I don’t think I’ll ever lose my wanderlust. It ebbs and flows like the tides on my doorstep here in Western Australia. Sometimes the pull to stay ‘home’ is strong: when the beach beckons, and the outdoor lifestyle is easy, with good food, wines and friendships.
Then there are times when the lure of new shores overwhelms, the draw of old haunts tempt, and the need to leave this remote city to return to the familiar people and places of my formative years is stronger than the urge to stay.
At six degrees south of the equator,
the surprise of dusk is dramatic and sudden.
One moment you are enjoying the last rays of sunshine,
the next, darkness falls like a warm blanket.
Zanzibar, the Rufigi River in Selous Game Reserve, and the Uluguru Mountains in mainland Tanzania.
The man sat on his haunches deep in the shadow of the stairwell. The lights in the block of flats had been turned off, and darkness and silence prevailed all around. He had been here for some time, but the Zanzibar night was dark and still and he remained undetected. Occasionally a dog could be heard barking in the distance to be answered by another close by. The town slept. Only the scrawny dogs and rats scurried about in their search for sustenance among the stinking, smouldering rubbish heaps that struggled to burn.
Kassim waited for his moment. All doors were now firmly closed for the night. Except for the dogs and rats, he was alone. He remained squatting for another half-hour, immobile, watching and listening. He knew that the building across the street had an askari who was possibly still awake. On previous evenings when Kassim had checked on him, the watchman had been peacefully snoring under a tree. If anyone were to attempt to steal the vehicles he was supposed to be guarding, they might well get away with it.
Judging the time to be right, Kassim silently ran barefoot across the street. He found the man fast asleep, as expected, and headed round towards the balcony side of the flats. There was little cover, just a dusty grass verge and some straggly trees. Most of the streetlights were long since broken and there was no moonlight. He knew where he was going, even in the dark; he had done his research well. For days he had watched the white woman with the orange hair coming and going. She was staying with the other mzungu, in a first-floor flat — luckily for him. The ground floor would have been preferable, but this, he felt confident, would not present too many problems.
A drainpipe running down the wall beside the balconies made for easy climbing. In a couple of minutes he had pulled himself up making barely a sound. He squatted behind the small balcony wall to hide himself from the street and quieten his breathing. No lights were on inside and all was quiet. He tried the door. It was locked. The louvred windows were partially open, backed by a thin mosquito screen. Grasping the glass he pulled one of the louvres up and the other panes followed suit. Kassim drew the knife from his waistband and tried to prise a piece of glass from its metal frame.
An excerpt from a novel ‘The Tanzanite’
One of my favourite animals is the elephant. In the eighties their populations had been decimated in many countries due to the demand for ivory. With controls on poaching, education, and in 1989 a ban on the trade of ivory, the following decades saw healthy populations of elephants returning. However, Japan and Hong Kong were still able to legally trade ivory, as some southern African countries fought the ban, stating that the legal sale of ivory from sustainable populations and natural deaths funded conservation. In allowing these ‘so-called’ legal sales, and the ferocious demand in a newly affluent China, the number of African elephants in the world has been devastated. The legal trade allows poached ivory to be sold as ‘legal’ by using the few legal licences repeatedly to sell the poached ivory. In 2015, 20,000 elephants were illegally killed. Tanzania alone has lost 60% of its elephants in the last five years.
So you can imagine my delight, when last year I was fortunate enough to return to the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, one of the largest wilderness areas left in Africa, an area where the elephant population has been decimated, and we stumbled on a small herd of elephants. Our first sighting was across the water. They were bathing and playing in the shallows. We weren’t close enough to see much so we decided to try to skirt around the water. I thought we might not see them again, but when we came out of the other side of a clump of trees and low scrub, they appeared in front of us. We sat and watched as they ambled off across the bush.
I think the smile stayed on my face for a long time. Hope is a powerful thing.