WTF Friday – Which Way Africa Style (Part eight)

Sadly Cee’s Which Way Challenge comes to an end next week, so this will be my last entry for this challenge. Cee will be hosting a brand new Compose Yourself Photo Challenge starting next week and I look forward to taking part in that.

I will continue to enter her other challenges and will also try to continue with my own WTF Friday theme.


After what feels like a record long dry season we are finally heading towards the rains. The dust will settle and the cooler temperatures will be a relief.

I took the next three photos while driving through the Mashonaland Province of Zimbabwe a few years ago.

It was during the rainy season.

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WTF Friday – Which Way Africa Style (Part seven)

It seems the whole of Southern Africa has retreated to the Dark Ages – literally.

In short, there is not enough electricity being generated – in the entire region – to meet demand.

There are many theories and rumours about why this has happened, ranging from ineptitude, to not enough rain to feed the rivers providing the hydro-electric power, to sub-standard equipment supplied during a dodgy tender deal. I suspect all are true to some extent but no-one is prepared to shed any light (sorry) on the matter and tell us what is really going on.

What this means is that we are now being subjected to load shedding. In my case, for six days a week we have no electricity for eight hours a day and on the seventh day – fingers crossed – the electricity does not go off at all. Last week it was only five hours off for five days of the week, so it is getting worse: the poor folk in Lusaka are enduring ten-hour cuts, with a fourteen hour cut one day a week, so I am thankful I don’t live there!

This makes keeping up to date with work – and more importantly, blogging! – very difficult and until we can make a plan with a generator and/or solar power both are going to be a bit sketchy and intermittent.

Any Zimbabweans reading this will be wondering what I am moaning about – they have dealt with severe load shedding for the last fifteen years (some are lucky if they receive two hours electricity supply a day) – and I apologise. But having thought I had left all that behind me I am taking a while to re-adjust.

In the mean time, here are my entries for this week’s Which Way Challenge.

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.

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Birchenough Bridge, Zimbabwe – taken in the late 1980’s

Rural fuel station in Zimbabwe

Rural fuel station in Zimbabwe

Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe

Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe

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The Hippo Series V – Lower Zambezi Valley

Earlier this month Piet and I were invited on a trip to the Lower Zambezi, where we stayed at a self-catering lodge called Munyemeshe. This lodge is on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River where wildlife wanders freely between the Game Management Area (or GMA) and the nearby Lower Zambezi National Park.

It is a rustic place.  There is no electricity, no wi-fi and – best of all – no mobile phone signal, so for seven glorious days we were cut off from the World, no worries, no cares, no constant pinging of the telephone.

Each night I would lie awake in the dark, listening to the bush sounds – the eerie call of the thick-knees,  hysterical hyena scrapping over some left-over lion kill, the deep belly laugh grunting of hippos echoing across the water or the rustle and crack of elephants grazing from the tree above our chalet.

One was kind enough to leave us his calling card.


The days were spent on the boat, fishing, eating, relaxing, laughing and reminiscing with old friends about old times. And hippo watching.

In my last post I mentioned that I had rarely had the opportunity to photograph hippos out of the water.  My luck changed on this trip.

I don’t recall ever having seen so many hippos at one time. At every turn in the river, in each inlet and on every sand bank we were met with the glowering stare of at least one of these beasts. Pods of fat, shiny bodies sunned themselves, soaking up the weak winter sunlight – regardless of the time of the day.

It was a hippopotophile’s dream.













An Alien Encounter

Before I left Zimbabwe I lived in a beautiful house on the banks of Mazwikadei, a large lake which serviced our farmer neighbours. Being in a rural area we often had wildlife in the garden; kudu, duiker, genet and the odd wild cat.

Once a farmer’s cattle roamed into the garden, creating quite a stir with the dogs – and with First Born. He had just got home from school when I heard him calling from his bedroom:

“Muuum! We have too many animals in this house already! What have you gone and bought now?” I looked out of the window to see what he was talking about: 1-61954_469168182455_1077579_n But the most unusual and disturbing visit by far occurred in the middle of a cold winter’s night.  The boys and I were alone in the house (their Father was away) and I had all the dogs inside – for our protection and for their warmth.

1-197992_4828222455_7753_n At about 2am the dogs woke me, barking frantically to be let out. I could see nothing obviously threatening through the window so I opened the door and was nearly knocked off my feet in the dogs’ desperate scramble to get outside. They tore off to the water’s edge, still barking and snarling and then suddenly went silent. There was a quiet whimper, a thunder of feet on the lawn and they all tore back towards the house, and me.  By now I was standing barefoot on the grass, a few feet from the front door and in an instant all the dogs were huddled behind me, shaking and whining and peering around me towards the water. These were not all small dogs – two Great Danes, a couple of Labrador-sized rescue dogs and a miniature poodle – we must have made an amusing sight, had anyone been around to witness this.

It was very dark and I could see nothing but then a sound began to register – a strange shuffling noise accompanied by a scrunching, scraping noise which I could not identify. The noise stopped for a moment, everything went quiet and I took the opportunity to dash back into the house, dogs close on my heels, to fetch a torch. Armed with some light we all ventured back into the garden and I crept as close to the water as I dared, shining the torch in all directions and looking for Goodness knows what.

The scrunching began again, I flashed the light towards the noise and saw two specks of light – about a foot apart – that seemed to be dancing in time to the scraping, a few feet above the ground. My blood ran cold and every hair on my body stood up. My legs became dead weights and for a minute or two I was rooted to the spot, unable to move, think, react. What alien being was this?

Then one of the dogs growled, the light specks stopped moving and in a moment a large, grey shape came into focus.

Not someone you want to bump into in the middle of the night

Not someone you would want to bump into in the middle of the night

We were looking at a hippo making a midnight feast of the long grass growing on the edge of the dam in the front garden!

Both boys slept through the excitement but I wish I had woken them up. This was the first sighting of a hippo in our lake and no one believed my story – I took no photographs and for a long time jokes were made about ‘pink hippos’ and alcohol.

A few days later I was vindicated when the hippo appeared in the bay in broad daylight. The dogs were a lot braver this time around. 1-33653_475750722455_379878_n 1-33653_475750727455_5519209_n The hippo hung around for a few more days and then disappeared forever.

This is my first entry into Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge.

“Odd Ball Photos are those great photos that you take which really don’t seem to fit into a common category.  We’ve all taken them and like them, because we just can’t hit delete and get rid of them.  There is never a theme to this challenge, so what is an odd ball is all up to discover and photograph.”

I’ve always loved the first photo, of the cattle in the garden (it is a scanned copy and unfortunately I have lost the original) and thought it would fit nicely into this challenge. And it is pretty odd to have cattle gazing at you from your front garden.

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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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

Far Out in Africa – the Inspiration

Last week I signed up for the Daily Post’s Blogging 101: Zero to Hero event which began today. This requires me to publish at least one post a day for the next month.

Also today our local (our only) electricity supplier advised us that not only are they carrying out routine maintenance on the line, but also that there has been a major break-down across the border in Zimbabwe – we receive some of our power from the Zimbabwe grid – so our electricity supply (and thus internet and telephone connection) will be interrupted throughout most of the week. One thing I have learned over the course of my life in Africa is that a sense of humour is essential for staying sane; I almost lost mine when I was told that.

Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post.

Last year, which I hope was an unusual one, Piet and I spent most of the months from May to November awake – either chasing elephants out of our crops all night or, bleary-eyed and exhausted, trying to carry out our normal work during the day. I was speaking to Last Born son on the phone one evening while Piet was out doing battle. Through the phone Last Born could hear the booms of the fireworks and the continuous crackle from the radio which sits strategically on our kitchen counter – the elephant guards and Piet keeping a running commentary on the progress of the latest elephant incursion.

One particular broadcast came through loud and clear: “Bwana come in … There are some elephants now at Pivot three.  And there are hippos on Pivot eight.”

“I tell my friends here in the UK about your rather large farm pest problems and no-one believes me.” said Last Born. “You need to write about this!”

Thus a seed was sown. I nurtured and grew it, mulling over the sort of things I would (and could!) write about in a blog.  Then when First Born and his delightful English Lass visited in November I began to look at my life here in Africa through new eyes. English Lass’ delight and incredulity at what was going on around her, things I have taken for granted and accepted as ‘normal’, now appeared bizarre, exciting, interesting, fascinating. I thought, if I write about these things, perhaps others will be interested, excited and fascinated too. I read other blogs, spoke to friends who blog and eventually in May this year, just before the elephant season was due to begin, I wrote my first post. And nothing happened. The elephants did not come. We have already harvested one land of wheat – three to go – and will start on the maize next month and so far, not one elephant incursion.

Initially the purpose of this blog was to document our battles with elephants, hippos, buffaloes and other large, unusual farm pests. But in their absence the blog has evolved into a Salmagundi of African life. A hodgepodge of stories and pictures, depicting life for me (and others like me) living in Africa, dealing with Africa’s curved balls and oddities.

The title for this blog, Far Out in Africa was inspired by a comment my Mum made in a letter to me when my parents lived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia during the late 1980s. It wasn’t long after the release of the box office hit movie Out of Africa when Mum wrote to me:

“This place is so isolated and the things that go on around here are so way out and almost unbelievable that if Isak Dinesen had lived here she would have called her book ‘Far Out in Africa’.”

Africa is beautiful, there is no doubt about that. Africa is also harsh, unforgiving and cruel. Africa has the ability to blind-side you – to surprise, enchant and amuse with her quirky ways, and I hope that my readers will experience a taste of this through my blog.

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Africa. Beautiful Africa

Africa. Beautiful Africa