their names and its not important, really. I’d just throw dots and slashes across the canvas for them. Next there is a pole rail and a blue, blue swimming pool, a green lawn and lots of little round hardwood tables with cute umbrellas. Huge acacia thorn trees with flat tops tower. Its easy to fill in those, that flat top is just a squiggle of the brush.
This place we have drawn is the Hwange Safari Lodge, or SafLodge as its affectionately known.
Every room at the hotel faces the pan and from there you can fill in more details. Shut your eyes and paint the safire blue of the malachite kingfishers as they plunge from overhead branches, delighting breakfasting holidaymakers. The stark white shirts of the dignified waiters, their balanced trays, sparkling ice.
And elephant. Don’t forget the elephants, mind artists. Babies gamboling, mama’s watching, teenagers agitating. The dust rising, especially in the evenings against the blood red sunset.
In the very early mornings before anyone stirs, warthog grovel on their knees, digging with their noses. Don’t forget that little upwards stroke of the brush – periscope tails.

Warthog

 

Unlike more modern hotels elsewhere, SafLodge doesn’t offer broadband internet in each room, or those fancy smelling soaps and hand creams. But from how many other hotels can visitors hear lions roar? Or the unmistakable cough of a leopard, the insane giggle of a feeding hyena?
Like any hotel anywhere in the world, there is a concerted effort to portray a certain image. I’m sure some like to appear busy, exciting, vibrant. SafLodge want their clientèle to feel the timelessness of Africa, the enormity. Staff move slowly, majestically; silently, like the elephant visitors who stroll through the grounds. To match the murmuring birds, they speak in low, soothing voices. Rooms are cleaned quietly, efficiently.
It’s a well run hotel with a flow that is rigorously maintained. The kitchens too, although rather noisier, are well organised. Food out one end, refuse out the other. Waste packed into bags, tied off at the top are put into larger bins; separated into organic waste, paper and plastic. Cans. Long before it became fashionable to compost hotel waste, SafLodge began sorting decomposables.
When game viewing vehicles return to the garages, they are swept clean, the food debris of the ever munching tourists removed. Gardeners move about continually removing litter, animal droppings. While it is very exciting for a tourist to see a wild cat slink into the lighted area at night, standing in the scat he leaves is not.
A small eco-system has developed around the hotel. Crows find enough pickings, mice are resident in store-rooms, in the garages. The malachite kingfishers find more worms than they would have had this vlei remained a dusty clearing. The inhabitants of this world were happy, contented, living their lives together.

Until one day…, into this serene, idyllic paradise a huge male baboon strolled.

And now I ask you, to once again pick up that imaginary paint brush and detail his battle scars, his bright red bum, huge discoloured teeth. Kicked out of his troupe, he now sits in the middle distance at SafLodge, scratching himself, or staring off into the distance. No longer can the crows make elegant swoops to pick up crusts dropped by children walking to the tennis courts. Now they need to make haste or the baboon will be there first. He shuffles in fast, snatches, stuffs the food into his mouth. Barks his triumph. He is not elegant. And the staff cant stand him. Especially the women.
And let’s get one thing clear here: this causes the big baboon not one sleepless night. No one has liked him for a very long time. It’s not a requirement of the male of the tribe: popularity.
He is bold. Bolder when there are no men about. He watches them move to the front gardens, or drive away in the game viewing vehicles. Then, with his awkward lope, his crooked tail, he makes his dash to the kitchen stoop. He throws aside the dustbin lids, grabs bags from the organic bins. Littering lettuce leaves, tomato tops, potato peels, he retreats to his spot. Small beady eyes on yelling, fist waving maids, he digs in and stuffing his mouth, barks his triumph.

SafLodge is very close to the Hwange National Park along a fairly busy road. Busses pass, tourists in four wheel drives. Accidents happen. Animals more accustomed to the pace of the National Park, underestimate speed. Stories abound about kudu, impala misjudging magestic leaps, crumpling under wheels. Or perhaps we are all wrong, and it’s simply suicide. Lemmings, leaping into passing landrovers.
I cant say if the huge snake lying across the road intended to commit suicide or if he went there for the warmth of the road. But he did, he sprawled himself right across the road his ends disappearing into the bush on either side, and the result was the same as if someone had taken a shot gun to him.
Trundling past, an inspiration came to a SafLodge bus driver, not unlike an artistic moment of vision. He coiled the dead snake into a bag and carried it back thus concealed, to the hotel.
Now I ask you to add a gaggle of maids to your picture, plotting revenge; the target of their intrigue squatting in his habitual position, chin resting on his hand. Contemplating; occasionally picking something from his coat, and popping it in his mouth.
The baboon noticed nothing untoward. He watched the men clean out the game viewing vehicles; move to the front, to tend the pool, sweep the paths. He watched the kitchen doors swish shut; a maid’s large behind retreating. Silence descended and the baboon made his move. He threw the bin-lid aside, delighting I swear, at the cymbal sounding crash.
The kitchen doors burst open. The baboon grabbed the closest bag and ran, his hoard awkwardly dragging behind. Barking in defiance he stared around at the ever increasing number of people. Men from the kitchens, from the garages. The cooks, bottle-washers. Even waiters. Barking victory, his eyes on his audience, the male baboon reached into the bag pulling out the contents. When he finally looked down at what he had stolen he found himself face to face with his nemesis. A huge, menacing, coiled monstrosity. This is the vision that haunts all baboon’s terrors; nightmares. It stared him right in the face, and the baboon saw his life passing in front of his slowly, upwardly rolling eyes.

Involuntarily squeezing the throat of the dead snake, Mr Big Baboon swooned. Yes, fellow artists. Still holding the snake, he rolled over backwards in a dead faint, his bright red bum clear, his little baboon feet facing the blue African sky. And the staff laughed. They bent double, some fell to the floor. They roared, they pointed. The baboon woke to them.
Throwing the snake violently aside, he stood to his full height barking defiantly. He bared his rotten teeth at the SafLodge and loped away.
And immediately, life returned to normal. Dustbin lids no longer required weights nor maids to take the long way back to their quarters. The crows once again made their slow majestic, unhurried swoops over pristine lawns.
I hope you will hang onto this little sketch we’ve made. This story doesn’t have a moral; parallels rather, and it’s a true story
Another story of Africa.

 

Please have a look at my books.

Click here, to download the Amazon version of Silk Threads

 

Click here to download A Pale

A Pale

Please post comments on the books here on my blog, or at Amazon.

You can email me at:

forfrankiekay@gmail.com

I love fan mail and discussing my books via email, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Silk Threads is available on Smashwords…if you are into BDSM and more explicit scenes, please download a copy of Silk Threads  here:

Silk Threads

And a copy of Jack and Jill here

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

 

Pick on someone your own size…

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The soil is a grey colour in Kezi, bleached hard by the hot sun. Occasional clumps of grass push up between large grains of sand. Small holes litter an open patch. Animal ambushes.
A Matabele ant, traveling fast through the bush as if on a trajectory, marches along. Matabele ants are huge. They have hard shiny skins, and giant pincers at the front. They are a glossy black. They sting, but only if you annoy them, or stand on them. At some times of the year, they group together and march along in black rivers, thousands of them. Through the bush, over roads. If a car drives over them, they let off a distinctive smell, which unless it has been experienced cannot be described. They sometimes let off that smell even when they are marching through the bush, undisturbed.
At other times of the year, they are solitary, as today. Picking its way along, it climbs over the occasional clump of grass, or heads for the few open patches in between, never deviating from its predetermined route.
A spider, alerted by minuscule vibrations on the surface of the soil rushes out of a little hole in the middle of the open patch. It dashes over to the ant, appears to hug the shiny back end. Falls off. Retreats. The spider’s tiny front pincers cannot penetrate the shiny armour and the ant continues without even a hitch in its step. Not with the smallest deviation of its course does it indicate it has noticed anything at all, untoward.
Utterly outclassed, the spider retires to its hole, to await something more in its league. Something softer, its poison shafts can impale.

Spider

 

 

~oo~00~oo~

Please have a look at my books…

 

Click here, to download A Silken Thread

A Silken Thread

Click here to download A Pale

A Pale

Please post comments on the books here on my blog, or at Amazon.

You can email me at:

forfrankiekay@gmail.com

I love fan mail and discussing my books via email, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Silk Threads is available on Smashwords…if you are into BDSM and more explicit scenes, please download a copy of Silk Threads  here:

Silk Threads

And a copy of Jack and Jill here

Jack and Jill a short story

Please leave a comment on Smashwords

 

Best keep it short…

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Chipangali, founded by Viv Wilson is a wildlife orphanage, just outside Bulawayo. I first saw Mr Wilson on TV when I was about seven or eight. I can remember sitting, open-mouthed watching him picking up snakes, explaining all about them in his squeaky voice.

“Well, Ken,” he would say while holding the slithering serpent in his bare hands, showing its amazing fangs.  “A bite from the Gaboon Viper…”

Until then, what I knew about snakes, was that they bite. All of them. All of them were poisonous and all should die. Immediately. Accompanied by a lot of yelling and screaming “Tshiya! Tshiya!” The lifeless body and squashed head should not be touched. It should be held with a foshola or stick on its way to the fire, cos it could still poison you. Read the rest of this entry

The human element…

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Recently, a photographer told me my photo graphs  were empty, lifeless. He said they lacked “the human element,” the little something that takes a good view and makes it great…He sent me some pics as examples…the one I especially liked was a park…the human interest: a piece of litter!

I’ve taken this piece of (constructive) criticism to heart…and I’m trying to visulise a new perspective into my photos (a difficult thing for me, because I find the human element uncomfortable against the backdrop of the rural landscape…)

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These photos were taken in Zaka, where it is difficult (but not impossible) to take photos and NOT include the effects of humans. I’d love to know which ones you prefer? Did the human element make a better pic?

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This sequence is of the same view! I just zoomed in on different features…

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Same view again, different orientation.

zakapath

Does this photo need someone walking on that path, or is it enough human element?

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Ant, taken in Matusadona National Park

Embarrassed…

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I’m unashamed to say I stole this story. Why? Because the guy who told it to me doesn’t blog and is unlikely to publicise it, and it’s a story begging to be told.


So to make me feel better here, howz about we say it’s a guest blog and in the same spirit, I’ll write it from his point of view. So here goes…

Late one afternoon I get a phone call from Siakobvu hospital to say one of my guys is in there with malaria and they need money. Since the US dollar was in use already albeit illegally, I knew he meant they wouldn’t accept Zim dollars for treatment…
I got up there a day or so later, sorted out with the money story and went through to see my rigger foreman. He’d been treated fine, was recovering, but extremely weak. He lay in a bed next to a man almost entirely covered in bandages.
“What happened to you?” I ask
“I was attacked by an elephant,” he replies.
“And you survived?”
He nods and says:
“You see boss. I have to go through Chizarira National Park to my home in Zhamba. It’s to make money.”
I nod to encourage him, after all, my rigger is barely lucid and I’ve got nothing else to do.
“I have two children and God has blessed us with a third.”
His face spits in a wide happy smile.
“You know times are tough,” he adds and again I nod my head, “So I buy fish at Kariba and take it home to sell.”
My eyes widen. Kariba to Zhamba via Chizarira is VERY far. Even in a car. On a bicycle it must take days. No, he tells me. He takes one day to get from Kariba to the top of the escarpment and once there, its mostly downhill…A day through the national park, if he times it right and only a few hours home on the other side. At least, he adds, he can stay with someone he knows immediately outside the park.

Elephant

“So, now it is late afternoon, I am racing along on my bicycle, I come around a sandy corner and whah. Three male elephants, all over the road. I swerve, Boss. I go into the bushes on the side trying to avoid them. But one of them reaches out with his trunk and knocks me off my bike. I roll and I run. I run for dear life. But even if an elephant doesn’t look like he is running, he is very fast. The smallest guy chases me, maybe thirty metres. He finds it much easier to run through the long grass than I do. He hits me to the ground with his trunk. The elephant takes his tusk and spears me here,”
The man taps his hugely padded, blood stained thigh.
“Then he pulls out, and prepares to stab me again. I roll over and he misses with the tusk but crushes me with his head. I hear my ribs popping and breaking. I can’t breathe and the vision of my two children passes my eyes.
“The elephant stands, to finish me off. I look up at him towering above me and I try to wriggle away, but I cannot. He moves his leg.  I think he is about to kick me, but he takes a step back and then makes a noise while he flaps his ears, in answer to one of the elephants.
“I hear them busy with my bicycle. They are destroying it. It crashes and buckles as they hit it down on the ground, against the rocks.
“The elephant moves over to its friends. I hope it has forgotten me, will leave me alone. But I know, even as I pull my arms over my head curl into a ball, I know it won’t help me. This is the bush and it will soon be nightfall and the smell of blood will call hyena and jackals. My unborn child will never know his father, may even never know what happened to him. Someone may find my bicycle, maybe not even this year. Who ever comes along this road? Let alone twenty, thirty metres in?
“I lie there, I do not know for how long, when I hear the elephants back. I am crying from the pain, and expect that having destroyed my bicycle, they will finish me off. I feel a shadow over me and try to curl tighter. Over my arm, a trunk, bristly, moves gently. It drops down my face and I can smell my fish. I feel the wind as he sucks up my smell. The trunk taps me gently, strokes me down my arm, all the way along my body to my bleeding thigh.

“You know you can’t hear an elephant move, they walk so silently. The next thing I hear is a breaking branch. I guess they are eating nearby. I am wrong. A branch is thrown on top of me, then another and another. They are holding my funeral. I have heard of this about elephants and I begin to cry.

“It became dark slowly although in my pain I was not always awake. The wound in my thigh was not bleeding as badly as it had earlier on, but I still could hardly breathe. I had to take very shallow breaths and I could taste blood in my mouth. I wanted to cough… I tried it only once!
“The elephants remained with me through the night. A few times I felt that trunk gently brushing along my arm, my face. Down my body.

“You may think I’m dreaming boss, and maybe I was. But I heard the jackals first. Later I heard the hyena. I heard his insane giggle and I feared. Once, during the night I swear I heard one of the elephants hit one. I knew how powerful a blow from that trunk is. The hyena made a silly screaming laugh, but didn’t wrap those powerful, bone cracking jaws around me. I have heard of people asleep in the bush have parts taken off their bodies from one bite by a hyena.
“I awoke in the early morning to the sound of the blue flies. They were sitting all over the branches around me. Blue flies are the death signal. Not one can be seen until the end is near.

“The elephants were still there. They took it in turns to eat, never roaming very far.
“Lying there, waiting for death, in the cool, very early morning, boss, I heard the unmistakable sound of an idling diesel engine. I thought I was dreaming. Hoping. My blood beat loudly in my crushed heart. I wanted to struggle up, wave my arms to the car, call out. I could not move. I could hardly croak. The vehicle slowed, but the safari hunter did not turn off his engine. If he had, he may have heard me.”
Smiling proudly at me, the man said, “It was the big elephant again that saved me, boss. He made a dance to make the tourists watch. He held their attention and then when he realised they could not see me in the tall grass, he held up one of the bundles of branches they had placed over me. The tourists still didn’t understand so he walked over to my bicycle and held it up.”
I think my face must have been a picture of disbelief because the patient levered himself up on one elbow, painfully.

“Boss. You can refuse to believe what I have told you up until this point. But this part I was told by the people on the game viewing vehicle. You can ask them if you don’t believe me. That elephant, the one with the large tusks called them to me. They picked me up off the ground, put some bandages and drove me all the way here.

“And my unborn child will live to see his father…”

Apparently the guy decided it was too dangerous to ride a bicycle through the National Park any more. It was obvious to him that the elephants knew he was not supposed to be doing that. The fish on the carrier had likely offended their sense of smell as had the speed with which he was traveling!

He professed himself lucky that the older elephant had a sense of humanity and stopped the younger ones killing him. He said perhaps another elephant who had been hurt by humans may not be so compassionate. He said he was lucky the older elephant was embarrassed enough to chase away the hyena, look after him through the long night.

He would stick to farming cotton from now on, he said. Hard work, it didn’t include riding through a National Park.

Kariba is there...in the distance

Kariba is there…in the distance


Now… this, Ladies and Gentlemen is a true story. Why would I lie to you?

Please have a look at my books:

You can find Silk Threads on Amazon here

A Pale here:

I still have Silk Threads free on Smashwords here:

Silk Threads
Jack and Jill here:Jack and Jill a short story
They are also available on Sony, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Diesel etc etc

Red Memories…

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Our long term memories are located near the emotion centre in our brains. Psychologists know that to lodge a memory well and truly… link it to an emotion. Looking through my photos for interesting ones to post on FB I came across this one…

Indaba Site

A vivid recollection flashed through my mind: the first time I ‘met’ Cecil John Rhodes.

Read the rest of this entry