home thoughts from abroad

Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.

This picture takes me back to the 26 day camping trip I took travelling around southern Africa. Although I lived in South Africa for many years I never had the time, money or opportunity to visit neighbouring countries other than a brief trip to Mozambique and Swaziland in my pre children days. In 2000 I went on this journey of a lifetime recorded as a diary on this blog. If you haven’t read about it then please click on the links below. The picture is of  a Sociable Weaver nest. In the Namib Desert these nests can become so large and heavy that they bring the tree down. They are the largest nest built by any bird and may house over 100 pairs of birds. They sometimes build them on electricity poles causing short circuits in the rainy season and fire in the dry season. One look at it and I remember the dryness and the heat of that region. When the hairs in your nostrils smell as though they are being singed, you know it is hot.

  1. Week One – Cape Town to the Orange River
  2. Week Two – Namibia
  3. Week Three – Christmas in the wet
  4. Week Four – Finding Rhino
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Springboks and Fuzzy Ducks: Snippets from an African Diary

Friday: drove east through Etosha to the other camp at Namutoni, a German fort, spotting another male honey-coloured lion and its kill (a zebra), a two-toned herd of zebra with their stiff upright brush-like manes trotting together shoulder to shoulder (we have now seen so many zebra  we are very nonchalant, barely glancing at them as though they were herds of cows), wildebeest, springbok sheltering from the heat beneath the spreading trees, a falcon, flocks of Egyptian geese, a couple of giraffe heads down and legs splayed around a water-hole and two spotted hyena – it’s like writing a shopping list – but still no elephant! Continue reading Springboks and Fuzzy Ducks: Snippets from an African Diary

Aardwolves to Zebras: Snippets from an African Diary

Friday: a very long and dusty day mostly on dirt roads as we drove into the Namib Desert to a private campsite. Strange trees along the way called quiver trees (kokerboom), which are really aloes, and large communal nests made by sociable weaver birds. Getting a little sick of Crowded House ‘Take the Weather with you.’ Stopped briefly at Seeheim Hotel to stock up on drinks and got licked to death by a mad bull-mastiff puppy. We continued to Bethanien, where Michael and I hunted down ice cream and anchovy paste, not to be eaten together I hastily add, then we stopped to eat lunch by the side of the road under the shade of the one tree in the area, only to be eaten alive by huge biting ants. Taking a shovel with me to go to the loo is a new experience. Continue reading Aardwolves to Zebras: Snippets from an African Diary

Oranges in the Fish/Fish in the Orange: Snippets from an African Diary

December 2000. As far as I was concerned this was the time to celebrate the millennium. When 2000 rolls over into 2001. Last Christmas and New Year I was unable to take any leave because I worked in IT and because the whole world was obsessed with the effect Y2K would have on all our computers. Working practically around the clock to ensure nothing disastrous would happen to the 1000 plus machines the department I worked in was responsible for was manic and being ‘on call’ for the 1st Jan was annoying in the least. I had dreamed of visiting my son in Sydney to see the 20th century disappear over the Harbour Bridge watching the firework display that the Aussies are famous for. It wasn’t to be.

So now, at the beginning of December, a 26 day camping journey around South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe awaited me as I stepped off the plane at the politically neutral named Cape Town International Airport. I couldn’t wait. After living in South Africa for 12 years in the ‘70s and ‘80s I was more than ready to explore the dramatic landscapes surrounding my beloved country.

Continue reading Oranges in the Fish/Fish in the Orange: Snippets from an African Diary

Room 202

If you have read my experience “Windhoek Warning” you will know what this is about. If you haven’t, perhaps you should read that post first so this makes some sort of sense.

Monday dawned and we reluctantly returned to the police station in Windhoek to obtain the necessary copies of the crime report in order to put in insurance claims on our return to the UK. This was unable to be done on Sunday because the Duty Officer did not have a key for the room in which the only photocopier was situated. Neither of us looked forward to going back into the city, but needs must. We finally managed to persuade the manager of the villa where we were staying to add the cost of a taxi to the police station on to our bill so we could be dropped off right outside the door. Then the fun began.

After queuing at the complaints desk for 40 minutes in a hot, malodorous and jam-packed room we finally reached the counter only to be told,

“Oh no madam, this is not where you need to be, you need to go upstairs to the black door marked Enquiries”.

So, elbowing our way back through the crowd, we went upstairs and through a black door marked Enquiries only to be informed,

“Oh no, madam you need to go upstairs to Room 202, the crime enquires”.

We were now beginning to wonder how many floors there were in this building, and how many rooms marked ‘Enquiries’. There were an awful lot of black doors along each of these corridors. Anyway, we climbed up another flight of stairs in search of Room 202 – the doors had no logical numbering to follow so we wandered up and down the narrow corridors. No-one challenged us.

Eventually at the end of one corridor we found Room 202 where three constables were sitting behind desks piled high with beige files of varying thickness– no signs of computerisation in here. Looking at the reams of paperwork, and the height of the files, my heart sank; it was obvious that these guys had a lot of crime reports to deal with – and equally obvious they weren’t going to recover any of our items. But I needed that crime report for my insurance claim; I realised this could take a while.

One of the older constables eventually raised his head,

“Hello madam, what can we do you for?”

I passed over the slip of paper that I had been given when I reported the crime. He took it gingerly, glanced at the crime number, flicked through the top of his pile of reports and said,

“No, that’s not here, I put it somewhere, now let me think, where did I put it? No I cannot remember, maybe you can come back later?”

and put his head back down to his paperwork. I explained that we couldn’t as we were flying out in the morning and it was important that I had copies of the report today for insurance purposes, but I wasn’t sure anyone was listening. A young lady then entered the office and our constable became engaged in conversation with her, rubber stamping and filing more complaint sheets. She left and once more his head went down. I sighed; it was going to be a long morning.

Eventually he paused in his stamping and looked up to find that we were still patiently waiting in his office. He then jumped up, grabbed an enormous bunch of keys from a drawer and beckoned us to follow him down the corridor. He unlocked one room, peered inside it, shook his head, locked the door and continued to the next room into which he disappeared. We waited outside for several minutes not sure whether he wanted us to follow him inside and just as we were thinking of doing that out he came and beckoned us to follow him back into Room 202. What was all that about?

As we re-entered the room one of the younger constables stood up at his desk and handed over a green folder – yes – our report! But this wasn’t over yet. Now for the issue of the photocopier. Today, being Monday, thankfully the room was not locked, but to get the three copies we required would cost us NAD$30. I calmly explained that we did not have any cash – it had all been stolen during the mugging, but we did, fortunately, have one credit card, so would they accept that? No; they didn’t have a card machine.

After much discussion and shaking of heads one of the constables gave us directions to the nearest ATM and my poor husband was duly dismissed to draw out some cash feeling very uneasy about going out on his own worried that he would be mugged yet again. I dare not leave the office in case our report vanished under one of those piles, which were growing by the minute. The constable scrawled something onto the record sheet which accompanied my report – no doubt writing something to the effect “don’t bother any further with this one as the victims are leaving the country tomorrow” and I have a feeling that once we had left our report would vanish for good. Meanwhile I eyed that green folder like a hawk.

My husband eventually returned, puffing and sweating, but at least in one piece – those stairs, that heat and the stress of carrying cash were not having a good affect on him. I was concerned that he might not survive until the flight!

The money was handed over and we were led to yet another Enquiry office – Room 211 – where we waited for a different young constable to go and make the three copies I’d requested. We then returned to Room 202 – it was beginning to feel like home there – where the older constable took his rubber stamp and joyfully stamped each copy, signing them with a flourish and handing them over to us with a wide grin. I thanked him and we left, grateful that it had only taken us three and a half hours!