One pair of piercing violet blue eyes and a pair of pecan nut brown eyes stare entranced, their young healthy bodies as still as statues and cupie mouths rounded into ‘OHS’ lending a charming and naughty look to their gorgeous faces. Little starfish hands stretch out clasping mine as I lean closer… thinking once again, how blessed I am. Their eyes never leave my face as I lead them back in time to a perfect summers afternoon under the shade of an enormous Msasa tree with its heavy spreading boughs and stately crown of green. An afternoon where I was serenaded by an insect lullaby..drowsy warm dreams and happiness that I will share with them both. Stories that are set in my memory like snap shots. These two wonderful little girls are learning all about ‘the magic of Africa’ and all her wondrous and magnificent animals through their mum and myself.
With lush green lawn cushioning my stomach, I stretch out feeling the throb of Africa pulsating beneath my belly. Dino, the tame guinea fowl, her electric blue wattles wobbling pecks happily, disturbing small midges that amplify into an overpowering hum in their quest to keep away from the lethal beak. With her brown helmet and large dark eyes, she is magnificent. Hand reared as a small chick, she has imprinted on me rendering me half Guinea fowl in her eyes, and this causes much amusement to my family who have crowned me, ‘the old bird.’
Dennis, our three month old wild bush pig roots in the deep shadow of the flower bed. Every couple of minutes he peers out between the enormous green leaves of the agapanthis plants, the upper hard edge of his snout crusted with mud and his piggy slanted eyes softening as he focuses on me, his ‘mum.’ ‘ ‘The old bird’ cross ‘sow’, I am not to sure on this. With gentle snorts vibrating his small frame, Dennis trots over, suctioning his flat nose onto my arm and staring at me with love sick eyes. My two boxer cross biches inch in closer, their tongues lolling out as they pant, serene, calm and mellowed in the late afternoon warmth. A sliver of sunshine, delicate as a spiders thread weaves through the thick canopy of green, highlighting all that is important to me in our garden of Eden on our farm in Zimbabwe. Mikaela slides down next to me and I hold out my hand, laughing merrily as ‘Tsungu’ (a lesser bush baby), as light as a feather sits on my palm and clutches my thumb with his sticky hands. Tsungu has been hand reared by Mikaela after he had fallen out of the ‘nest’. A quaint little animal who is part of the primate family and very much an extended member of ours. Many hours have been spent searching and catching insects to satisfy this feisty little critters appetite. Moths, short lived when seen by Tsungu as they are his favourite snack. Long fingers, as quick as lightening and the entrapped moth would have its head bitten off by sharp little teeth. Tsungu, licking his lips would then suck all the liquid out. Not the best table manners in town.
The resident hammerkop, his large unattractive head cocks to one side eyeing the dogs, guinea fowl, Dennis the pig, Tsungu and ourselves with a cautious look, before lolloping over to the fishpond to see what is on offer for an easy snack. I sit up breathing deeply and turn to watch this enormous bird lean over, his long neck and beady eyes still as the frilly goldfish glint beneath the surface and butterflies float and whir majestically in the warm afternoon air. My heart is full to brimming with happiness and my reverie and story telling comes to an abrupt halt as two little voices penetrate. ‘Tell us about the elephants’ their eyes sparkle with enthusiasm and their chirping makes me smile. ‘Did you have an elephant?’ they know the answer but can’t help asking the question.
‘No….I don’t even like elephants.’ I tease chuckling as I get an explosive reaction.
‘No, I did not have an elephant.’ but I have seen elephants in the valley and on the shores of the Zambezi river and also at Kariba. I have seen them up so close that you can count the wrinkles and hear their rumbles as they amble through our camp site, flicking up dust with their large flat feet and fanning the breeze with their ‘African continent shaped ears.’ However, you have heard those stories.
I smile gently at them both. ‘Come’, I stand, ‘today I will take you to a magical place…a place where there are elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and other animals. Your mum went to school with the daughter of these people. This is a place where animals are offered a new lease on life.’ I turn, clapping my hands with excitement as we go through to the dining room. Switching on my beautiful computer (donated to me by a special person when I started my journey with Jennysjumbojargon) and typing in a link, I press enter and take them on an exciting journey through cyber space to Imire Game Reserve in Zimbabwe.
I slowly flick through the photos, drooling at how happy and settled their elephants look. Large free swinging trunks and gentle eyes as they lope away, swaying and kicking up dust, dust that I love and miss so much as they disappear into the dry bush. Pictures of Judy Travis feeding a rhino. A heartwarming story of Tatenda an orphaned rhino, Pogs an orphaned warthog and Tsotsi, a hyper hyena all living with their human family. The Travis family have made it their lives work to give rescued animals a home here. At the heart of this hub is their ‘black rhino conservation project’ where for 20 years they have been breeding these critically endangered animals and releasing them back into national parks. Sadly, with the ongoing threat of poaching John and Judy have a daily battle to keep their animals alive.
I turn to our precious little girls
‘Do you want to see more?’ Both heads nod vigorously and I type in another link. Well now, come and have a look. There is Nzhou who was orphaned when poachers killed her mum. She is now about 46 years old and lives with the herd of buffalo on the farm. She is the Matriarch of the herd and although she towers over her family of buffalo, she is happy. Judy has now given up trying to get her back into the ‘elephant fold’ as it were.
One last thing to show you before our cyber journey finishes. I type in another link and press enter. A short video clip of the elephants at Imire.
Well that has been an hour of Zimbabwe, telling you about some of the little creatures that I loved on our farm to Imire Safari Ranch. My heart feels a little empty when I am finished, but then I look at these two little faces, and reaching down I place my hand on Sadza Badza Luke (our little foxie cross) and I know that I am happy..a little short on animals but still happy. I will continue to show them and share with them ‘My Zimbabwean Dreams’ (My poem).