Sacred Combe Safari IV
Our guests were now all settled in the splendid riverside accommodation at Tafika. Chris and I were in staff quarters, but this time we were sharing a small house, and it was great. The walls of the separate rooms didn’t reach the top – there was a metal roof high above us — so room-to-room conversation after lights-out was not a problem. “Hear that?”
It’s a welcome-back sound: welcome back to the noisy African night, welcome back to the Luangwa Valley and its mysteries. These birds have a contact call that sounds a bit like Frankie Howerd looking through a keyhole: oo-oo-ooh! Then the territorial call: mnemonic: now then, whoooo’s a naughty boy? And so to sleep.
I was awoken twice in the night: the first time by a hysterical, not-quite-human screaming. It takes a day or two for your brain to make the necessary adjustments for the bush, but before I was back asleep I knew it was a bushbaby, to be precise, a thick-tailed galago. It gave me a slightly smug feeling about being back home.
I was rather less smug an hour or so later when a bomb hit the place.
It didn’t actually explode, but the sound on that tin roof was apocalyptic. I jack-knifed up in bed wondering if the Four Horsemen were galloping across the savannah with the zebras. It wasn’t until morning that I worked it out: it must have been a sausage. No, really, titter ye not, as Frankie would have said.
The house stands under a sausage tree, a tree so called because it carries sausage-like fruit. A tree-full looks like an Italian delicatessen, immense cylinders handing down all over the place. This is Kigelia africana, a rich and generous tree that can produce fruit weighing 12 kilos, 26 pounds. Useful tip: never stand under a sausage tree.
A nocturnal sausage had hit the roof in the manner of a torpedo, with a sound like the clap of doom. Well, morning now and no damage done. Time to look for elephants.