Africa Vignette Series



At the end of the month we’re heading to the Maasai Mara for the annual wildebeest migration. Between now and then, here is a series of African vignettes. They are just short little bits, not in any particular order, not particularly edited. Maybe they’ll entice you to visit too one day. Hope you enjoy them. All the photos in this series are from

17 Zambia

We’re dining at a long table set on the lawn under the stars. The proprietors, Georgina and Denis, lived in the small town of Broome, Australia (population 9,000), and Georgina is telling stories. We’re going on and on, gabbing away when, from the other end of the table, Denis cuts us off in an urgent voice.

“Georgina, Bill, will you please be QUIET. There’s an elephant right THERE.”

And there are seven. There is indeed one at the edge of the lawn and as she grazes her way onto the lawn, another and another, then another follow. Denis commands that everybody, including a table of Lusaka bankers drinking at the pavilion nearby, sit perfectly quiet and still.

They say elephants can’t see much but shapes in the dark, but they can see movement. So there the nine of us sit, transfixed. The bankers flee to a chalet and watch from a window. The elephants eat their way to not ten feet from the table and you have never thought elephants were so big until you’re looking up at them, stuck with your legs under a table, hoping nobody will sneeze.

The night crackles with life. Hyenas call and we can’t flee to our room because the elephants have stopped to eat between us and there. Earlier, we’d been delayed by a hippo in the middle of the road. Abraham observed laconically as we sat there, “You have to give a hippo room to maneuver.”

Once we’re home the elephants, who have been hanging around camp all night, put on a real tingling show, tearing at the trees behind the patio, even putting the occasional elephant foot on our stairs just an arm’s length away from the doorway.

This entire series of vignettes will reside here, in the Africa section. If you enjoy them please have a look at my two travel books, Common Sense and Whiskey and Visiting Chernobyl.

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