A dry room, a cosy bed, a quick breakfast (avoiding bat man) and we’re on our way again. This time I’m driving. Anthro-man’s feeling really bad today. Dizzy, bad head, no appetite. Not like him at all.
The rain eases off as I reach the main road. Oh lovely Great North Road, you fabulous strip of tarmac!
A couple of hours later we take the turn off for Mutinondo Wilderness. The track pushes through dank woodland. Towering spikes of bright red flowers rise from the wet grass through dripping branches, reminding us it’s still the Christmas season. The track’s muddy, slippery, but manageable, even for me. No forceful streams, no rushing torrents.
We round a bend in the track and the pink hills of Mutinondo soar from the landscape, just for us. I’d like to think so, anyway.
But I’m sure our mosquito nets will foil the lion attack that is (in my head) in the offing. Or perhaps I’ll just savage it with my girl-version-small Swiss army knife. I keep it under my pillow. . .
It’s all going well – clothes in for washing, warm water shower (well, not cold – you can’t have everything), comfortable lunch, afternoon rest, when it’s my turn to wither.
I feel ill. Really ill. Can’t drink. Can’t eat. Make it to the dining room, then turn back and follow the stream that’s tippling downhill to our room.
It’s raining like there’s no tomorrow. There might not be – that’s how I feel right now. I drape the mosquito net around the bed and lie down for the night.
Twelve hours later I feel as if a storm’s passed through. Through me, that is. I’ve tracked a weird feeling moving through my body and now I just feel sick. Very sick. I summon up all my strength and dress, sitting on the edge of the bed. That’s when I see the crab, taking shelter in our room.
It’s too wet for crabs out there.
Anthro-man gets the Land Cruiser* out and goes for a drive. He’s scouting out some site or other – Later Stone Age, maybe. I’m too wiped out to consider it. When he returns we lay our washing out on the warm bonnet to dry in a brief rain-free spell.
I force down a dry bread roll. Anthro-man settles me in and we take the Great North Road south.
By now I’m sure you’re as tired of this trip as I am, but, bear with me – there’s one more, happy, experience before journey’s end.
There’s a place called Fringilla, not too many miles outside Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. It feels like the first (or last, depending on which way you’re going) homely house. Not that it’s a house – it’s a farm and a guest lodge. But when I see the sign, it just makes me – ahhh.
There’s a feel about it that’s wholesome, somehow. I guess it comes from the owner and staff. They practice the ‘love thy neighbour’ bit of the Christianity that they visibly – but not intrusively – espouse.
We drive in and order tea. I’m not sure I can drink it. We sit in cosy armchairs and I – presumably – look pale.
The nice man in charge makes a point of coming to welcome us – as usual. Asks where we’ve come from – and stops. He gives the enfeebled me a good hard look and then nods.
‘What you need is one of our own, hot, chicken pies, fresh from the oven.’
Now if anyone else had said that to me I would have groaned, maybe shaken my head. Out of politeness I smile a, ‘yes’.
We sit gazing at the Christmas nativity scene, backlit, as we eat our utterly delicious chicken pies and I, for one, believe in miracles. Yes, I feel fine.
*(I know, I said it was a Land Rover before, oops)
PS: Even now the thought of that pie makes me feel great, makes me smile, makes me happy. I wish I could eat one now.
Thank you, readers, whoever you are, wherever you are, for persevering with this saga, for helping me pull it out of my head. I’ll tackle something different soon. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to a really good night’s sleep, at last.