Thursday, December 11, 2008

230. Lost Limpopo

I always remember the Tuli area as being in Rhodesia, and this is how I describe it in this memoir. Now I read of it in association with Botswana! Maybe we crossed the river. Maybe we strayed into Botswana and nobody thought to mention it! I only know that my poem reflects a Rhodesian experience.

So different from the Zimbabwean experience of today! No doubt the game is still there. Let's hope so.

(The photograph is a modern travel-guide one but it strikes the right note.)


The 'great, grey, green, greasy' river
Of Kipling's day
Is now infected with cholera!
The wild country I loved,
Which was once called Rhodesia,
Is infected with madness.
Turn back the clock!
Gwanda was a small gold-mining town.
I taught there,
Raw English from London!
The Whites (this was the 1950s)
Constituted a sort of enclave;
The Teachers,
The Hospital Staff
And the Police.
All White, of course.
The vastness of Africa stretched forever around us;
Weekends could be heavy with humidity
And soporific with boredom.
'Let's hunt the giraffe!'
One of the Policemen would say.
We would pile in the back of a Police Truck
And head South for the Limpopo River
And the Tuli Reserve.
No guns;
Just binoculars.
The giraffe had three legs
And was a local celebrity!
The Tuli Reserve was full of game;
Not  yet a Game Reserve.
No huts, no air-conditioning, no guided tours.
Just game, wild and free.
What were permits?
The great memory is the Night Memory.
We chose to visit Tuli one night.
The Police Truck had a large spotlight on the front.
We made for the air-strip.
We parked.
We waited.
We turned-off the spotlight.
Gradually, the wild animals,
Which had fled at the sound of our arrival,
Elephant, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra
Moved on to the airstrip to feed.
Scores of them, mingling.
We moved slowly.
We began to circle the air-strip;
The spotlight dazzled,
Lighting the whole area.
We drove faster and faster.
We chased those glorious animals
Round and round the air-strip
Until, finally, they all moved back into the bush.
The sight of those animals,
Lit unnaturally,
Their flanks moving rhythmically
As they ran,
Is with me still.
We were young and thoughtless.
Maybe we were cruel.
Who knows?

Now refugees swim the mighty river
Carrying cholera.

 We were so ALIVE!
Alive where there now is death.


Winifred said...

It is so awful what's happening there. It seems to happen too often in Africa, I remember Uganda too. These dictators are such hideous cruel men.

It must really sadden you.

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog about Zimbabwe, I felt like making a strong comment about the situation that has been allowed to develop there. Like: I wish everyone would make a an effigy of Mugabe and all his men, and stick a pin in each of them for every Zimbabwean who dies of cholera, or is crushed by the evil of this man.

It is as anquishing as it must have been for those who knew about Belsen before the world knew - and after that the world said 'never again!' Well, the world knows about this and nothing is done to stop them.

Merle said...

Dear Brenda ~ Great poem, but it is so sad what is happening over there
and other parts of Africa. The cholera is dreadful, and Mugabe is worse. Thank sor your comment and I agree, Thanks to all the friends who seend me jokes. Take care, Have a lovely Christmas my friend, Love, Merle.

Kat said...

I taught there,
Raw English from London!

Reading that made me dive for cover :)))))

You've had game-times in Rhodesia. Sounded wonderful and you people enjoying the daring trip.

Sad to read the 'cholera' matters and from what your friends write - other matters.