May 05

Stalked . . . by a plastic bag

Hippos double as rocks on a Chobe River sandbank.

Hippos double as rocks on a Chobe River sandbank.

The hippos lolling on a sandbank in Chobe River could have been mistaken for boulders – until our boat got stuck beside them. After tolerating our vessel’s roaring outboards for several minutes, they headed into the water. Some emerged nearby, only their eyes and ears to be seen.

When Moffat, our boat captain, said he’d only been stuck once before in his twenty years on the job we started making hysterical jokes about our plight. Chobe National Park, in Botswana, has more elephants than anywhere in the world and we’d seen many, including adorable babies spilling water from their trunks they hadn’t yet mastered. If we remained stuck, would they smell peanuts on our breath? We’d been enjoying them with drinks.

Luckily another boat came along.  “Anyone who was good at long jump at school goes first,” suggested my husband’s sister as several of us jumped onto it, enabling our boat to float free.

Soon we were sailing along indulging in our favourite activity – animal spotting.

A few days earlier I’d been chatting to our tour leader, a Kikuyu from Kenya who’s wise in the ways of the animal world – he’s also our nephew by marriage.

As we watched flitting weaver birds, I said, “Look, one’s got a worm. It’s amazing that a worm’s close to the surface in such dry conditions.” Then I noticed the ground was damp. “Someone’s thrown water there. It’s brought the worms to the surface.”

After a pause, Karoma said quietly, “It’s our leftover spaghetti from last night.”

After making that gaff, you’d have thought I’d have done anything to avoid an encore. But the next day the farmer and I were up early to spot animals at the waterhole near camp. As we stumbled half-asleep to the viewing area, I froze. I’d spotted a dark shape moving in an erratic fashion – and it was only twenty metres away.

“There’s an animal,” I hissed. “Could it be the honey badger that’s been spotted in the camp? It had better be.”

“I don’t think it’s an animal,” replied the farmer as he bravely headed towards the danger spot where I’d seen the scurrying shape. “Thought so,” he said laughing. “It’s a black plastic bag.”

“Being blown by the breeze?”


It was an ideal time to reassure myself: Yesterday after a fellow traveller had called out, “There’s an elephant!” we’d all peered in the direction she indicated to see . . . a public toilet. We named it ‘the elephant house’.

No-one could mistake the elephants that wander around town at Victoria Falls or the monkey that sprinted through the outdoor café while we ate lunch, or the warthogs.

They trotted across the road in Kasane near Chobe National Park and snuffled around the truck while we loaded groceries on board.


Check out the Aotearoa Affair Blog Carnival. This off-topic blog of mine fits the theme “Bi” – bilingual, bilateral, bipolar, bisexual, bi-um-cycle, bi-anything that can be seen from two perspectives.


About the author

Rae Roadley

Rae is a journalist, freelance writer and writing tutor. Soon after returning to her hometown to work for Northland's daily newspaper, she met beef and sheep farmer Rex Roadley. He lived in a historic home at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour and after moving there, Rae reported on farming then wrote a newspaper column, The Country Side. Her wryly amusing tales of country life earned many followers and led her to learn more about the local people, past and present. She tells the story of her new life in 'Love at the End of the Road: Finding my heart in the country'.