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.

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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.

 

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Living in Binga