Don't Look Behind You, But...: Tales from an African Safari by Peter Allison

By Peter Allison

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All four wheels spun furiously, digging me deep, deep down. Both instructors had watched from the Land Rover and emerged chuckling. ’ they snorted. ’ ‘Thanks,’ I replied, trying to muster some pride from deep within the mud. Since the vehicle was well short of where it would normally end up, the usual method of jacking it up wheel by wheel and placing logs underneath them wouldn’t work, as the expanse of mud in front would take forever to traverse. Instead we would use a high-lift jack to raise the entire front end, and once elevated push it off the jack so it fell a few feet sideways.

If Devlin couldn’t see them then there was only one conclusion: I’d gone nuts. Excellent news. I was pondering the nature of my insanity and the state of African asylums when my radio crackled back to life. ‘Peter, it’s Melanie here . . Devlin’s just being a pig, we can all see the lights. ’ I said. ’ ‘We can see them too,’ came a different voice—the manager of another camp in the reserve. More voices joined in, and soon the radio was alive with a comforting chatter as people throughout our little bush outpost postulated as to what could be causing the phenomenon, whether it was moving or stationary, and whether it heralded some approaching Armageddon.

These basics, from what I could gather looking at the shelves, were robust sandals made from old tyres, maize meal for starch, and beer for everything else. Less formal stalls at the main intersection sold mangoes in various states of ripeness and decay, their smell filling the air, and bananas of course. There were also women loitering who had no stand at all but clearly something to sell. Every time I had driven through there seemed to be a road accident at the main intersection, so I always approached it warily—but also self-consciously.

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