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Pole to Pole

Day 112: Shiwa to Kasanka

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe fetch up for the night at another camp, this time in the small National Park of Kasanka, which is run under a ten-year management contract by a genial, enthusiastic and adventurous Englishman called David Lloyd, who once had an awful lot of money but lost most of it running up-market hunting holidays in Zaire. His lodge, situated beside a small, reedy lake, is clean, well-kept, and, thanks to the profusion of frogs, mosquito-free. I learn more about hippos here than in all my time beside the Mara River in Kenya. So thoroughly had this area been poached, says David, that when he took over the park in 1986 there were only three hippos.

'They didn't call at all for the first two years - dead scared.'

Now there are fifteen altogether, seven or eight of whom are offspring of the original three. I ask him about the extraordinary noises of the hippo wind ensemble in Kenya. David tells me that every grunt means something. Hippos are 'highly intelligent', with over 100 separate sounds in their vocabulary.

Before supper I decide the time has come to do what I have put off for too long. Just in case. Not that it means anything, you understand. I take out Dr Baela's strip of bark from my bag, cut a slice off it with my Swiss army knife, grate it into powder, and, taking care to choose a private place, rub the powder all over my body before showering, keeping just enough aside to fill each nostril. The results are immediate. I sneeze uncontrollably for twenty-five minutes. No one, not Jake or David or any of their helpers, seems to know which particular tree I have just inhaled, but for the first time since I left Mpulungu I feel well enough to really enjoy my dinner.

Turning in. Sounds of low voices round the remains of the fire and bullfrogs on the lake. Above, a clear, intense, starlit sky. No reflections from anywhere. Pure sky. Pure night sky.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 112
  • Country/sea: Zambia
  • Place: Kasanka
  • Book page no: 253

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