WTF Friday – Which Way Africa Style (Part Four)

Once a week Cee from Cee’s Photography Blog runs a Which Way Photo Challenge – everyone is welcome to take part.

You can read the rules for the challenge here.

We came upon this bridge while travelling in Mocambique some years ago. It didn’t even look safe enough to walk across but we had to get to the other side …

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On my last trip to Zimbabwe I happened across this accident. It was late afternoon and I didn’t want to be on the road after dark, so after an hour of sitting around waiting while nothing happened I decided to ‘bundu bash’ through the bush to get around the truck and continue my journey. Thankfully no one was injured.

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One of my neighbours hung this hopeful sign on her vegetable garden fence.  I wonder if the hippos take any notice?


To see last week’s wonderful Which Way entries click on the thumbnail below.

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WTF Friday – Which Way Africa Style (Part Three)

Once a week Cee from Cee’s Photography Blog runs a Which Way Photo Challenge – everyone is welcome to take part.

You can read the rules for the challenge here. (I tried to copy them to this post for easier reference but the formatting went haywire!)

A few years ago we were lucky to be invited by friends to join them at the impala hunting camp they had bought in the Lower Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe.

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Of course, being a Land Rover (apologies to all Land Rover fans out there), things didn’t always run smoothly.  Most of the Lower Zambezi Valley is a wildlife area and there are many dangerous animals around – lions, elephants, buffalo, you name it, it lives there. So we had a few tense hours sitting on the side of the road while the men carried out running repairs.

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Reading Genis’s Fat Dog Diary’s post this week (Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge (Day 3): The Joke is on Me) reminded me of this picture I took at Livingstone Gwembe Safaris Crocodile Farm. I think Genis will be relieved to know this!

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Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge (Day One): Early Bird

I have been reading the “Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge” posts popping up on my reader over the last week or so and have loved all the entries. So when Cee from Cee’s Photography Blog send me an invitation to join I was delighted! My biggest challenge will be getting my internet connection and/or electricity supply to behave, something it hasn’t been doing very well at during the last fortnight. [I have been struggling to upload one picture for the last 30 minutes It took five hours to upload these pictures]

Cee is a very active blogger, she always posts something every day. She also runs various daily photo and writing challenges and offers helpful advice and encouragement to everyone who takes part – I don’t know where she finds the energy! If you haven’t already, I recommend that you pop over to her site to have a look at her work – her photos and accompanying stories are beautiful.

“The rules of Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge require you to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo (It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or simply a short paragraph) and then nominate another blogger to carry on this challenge. Accepting the challenge is entirely up to the person nominated, it is not a command.”

Today I would like to invite Genis’s Fat Dog Diary to join in the fun. Genis’s stories are told from the point of view of “The Dog Himself”. They are fun to read and of course the photos of Genis and his surroundings are gorgeous.

Early Bird

I have never been someone who leaps out of bed as soon as the first bird starts to tweet. I’m more of a stay tucked up in bed snoozing until the last possible moment sort of person.

These days I find this difficult. Most of our house does not even have windows, let alone curtains to keep out the sunlight, and our living space is open and bare to the elements. And the wildlife.

The other morning while lying in bed, my eyes screwed tightly shut while I pretended that I was sleeping in that day (who was I kidding?), there was a sudden loud CRASH on the roof overhead. Then another. And another – a dead tree hangs over the roof of our bedroom and often branches are broken off by whatever animal happens to be foraging for beetles or spiders hiding under the dead bark at that time. Branches break, fall on the roof and the loud bangs wake me – and then I heard a long, plaintive wail, something sounding like a small baby crying because it hadn’t been fed for two days. Or because someone was poking its leg with a very sharp instrument and wouldn’t stop.

I reluctantly opened my eyes, peered up at the gap at the top of the bedroom wall that serves as a window and saw two eyes peering back down at me. They seemed to be saying “What? Are you still in bed this late in the day?”


I fumbled around for my glasses but by the time I had put them on and looked again the bird was gone. I was quite glad about that – at least now I could get dressed without being gawked at from above.

But this bird was determined. No sooner had I pulled a shirt over my head when I got the feeling I was being watched again. But what was that she had in her beak?


I knew, from the wailing sound, that it was a Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator) that had so rudely woken me. But I also knew (or at least thought I knew) that their diet consists mostly of fruit and insects. Whatever that was in her beak was neither of those (I knew it was a female by the size of her casque – that lump on top of her beak. It’s longer on males).

By now I was standing on the tip of my toes on top of the kist that sits at the end of our bed, stretching upwards to get a better view.

She threw her head back and tossed that ‘thing’ around a bit and I began to get a better idea what it was she was she had found while rummaging around in the tree above our room.



It was a chick! Unidentifiable by now, but definitely another species of bird.


I jumped down off the kist to consult my Roberts Birds of Southern Africa – perhaps I had misidentified this bird – when there was another plaintive wail and the Hornbill looked down at something I couldn’t see. So instead of reading the book I had grabbed, I placed it on the kist, stood on it and could then see there was another noisy bird, sitting on a lower branch.



The newcomer hopped further up the branch and I expected that either my original bird would fly off with her treasure, or that there would be a fight over who would go hungry that morning.


Turns out I was wrong on both counts. The new guy (or rather gal. Unless the casque grows with age) was her newly fledged chick, noisily begging for breakfast!


From now on I’ll make more of an effort to get up earlier in the mornings, it can turn out quite interesting.

A Close Encounter

Zambezi Elephant Trails is home to nine tamed and trained African elephants and is based inside The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, just a short drive from Livingstone in Zambia. There tourists are offered the unique experience of interacting closely with one of Africa’s most magnificent animals. After a short briefing by staff, guests are encouraged to walk in the bush alongside the elephants, observing them in their natural habitat – unchained and unhindered. Later the elephants are saddled up and a short ride through the bush follows.

After the ride is over the elephants are left to continue grazing and they wander through the bush for the rest of the day, living as wild elephants do, only returning to their stables after they are called by their handlers in the evenings. They are called by name and it is remarkable to see these giant beasts responding, lumbering over to their handlers and obediently going into their stables for the night.

All of the original six adult elephants living at Zambezi Elephant Trails were rescued as orphans in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) between the 1960s and the 1980s. Of the remaining three, two are offspring of the tamed elephants and one is a calf who was found abandoned on a nearby island in the Zambezi River.

One afternoon in 2010 the elephants had crossed over to graze on Sekuti Island, which is directly across from the base on the Zambezi River. When the handlers called them to come in for the night they all entered the water and started swimming back across. It was then that the handlers noticed there was an extra calf with them. He had attached himself to one of the cows in the herd called Mashumbi – they refused to be parted from one another and he followed her straight into the stables! A search on the island found no other elephants there, checks with elephant population researchers revealed that no wild breeding herds had been seen in the area for a couple of months and from this it was deduced that this little guy had been abandoned some time ago and had somehow managed to survive this long on his own. He had been fully accepted by the Zambezi Elephant Trails herd and the Zambian Wildlife Authority agreed to give custody of him to them – he was named Sekuti after the island where he was found. He is still being fed milk supplements (elephants can continue to suckle from their mothers until they are 10 years old) and Sekuti follows the herd wherever it goes, learning good manners through positive reinforcement along the way.

Bop and Danny are the oldest bulls;  they were both orphaned during culls in the Mana Pools National Park in the Lower Zambezi area of Zimbabwe. Danny is now about 40 years old and Bop, nearing 60, has recently been retired.

In the 1980s a very severe drought left many elephants – and other wildlife – struggling to exist in the already dry and harsh climate of the Gonarezhou (meaning “Place of the Elephant”) National Park in Zimbabwe. As a consequence of the drought a number of baby elephants were abandoned by their herds. These babies were rescued and taken in by some local farmers, who hand-reared them and cared for them for many years afterwards.

At around that time Clem Coetzee, a renowned Zimbabwean conservationist, had started to develop a method of positive reinforcement training for elephants and the farmers decided to try it out on their foster babies – with great success. Soon they were riding the elephants around on their farms and this later developed into an elephant back safari business.

The other four adult elephants at Zambezi Elephant Trails, now ranging in age from 30 to 38 years old, were part of that group of babies from the Gonarezhou. I was living near the Gonarezhou at the time of the drought, those farmers were people I knew and I visited the farm where the babies were being held before moving to their new foster homes. I can remember the pitiful sight of those babies, I could sense the despair they seemed to be feeling – some aimlessly pacing inside their pen, others crying real tears as they stared listlessly through the bars. That image and that feeling of sadness will never leave me.

Little did I know then that I would meet them again all these years later and to see them now, as happy, well-adjusted adults living in a cohesive family group is an uplifting experience.












To see more Black and White Close-Ups, visit Cee’s Photography Blog

At the Airport at High Noon

At noon today, take a pause in what you’re doing or thinking about. Make a note of it, and write a post about it later.

I wrote this post on Sunday for the Daily Post Postaday Prompt: High Noon. As is the norm in these parts, when it rains electricity supply and the internet become unreliable, so it has taken me many frustrating attempts to get it published.

In fact, if our house had windows, there would be a computer-shaped hole in one of them by now!


Our nearest airport is not very busy. Only three international and two local flights arrive a day – most of the passengers are Bucket List People coming to visit Victoria Falls, adrenalin junkies seeking their next thrill and sometimes a handful of businessmen and investors.

Joe was supposed to have flown in yesterday from Johannesburg, but our  late rains put paid to that.

Piet got to the airport at mid-day to collect him and within minutes the plane could be heard circling above, hidden behind a heavy bank of clouds. It kept on circling for quite some time, round and round and round, once appearing for a brief moment before being sucked up again into the dull greyness. Then silence. No more circling plane and no announcements over the public address system. People started to get restless and then panicky, the low mumblings getting louder with each question.

“What’s going on?”,



One of our friends who owns a helicopter touring company was also at the airport to collect his wife. Being in the business, he has all the passes necessary to get in to those areas the rest of us never see at an airport. So after about half an hour had passed and there had still been no announcement, he decided to nip up to the control tower to see if he could find out what had happened to the plane.

It turns out that when the plane made that brief appearance below the clouds it had been coming in for final approach to land. However, the constant driving rain and electrical storms had interfered with the navigation instruments on the ground and had the pilot continued with his downward trend the plane would have landed directly on top of the airport building! After hastily pulling back up above the clouds he continued circling while trying to establish a better connection with the people in the tower and continued doing this until an impromptu diversion to Lusaka Airport – an hour and a half away – was necessary for refuelling.

Refuelling took an hour, and by this time Joe, tired of being cooped up in such a small space – he is a large man and needed to stretch his legs – asked if he could disembark. Being told “if you get off you can’t get back on again” slightly annoyed him, so he asked if he could be served a drink instead. “It is against the airline’s policy to serve alcohol while on the ground” was the curt reply. There is a bus service which runs between Lusaka and Livingstone (it’s a six-hour journey) and Joe had started to seriously consider getting off the plane and catching that bus when the pilot announced that the tanks were full and they were going to head back to try to land again.

A bit more circling over the airport and three hours later they had landed. Back in Johannesburg.

Eight hours of flying later they were right where they had started!

Being Easter Weekend all the flights were fully booked, an extra plane was laid on and so today Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula Airport received four international flights. Joe arrived safely on one of them.

And that’s why today at noon I was at the airport.



Naughty Potomanautes

Yesterday morning I hadn’t yet put on my glasses when I surfaced from the bedroom and went into the lounge.  I glanced across at the fish tanks, as I normally do, and noticed something strange. There appeared to be a mythical, multi-legged beast with two heads writhing around on the floor of the tank.



Glasses on, I peered closer. It seems there was a wedding last night. 1-IMG_3404 I made myself a cup of coffee, pulled up a chair and settled in to watch the show. (I know this might seem like a weird thing to do, but it’s not every day you see a pair of river crabs mating in your living room.) Three hours and a couple more cups of coffee later things had not progressed much, so I turned to Google to find out what I would be missing if I left them alone to carry on their, um, business … What I learned was that crabs usually mate soon after moulting, while their outer shells are still relatively soft and supple. Also that females of many African river crabs species (Potomanautes sp.) ‘give birth’ to live, perfectly formed baby crabs – unlike sea crabs which lay eggs that hatch into a larval stage before metamorphosing into little crabs. Another thing I learned is that the crab mating act can sometimes take many days to finish (!), so I gave up being a voyeur and went to work. In the evening when I got home they were still at it and only finally parted at around 8pm. I leave you with a short video I took. This is pretty much as exciting as it got and I think you will understand why I didn’t stick around to watch more.