Thursday, March 25, 2010

Life Imitating Art?

I hesitated to use as large and impressive a word as Art in the heading of this posting, especially after some of the comments directed by certain reviewers at mystery novels. Still, it seems an appropriate title for this little story.

The authors at work in Botswana.

Most people from overseas who visit Botswana to enjoy the wildlife and the environment do so with restricted time and don’t have the resources to organise their own trip. They all have a wonderful time, but may leave feeling that it is hard to get away from other vehicles, other tourists, other hotels. They may not get more than a taste of the wonderful wildness of the country.

A couple of years ago Stanley and I spent several weeks in the north of Botswana. It was partly research for our novel – The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu - and part pure enjoyment. In fact we had an amazing amount of both at once. We were looking for the right location to place the tented tourist camp we had named Jackalberry Camp, which we had invented as the main setting of the novel. We wanted it somewhere along the Chobe River which forms the border between Botswana and the tongue of Namibia – the Caprivi strip – which separates Botswana from Zambia. We went with friends who run trips for small groups on an a la carte basis. It was the end of the dry season, and the game was concentrated along the river producing incredible viewing. Anytime we stopped we could see an elephant if we looked hard enough - often we could see more than a hundred. We watched a herd of buffalo that was so large that the first had disappeared below the horizon before the last ones had crossed the road.

Distant view of the Chobe floodplain from the village of Kachikau.

The first evening we camped at a pool on the verge of the Chobe River. We were the only people there, and pelicans, ibises, egrets and herons crowded the shallow water, which turned rose as the sun set. The small camp had been tastefully set up while we were game driving. My sort of camping! Once it was dark, fireflies entertained us while we ate dinner. The only sounds were those of the African night bush: the wail of the jackals, the whooping of hyenas, a distant roar of a lion seeking his pride. But the setting wasn’t quite right for our book. No reeds, and in the national park no permanent camp would be allowed.

The view from Peter and Solome's home.

The Chobe National Park area to the west of Kasane is quite well known and the eastern part is heavily patrolled by game vehicles from the army of hotels along the river in the town. On the other hand, the Linyanti – a tributary of the Chobe to the west - is very remote, and it took several days to get there along roads at times no better than four wheel drive tracks. Our friends – Peter Comley and Salome Meyer – had read the draft of the first part of our book and felt that our camp would fit there. When we arrived we were amazed by how close it was to what we had described. The spot where we stopped was a reeded paradise of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and water birds. There were no tents there, but they were easy to imagine. We unpacked our lunch, unfolded camping chairs, and imagined the characters of the novel around us, moving in the shade of a grove of tall Jackalberry trees spreading overhead.

"Jackalberry Camp"

Michael - Thursday

No comments:

Post a Comment