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Luangwa River

Luangwa River

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bob hitting the bottle

Almost war - look at swazz.blogspot for more writing by me

We were out in Lake Karimba, the north shore a ragged dark line of bush perhaps two miles away, the Rhodian shore lost in the haze to the south. Warm blue and slightly smelly with drifting clumps of water hyacinth, the lake was new enough that the crocs and hippos were still establishing their yearly routines and dead trees stood on drowned hills, perches for fish eagles . We were using a government boat to get to areas of the north shore with no easy land accesss, doing a soil survey for the Zabian Ministry of Agriculture , traveling at ease in one of those well -used boats with a chugging engine and a nice shady canvas roof - if you ever saw Hepburn and Bogie in The African Queen you have some idea of what she was like . This one was maybe 25 ft with a shallow draught and about 3 ft of hull above the water, room for 6 of us with tents and gear for a week - stopping each evening at a chosen spot and going inland taking samples early each morning before the December heat set in. I was there for the fishing, a lazy extra taken along as a favour to my stepfather , bored in the city and occupied with those teen boy perennials eating, sleeping and grumbling, convinced the world would resolve into perfect harmony if everyone did things my way. South of the lake Mr Seth and his supporters were in a stand-off with the British, wanting to maintain their hold on things without all that nasty one man one vote stuff, and sporadic land mining and burnings, imprisonments and speeches were a daily background grumble. When we drove south to visit Aunt Boom in Salbury thered be roadblocks and armed men everywhere, it was always a relief to get back north where things were definitely more casual .
Over our horizon a tiny aluminum boat appeared, outboard motor screaming and bow high, two guys crouching together in the stern. Suddenly with these sweating desparate guys casual had gone flying; both were wearing dirty camouflage and dry blood, the one handling the motor with jerky speed, the other lost in a world of pain, clutching his right arm in a soggy dark shirtsleeve. -- ” Help, my friend needs help “ -- the steerer burst out as they hauled up along side our starboard -- north -- side. “ We only have a small first aid kit with us “ answered Andy, who was running things. “ Youre better off heading straight on for Siavonga, theres a clinic with a nurse there.”
“ No no man, they’re right behind us , you know hot pursuit man. They’re gonna shoot us on the water. You have to help “
“ But what can we do? We’re just with the Ministry of Agriculture, I suppose we can tell them this is Zabia and they should go home, but they will probably do whatever they want anyway. We dont have any weapons or anything, we arent involved in your quarrel. You guys , what have you been doing anyway, how do we know you arent just murderers or something, running from the police ? Ok we’ll just talk to them and see what they have to say, they cant just shoot you, they’ll take you to prison, arrest you and take you back.” Andy was indignant, fuming at this intrusion into the morning , ten am and alrready a steamy 110 out on the water, at least another 2 hours travel to the next planned landing at a small new village of Tonga people from down in the drowned river valley.
With an authoritative roar a speeding black rubber Zodiac packed with men, all khaki shorts , bristling beards and weapons arrived to put an end to indecision. “ Hey you guys see a couple of terrorists, we’ re after the bastards for two days now , theres only a couple left from the band, we got the others yesterday, they been laying fucking mines all over” shouted one with a slightly cleaner shirt “ We are Rhodian Government anti terrorist action forces and we’ve been tracking the bastards down “
While we gaped in heat - fuddled astonishment at these new arrivals we suddenly realised that we were right in the middle of a real live shooting war. Our first guests were now ducking down below the level of our north side while their hunters were pulling up to our south , as yet unaware of just how close their quarry was.
Until there came a yell “ Back off or you’ll get it , I’ ll throw this, if you shoot me it’ll go off and blow us all away “ from the first guy, who was now brandishing something black and sinister looking in his hand - a grenade held up for all to see .
Everything froze into slow motion, the background fell out of focus, all attention centred on the weapons and their wielders, nobody moved or remembered to breathe; as the zodiac drifted up and bumped against our side. All anybody wanted to do was get out alive, the best thing to do seemed to be dont move , dont set anything off, dont start the showdown yet, let’s get out of here. With a swift sure movement Andy broke the impasse, by grabbing the AK47 from the hands of the black-bearded guy in the bow of the Zodiac. He pointed it down and ordered “ Right then, this is Zabia here and we are Zabian Government officers on Government business, you people have no right involving us in your war or even to be here. Get back to your own country and fight your bloody war there, leave us alone. You can start by throwing all those guns overboard and then leave, get out of here. Do it now or I’ll shoot a few holes in your boat and you can swim back”
Reluctantly they accepted the situation, “ What happens if we throw our weapons away, you going to take us into Zabia or hand us to the terrorists ?” asked the officer
“ You can go right back where you came from “ answered Andy “ We just want you out of here, let us go on with our business and let these guys go their way. If they go back into your country you can chase after them all you want, but this isnt your place, this is our country here . We will see these guys are safe and will just go their way. Now do as I say, get rid of all those guns.
“ Okay then , men just drop them in the drink, and lets get out of here” ordered the officer. With a sudden bustle of movement the impasse was broken as the guns splashed over the side into the lake. “ Right, now we’re leaving - lets go , hit it Jim “ he ordered. With a roar their idling outboard revved up and the bow lifted as they turned and accelerated away, bouncing over the low waves.
Our other guests were overjoyed at this turn of events and whistled and laughed as they watched their pursuers turn and run . “Go on then , run you bastards , run before I throw this “ yelled the grenade wielder redundantly , then seemingly disappointed at losing his chance at martyrdom turned to us and yelled “ Your in with them , why did you let them go, we could have given them a fair trial and shot them like they deserve. We had them and you let them go “
Exasperated Andy growled “ You didnt have anything but a standoff , with a pretty good chance of being blown away, those guys would have shot you if youd thrown that thing and they probably would have tried to get you before you could throw it. We are all very lucky to come out still breathing. Now just get rid of the bloody thing and take your friend ashore, he needs to be seen to and all we have out here are band- aids, the nurse at the Siavonga clinic there knows what shes doing.” As he spoke he swung the gun he still held and pointed it right at the grenade man “ Come on man be sensible , we arent your enemies, the Zabian government lets you guys stay here because they sympathise with your cause, but we arent in your war, we are just trying to get on with our own business .”
The wounded man reached to his friend and grabbed him by the arm , whispering something in an urgent hiss which produced first a scowl and then a shrug as his protector listened intently, eyes on us, daring anyone to try something. Then finally with a great swing of the arm the grenade went flying over the lake to produce a dull thump and a dirty roil of weeds and water as it finally exploded. “ All right then Andy” I yelled , “ You sorted that lot out -- Hey good luck you guys “ as the dinghy swung away towards the shore . Everyone on board except Andy had been lying or crouching down , trying to be as small and inconspicuous as possible, and now we all stood up and remembered to breathe again.
“ Good thing I met all those guys a couple of weeks ago in a bar in Salbury “ grunted Andy, “ They recognised me and knew I ‘m honest and neutral in this whole business, we spent hours arguing with them trying to convince me they had a just war - of course theres no such thing . The other guys know me too , I took a baby to the clinic last month , gave the mother a lift; I think the wounded one there is the father, he recognised me too. Small world hey ?” He turned and casually dropped the gun over the side “ Good riddance to that ; come on now, lets get going “

Sunday, June 26, 2005


swizzTwo new silkie bantams hatched the old fashioned way , by their mother, when I got back here this afternoon. Both white and fluffy, more like the cock who is a pure silkie , than the hen , who is a silkie crossed with an Americauna; she is brown in several shades and has normal chicken feathers rather than a silkie's fluff. She lays blue eggs, a dominant trait, so eventually I will have a line of silkie bantams laying blue eggs, which will be convenient in some ways, making it easy to tell which eggs are which when using the silkies as foster mothers for other hens eggs. Many breeders use silkies this way as they are very good at hatching and caring for chicks, often pheasants, geese or other chicken breeds.

Friday, June 24, 2005

keeting up

New little keet is now happy with the other hatchlings in their brooder cage wih the heatlamp; kept it separate for a bit as it was a little wobbly, carried it in my shirt a lot of the time. They all treat one another as siblings although different species, their differences are minor at this stage. Perhaps they will stay together through til next spring, make it easier to tend to one lot in one place .
Of course the film I got developed yesterday has only a few pictures worth keeping, the spectacle of six deer leaping the road in a brown and white cascade of energy came out as brown dots barely discernible against the background, the chicks in their brooder are obscured and distorted by the red heat lamp, the Lady Amherst Pheasant cock displaying his colours is blurry, not only did he move but the camera focussed on the wire in the foreground. All arguments for going digital pretty soon, indulge myself to the tune of what , 4 or 5 hundred for something with good resolution and fast shots, so the picture comes as soon as you press the button , not press, click, whirrr, pause , c lick.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Brand new guinea fowl hatchling in the incubator this morning, properly called a "keet ", they are really small at this age, a couple of hours after coming out of the egg. Since a guinea hen's egg is about half the size of a large hen's egg, they are smaller than a chick, but not quite as helpless. They have pink legs and beaks and brown stripy down; this one has some white on its winglets and belly, which of course is quite usual with domesticated birds, in a wild bird any outstanding colours would be weeded out very soon. I'll post some photos in a couple of days, it'll take a while because my camera is old tech with film, so first have to use the whole film, get it developed , then scan the photos, then hook up the old computer to the new one ( PC to Mac ,will it work ) and from there upload to the net etc. etc. On second thoughts perhaps I'll just keep that keet in my shirt pocket and the photos in hard copy; if anyone actually reads this and wants to see pics, write a comment telling me and I'll do something about it.
On the eggshell I write the date when I put eggs into the incubator, so this one started on the 26th of May, just 4 weeks ago; chickens hatch in 3 weeks, so I spose thats why they are less developed when hatched. Finished the film in the camera so all action, off to town to get it developed and buy the usual milk bread and fruit, oh yes and grain for the geese, whatever they have , usually oats.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Summer now

Official first day of summer , no garden this year, just some plants in pots and odd spots. No corn for the racoons, no lettuce for the geese to ravage, its all grass and weeds. The geese are closed in the paddock behind their shed, so no pooping on paths or hanging out over at Henry's barn, which were their favourite occupations last year. Bob shares the paddock with them, mostly because he is difficult to keep out of trouble when free to wander. He gets out over the fence when totally bored with their company, though not yet since the latest upgrade to the now 5 ft high enclosure. If the fence is nice and rigid he can climb easily or jump to hang over the top then scramble the rest of the way, so now I'm trying it with a sort of slightly loose top wire that feels really insecure if he tries to hang onto it.We'll see how long that works.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Right now I have 3 Silky Bantam cross Americauna chicks, one pheasant chick and one guinea fowl keet (for some reason a baby guinea hen is not a chick but a "keet ") all together in a cage with a heat lamp; they get along really well and provide each other with company and comfort. They were all hatched in a styrofoam incubator which seems to work a little erratically , too hot on warm days and too cool when the weather is bad, but is a couple of steps better than leaving the eggs to be stolen and eaten by the raccoons or in some cases , the mothers, none of which seem to be very good at sitting on eggs and hatching their own.
When they grow a bit the chicks will graduate to a secure outside cage, which I still have to construct, but for now they are in the living room. Aptly named in this house .

Friday, June 17, 2005

sharks again

In South Africa there is a campaign on to stop the practice of attracting sharks by chumming, or attracting sharks by putting fish parts and blood in the water , so tourists are sure of getting a good look and photo-op. This practice is thought to accustom sharks to people and also to associate us with food, so increasing the likelihood of an attack on divers or swimmers. Same as bears, they make great photo subjects and arent dangerous to the feeders, but may be much more dangerous to others they encounter. Makes sense to me. Look but dont interfere etc.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

the goat diary

Billy goat Bob was named by my grandson in honour of his favourite , Bob The Builder, and is now perhaps 6 months old. He was bottle fed and so is very confident with people , actually pushy is more like it,as he does like to push people around with his head, doesnt actually use his horns yet as he probably doesnt know he has them. He also pushes his way into any partly open door or fence gap, places the geese have never got through he goes, and if he cant get through a fence he climbs it or jumps. He is now getting over 4ft fences where its solid enough to give him a good purchase while he hauls the rest of him after his head and shoulders. His diet is eccentric , he likes last years' leaves, this years newspapers and flyers, apple. dogwood, and elm tree leaves , spruce tree bark, chicken feed( layers mash ) deadly nightshade and carrots. He prefers banana peel to the fruit, which he leaves for his buddy the pig to eat, and quite likes onion skin and seeding grass. He really likes commercial goat ration, sweetened with molasses is the key there I think.
Last weekend he climbed the fence of his paddock, went through or over the electric fence into the field next door and joined my neighbour Henry's cows. They , well Henry, brought him back and tied him carefully to the ash tree on the lawn with water in an old pot nearby. By the time I got back here he had wound his tether around the tree and his own legs to the point of being completely immobilised. So next time I leave him alone he will be secure in his shed.

swimming pools

If you have a swimming pool and especially if you live out of town, its a good idea to hang a piece of rope or twine over the edge, so that any chipmunks that get in can find a way to climb out. It is nicer than fishing little drowned furry things out anyway.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sharks in South Africa

Wow when I looked into it , I found 3 fatal attacks in the Capetown area in the past 12 months, one elderly lady off Fishhoek beach last year and another diver on June 8th off Millers Point, which isnt that far away, both of which could easily have been by the same shark as killed the diver last weekend near Simonstown. In fact the shark was seen the next day at Kalk bay , having swum right past the Fishhoek beaches to get there. towing the buoy attached to the speargun with which the poor guys partner had shot it during the attack. Seems it made two attacks on the diver which were fended off before the final fatal one, so there is absolutely zero chance of this shark mistaking a man for a seal or whatever. This does seem pretty clear-cut to me, catch this individual shark while it is still readily identifiable, with the buoy attached, and calm things down before people go for every shark around.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


nice heavy rain wet the raw ground where they dug the drain, so scattered grass seed. Next to rake it in before dark.
Meantime here is something I wrote a few weeks ago

late fall Night
moonlit snow hushes
the shingles
and a slow fire licks
the iron stove
while the kittens are learning
how to purr
the queen brings
a night gift wrapped
in red
a mouse to play with


Nice out, cat woke me, not the clock, perhaps today I'll get some seed and soil and start on the scar left in the grass by the drain digging -- I cant dig a hole here because the Conservation Authority rules, but the Municipal Drain overrules - roots blocked the field drain running under my place to the creek , causing some puddles in Bill Rowcliffe's garlic field, so they brought a back hoe and dug it up. Replaced the pipe and soil, but no grass and not quite smooth, so I've been picking up stones and breaking clods , waiting for good rain to settle things. Good enough now to plant on.
Noon now, lets get a move on and get that grass seed. Later

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


A very large Great White ate a spearfisher close to shore near Capetown South Africa on Sunday, seen by a man on the nearby jetty and by his dive partner , this was no accident but a predator seeing a man as prey . Having swum in those waters way back when and witnessed several deliberate attacks on people by somewhat smaller sharks I have no doubt at all that this shark was not mistaking this man for a seal or bunch of fish. He had speared fish on a line nearby and no doubt their blood drew the shark into the area. Seals were often found on the beach near our home with big chunks torn out of their sides and the attacker waiting in the surf for them to return to the water. As kids we knew enough to stay out of the water on those days and keep a wary eye out the rest of the time, though I'm sure our body fat content was pretty low we would have been eaten readily enough.
Gangsters in Capetown in the sixties and early seventies had their own local version of cement boots as they were said to take victims out into False Bay and dump them overboard into the oeponymous Dire Straits off Dire Island. No one ever made it to shore.
Today tourists go there to see the sharks which come up to the boats to feed on fish offered to them, a whole mini industry which thrives on the great numbers of sharks now in the area . There is a total ban on fishing for them which has allowed them to multiply , but perhaps consideration could now be given to allowing a limited hunt , either in a very restricted area such as in a 3 mile strip along popular bathing beaches or with a strict lower size limit. Big Game fishermen from the States have offered as much as 250,000 dollars for the privilege of taking a Great White, surely enough to ensure the preservation of the species , since unlike the ivory trade the value lies in the public legitimate catching rather than in any anonymous product .
Similar problems arise with bears in Canada , crocodiles in Australia and tigers in India. In each case any long term solution must allow free use of a clearly defined territory to each party involved, both humans and their predatory neighbours.

Aids in South Africa

South Africa has about 5.3 million people who are HIV AIDS Positive ; this is from a population of about 45 million people, meaning 1 in 5 adults is presently infected. The Health Minister has been accused of acting slowly in the distribution and use of available Anti Retroviral drugs. Official programs now treat 42,000 people, with an estimated 60,000 receiving private treatment, by these pharmaceuticals. The plan was supposed to reach about 185,000 patients by March 2005, with US Government sponsorship.
Many in the country distrust the motives of backers of these drugs, since obviously there is money to be made by the producers and distributors, and cite serious side effects . They also say that alternative treatments can be as effective; one woman , a nurse with years of experience in this field, has developed a treatment using raw garlic, lemon peel, olive oil and beetroot which is said to reverse the development of symptoms, decreasing viral loads and increasing CD 4 counts to the point where patients may be classified as HIV Positive but not AIDS sufferers. This treatment is endorsed by the Minister as being more readily accessible and cost - effective for many impoverished people. However that may be, about 300,000 people died during last year obviously not having received any effective treatment soon enough.


if youre bored get a goat. Guaranteed to tease , through fences with ease , but friendly , smelly head butting (in the nicest possible way ) and poops anywhere anytime.