Digging into memory isn’t easy: Being there

This is really difficult, digging back in memory to find the holiday. Wendy remembers the young guide and ghillie but my memory of him is dim. I have no recollection of any of planning for the trip and rather think that Cliff and Wendy did all the organising. I do tend to be a ‘passenger’ even to this day.

Be that as it may, the cabins where we stayed were (I think) the only buildings at the north end of the island, right on the beach. We never ventured as far as the south end of the island (about 37kms away) but I recall that there were some wealthy South African dentists camped there on their annual fishing junket. The cabins were double storey and so stuffy we all slept outside under mosquito nets. There was funny smell inside, too. Rats, definitely a rat stink. There was no electricity and no cooking facilities either. Glifford did a magnificent job cooking all our meals outside on a primitive barbecue.

The first night in the camp I heard a curious rustling noise from inside the cabin. Roland wasn’t budging so I had to go and find out for myself what was going on. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of gigantic cockroaches in the shower, frantically hustling and rustling. “How can this be?” I thought. In retrospect, the insects must’ve been after water – although I have no recollection of any piped water into the chalet. After a couple of nights I got used to the rustling noise and ignored it. I doubt if we used the shower anyway, maybe to wash the salt off after swimming or maybe we just chose not to wash.

Swimming in front of the cabins was not an attractive proposition. When the tide was out it was just mud (and sea cucumbers) as far as the eye could see. When the tide was in, I knew the worms were underfoot. The swimming beach was a short walk over the dunes, on the ocean side of the island. Each day Roland and Cliff would make a shelter for Kath on the beach. They broke branches from the casuarina trees that grew a short distance back and made a tepee to keep the sun off her. She would play in it and when she was tired she’d make a little sand pillow under her towel and sleep.

Wendy and I would take turns to snorkel on the coral reef. Always, there had to be someone to keep an eye out for sharks. Sometimes we would swim together while Roland and Cliff kept watch. They spent a lot of time  in Cliff’s boat, out fishing and we ate a lot of fish. Roland remembers some of the fish he and Cliff caught but I don’t. I did find a beautiful shell which I kept for years as a darning aid. It looked a lot like the one in the illustration but a darker brown.


Next time (and I hope I can keep this up) I’ll tell you about the good witch, Agapanthus. I made up the story to keep Kath amused and it went on for many episodes. Then, there was the terrifying trip back to the mainland where we were caught in the tailend of a tropical cyclone.

Digging into memory isn’t easy: Being there

Memories of being irresponsible: Part One, Getting there

Bazaruto Island today is nothing like Bazaruto Island in the early 1970s. Today, according to the Internet, there are luxury hotels and resorts costing well over US$1,000 per night. Getting there now is as simple as chartering a light plane and flying from Maputo. Getting off the island can be achieved in much the same way. Not so when we planned our big adventure in 1970.


We left our home in Salisbury (Harare) in our short-wheel base Land Rover heading toward Inhassoro in Mozambique. Our ultimate destination was Bazaruto Island. We travelled in convoy with our friends, Cliff and Wendy – they in their Peugeot bakkie (ute) towing Cliff’s boat – a fibreglass runabout. Cliff’s father Alec, and Glifford, the African cook, were in their vehicle. Kath, who was about three years old, with us in the Land Rover.

Naturally, we took the road less travelled, bypassing the port of Beira and driving south, down the coast of Mozambique. In fact the road was only partially built, a work in progress, and the new bridge being built over the Save (Sah-veh) River had a magnificent span but no access. So, we travelled underneath the bridge, on a track in the dry riverbed. The first night we spent under a tree, in the bush, near an African village. Parts of the road were sealed and then, suddenly, there would be a deep ditch and the road became a dirt track. Nevertheless, we made it to Inhassoro. I used to have 8mm films of the trip but over time the reels have been lost.

Thirty years later in 2000, Inhassoro, and other coastal towns, were more-or-less wiped out in floods caused by Cyclone Eline. Many stories came out of that terrible time. Many lives were lost. The rebuilt Inhassoro is nothing like the fishing village we knew 30 years before. The bridge over the Save was also washed away when the river came down in flood.

How did we get to the island? We caught a fishing boat/ferry from Inhassoro over the Mozambique Channel to Bazaruto Island and the ferry towed Cliff’s runabout. It is only about 35kms but the trip took at least four hours. The trip to the island was fun, the sun shone and, apart from Glifford, no one else was seasick. We caught the right tide and were able to get off the ferry before the tide receded and left a huge expanse of mudflats. I can remember great big sea cucumbers holothurians all over the place. They really freaked me out.

Edible Sea Cucumber (Holothuria edulis)

We had to take all our water as in those days there was no potable water on Bazaruto. All our food, such as tea, sugar flour and powdered milk was carted from home to Bazaruto. I asked Wendy what she remembered about the trip and she told me we also took a lot of wine and a sack of lemons – for the fish we were going to catch? Perhaps to prevent scurvy? I don’t really remember!

Next time, the crazy accommodation and the cockroaches …

Memories of being irresponsible: Part One, Getting there


Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated OrganGut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After listening to an interview with Giulia Enders (Richard Fidler on ABC), I sought out a copy of this book. I am so glad I did. Every page has information about our digestive system that is interesting, helpful, and written in accessible language.
The one problem with this book is that, for me, much of the information needs to be read aloud to whoever is with me. I rather think my husband got a little bit fed up (no pun intended) with constant, “Wow! Listen to this …”. But then again, he has fully mastered the art of listening, but not listening
I do recommend this book.

View all my reviews


Random Reflections

One of the joys of being a grandmother is spending time with one or other of my grand daughters – or both of them together.

Yesterday Lily and I went to that temple of consumerism, the magnificent shopping mall, Garden City. So many people, so many glum faces. After stopping for lunch (sushi) we made our way to the Apple Store. On the way we decided to count how many people were smiling. I’d like to say we lost count but that is not what happened. We eventually toted up our score and reached the pathetic sum of fourteen! I guess we walked toward at least a few hundred people but only fourteen had a smile on their dial. We didn’t count the delightful assistant in the Apple Store – she was most taken with Lily’s style – and so was I. Lily is original in her manner and her dress; a non-conformist like her granny! Nevertheless, she always looks lovely and carries off her choice of outfit with panache.

So, when I was younger I often looked at older women and wondered why they were wearing whatever it was they were wearing. Yes, I admit to a fair amount of judgement there. What I have discovered over the years is that they probably didn’t care. And they certainly didn’t care what some impudent young person thought anyway. How do I know? Because that is where I am now. I wear what I like, when I like and don’t really care what anyone else thinks.

I must’ve been hiding somewhere when the skill of ‘dresses tastefully’ was handed out. As an adult I generally took the easy option, wearing black skirt, white shirt and black jacket with maybe a colourful scarf (if I remembered), or the fallback of blue jeans and white tee.

I have more than a couple of memories of outfits I’d rather forget (especially the frilly, see-through purple top) – in the days when it seemed to matter to me. Nowadays it is just not a stress factor. Kath chooses most of my ‘good’ clothes and she has got excellent taste. The dress in the photo I did choose for myself and it is one of my wins, and I don’t even have to iron it.



Random Reflections

Living in Binga part 2

Since I wrote the first part of this ‘living in Binga’, I’ve remembered so many trivial things!

The sugar ants were prolific in Binga. If you have never seen such an insect, they are quite big, a translucent golden colour and very delicate looking. Somehow I got hold of a bottle of bright green peppermint liqueur. When I spilled a few drops, the sugar ants ate it up really quickly. Their abdomens swelled up and they were like tiny green lights running all over the floor. This amused me so much I spilled quite a lot more of the liqueur and attracted more ants. Did I mention that I spent a lot of my time alone? Roland was away on tsetse control for three weeks out of four. I showed him the luminous ant trick when he got back and he thought it was pretty cool too! We didn’t like the liqueur much anyway.

Inconvenient sugar ant (Camponotus importunus)

The crusty old bachelor who built the strange looking house we lived in in Binga, had managed to transplant some Sabi Star trees. (Sabi Star are also known as Desert Rose). Crusty old bachelor had dug up at least ten and planted them in a straight row in the sand bowl ‘garden’ at the front of the house. Binga is in an arid area on the Zambezi Escarpment so there wasn’t much other vegetation. I have seen similar flowers in Bali which is odd as Bali is tropical. How incongruous to have these beautiful flowering trees right there by the front door.


To while away the time I started stitching a patchwork quilt. In fact I’m still working on it some 53 years later. It is still unfinished and unlikely to be finished. It is mighty big though. Stitching by lantern light is not good for one’s eyes. The mice that nested in the back of the sofa were running around and squeaking as I sewed.


I can remember looking out over Lake Kariba to the Zambian side. Sometimes, at night, I could see the light from cooking fires along the shore. Sometimes I could hear the sound of gunfire. I would take my little 9mm Beretta and barricade myself and my dog in the bedroom behind the metal door. Fortunately I never had to use the pistol, which was just as well. In fact it was far too heavy for me even if it was a small gun. On the odd occasion when I did target practice (obligatory) I was more danger to low-flying vultures than anything I actually aimed at. Apart from anything else, it was a bugger to load. Looking after it was also a responsibility I was happy to give up when we moved away from Binga.




Living in Binga part 2

Living in Binga

Long ago Roland and I lived in Binga. Roland was transferred from his post in Main Camp in Hwange National Park. He was now on tsetse control in the Zambezi Valley. Because we ranked very low in the National Parks hierarchy, our household goods and chattels were summarily heaped on the open back of a decrepit truck. The road from Main Camp to Binga was, and probably still is, a pot-holed and corrugated dirt track. The African staff who moved us made themselves comfortable on our ancient lounge suite and why not? We bumped along behind in our Land Rover covered in dust.


Binga is a small settlement on the Zambezi Escarpment just south of Lake Kariba. In those days it was known as a D.C’s Boma. In other words, it was the headquarters for the District Commissioner for the Binga District. The population in the 1960s consisted mainly of government employees. There were police, National Parks Rangers, a few civil servants and the like. The house we were allocated is probably still standing as part of it was built from local stone. The architecture was idiosyncratic to say the least! There was a large oval room with a thatched roof and a plain cement floor. This was our dining room and lounge. The kitchen and pantry were across an open space where we kept our paraffin-run deep-freeze (my 21st birthday present). A large leguan (a water leguan or Nile monitor) soon took up residence underneath the freezer. It was joined at one stage by a number of crocodile hatchlings. The Ranger i/c who lived next door had chosen the backyard of our house as a hatchery for crocodile eggs. One day, during a tropical storm, the hatchlings escaped and headed toward the lake. Our strange little house was between them and the water …

The bedroom had a strong metal door and a small window. This was because the war had already begun. When Roland was away on tsetse control, my beloved doberman Liza and I shared the bed. I only went with Roland on tsetse control a couple of times. I’m not fond of camping at the best of times and it is even worse down in the Zambezi Valley. It is hot and the tsetse flies bite even through clothing. Think of a horse fly bite and multiply the pain by 100%. They draw blood from buffalo and elephant – who have much thicker hides than human skin! What really put me off though was one day, sitting on a rocky outcrop near our camp; I noticed one of the ‘rocks’ moving. I realised it was not a rock but a massive python. I watched, hypnotised, for a while and the thickness did not alter although the snake was moving along. I hightailed it back to the camp and hid under the mosquito net on my stretcher. Pointless, really, but that’s what I did! Also, tsetse fly transmit human sleeping sickness and animal trypanosomiasis and that worried me because of Liza. The cure was also a killer for animals and I didn’t want to go through that.

Binga is hot, it is on the 17th parallel, and there are hot springs there too – The Chibwatatata Hot Springs. The water in the hot springs is literally boiling. Lake Kariba is not suitable to swim in because of crocodiles and hippos so occasionally we would swim in the hot springs. The water was cooled in a narrow channel from the spring to the swimming pool. The channel had cotton waste packed in to slow the flow and cool the water further. One day, a young boy removed much of the cotton waste. Not noticing that it had been removed the next person who swam had some serious burns.

There was no telephone and no electricity in Binga. If we needed to call anyone, we would have to go to the D.C’s office and use the radiophone. I can’t recall a nursing post or clinic but I think there was one.

To be perfectly honest, I did not like living in Binga. It was isolated, hot and dangerous. I was glad when we eventually moved away.


Living in Binga