The folk in the huts on the other side of Tswaralangwana are a very friendly bunch. The eldest of them, Chris has named 'Bilbo', a rum old chap who only 'just' sports a pair of shorts, and a T shirt bearing the motif of a football player. An avid poler by any standards, he even left without his passenger, Jim, the other morning! The McNeil party is reknowned for their procrastination, so I can hardly blame him.
Jim has now left for 'civilization'. I think he was just about ready... the menu was proving too monotonous and he had actually lost quite a bit of weight. We were all sad to see him go as he lent a light hearted angle to the whole trip. He was however, replaced by the arrival of two of Chris' friends, George and Andy, along with Erna from Baboon camp. Andy Green is a geologist from Capetown, but currently living in Gaborone. Chris and he get on really well, both resembling 'wizened gnomes' with their abundant facial foliage, slight build and stork-like legs (at least true for Chris, Andy's are more of the fire hydrant variety). They both have a fantasy that one day they will go into partnership as a safari company, taking informative trips with small groups into the Kalahari and Okavango. I'm sure they would make a great team if they ever got organised enough to do this!
George is an older English genteman who has worked in London for the Bank of England most of his life, having recently arrived in Botswana to work in Gaborone. His contract is now finished and he is to return to the UK next week. I admire him tremendously - entering into all the walks and excursions with the alacrity of a schoolboy. This with a painful looking war wound on his leg. "Got whilst on active service with the Chundits in Japan, under Wingate" he casually mentions. He went on to explain that he was marching 800 miles behind Japanese lines in an effort to destroy bases, H.Q's and supply stores. Should an encounter with the Japanese occur, instant decapitation or torture followed. This made our little soirees seem like a walk in the park, albeit with the vicious attacks of elephant grass.
Later in the day, Chris took us all on a lion hunt, which was abortive but fascinating. We saw the huge morula tree, whose fruit is sweet and juicy and is my main source of vitamin c at present. Chris identified the various spore we came across, along with the trees, and birds. Everything is such a revelation to me, so much to learn, I am fortunate to have such a knowledgeable teacher.
Chris shaved off his beard the other day, which was quite a revelation, one never knows what lurks behind a mans facial fuzz. In this instance, I am pleased to report, Chris has a very nice face.
The past few evenings have been most enjoyable with such good company around the camp fire. Sue and her friend Ross whom I met in Kenya and also studies primates, arrived at this popular venue. It was nice to have another female around especially one so friendly as she. Chris seems to gather momentum when he has an audience, becoming loquacious, yet very funny in his melifluos rhetoric.
During the day, the men folk go and fish, leaving me the opportunity to paint in peace and solitude. I have done a couple of small oil sketches, which I am pleased with and today I completed something a little larger. This was done in great discomfort as I was perched on the top of a termite hill overlooking the low and disappearing swamp. I intend to do another from the same spot when the floods some down, which should be any day . I can hardly wait to see this. Tswaralangwana will become an island again. We will have to rely on Mokoro's to get anywhere.
The last, I anticipate, of the rain fell the other day, causing the European contingent to taste 'hut fever' for the first time. My hut became the centre of all debauched proceedings. Friends taking refuge from leaky tents and soggy sleeping bags. Tea flowed continuosly, as did the cigarettes and whisky. Entertainment came in the form of Chris reciting Shakespeare. Sue made popcorn. By the time the rain stopped, I emerged quite giddy from the tea - or was it the whisky? Popcorn?? Anyway I missed the same pigeon five times before it finally got bored and flew away!
The men went hunting for geese, while Chris and I poled across to see the island where he began his latest book and where he wants to build his house. From the outside, it looked like a tangle of trees and vines, yet once inside it resembled a palace. The aerial roots from the fig lent themselves perfectly as doors and windows, while the large, forbidding trunk spued forth idyllic seats and stairways. I could visualize his dream easily, altho' the quantity of black mamba's he had slayed there was somewhat disconcerting.
I sketched for an hour or more, while Chris lay sleeping by the fire.