From Zambia to South Africa: Rivers to Dust

Colors of Klein Karoo Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. Photo by zol m
Colors of Klein Karoo Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. Photo by Flcikr/zol m

We could spend some time seeing Sanbona rock art. This we know. Nomadic hunter-gatherers called the San people roamed the area for centuries, making paintings that have been preserved.  But we decide on game drive after game drive. More kudu, more springbok; a pair of cheetahs with attitude.  Kathy checks off boxes on her checklist. More wildflowers. More birds.

It is late in the final day of our trip. A waiter from the lodge is setting down cups of coffee.  “Good news!” he announces. “Boo Boo the owl is in that tree.”

Why is that good news? I ask.

“Boo Boo live here,” replies the waiter. Sure enough, although the light is fading, we can spot a sleeping mass of feathers on a lower branch.

“He watches over the lodge,” says the waiter. “He is, how would you say it? Wise.”

“Can Boo Boo tell us about stuff we’ve seen?” I ask. “Why a white lion is nervous? Or why an elephant gets mad?”

“Boo Boo knows about his tree,” scoffs the waiter, shaking his head. “And about the sky.”

I look at Kathy, and she is smiling, thinking, listening again to Chesmore Zulu. For a second we are back in Zambia seeing knocked-down huts and sitting by a village charcoal fire. It is raining, again, in our minds and we are being paddled toward the thunder of the falls.

Africa with a river. Africa in dust.

You can pick one, if you want. But I can see, in Kathy’s face, that it is almost equal. Here our storms are sand. Our thickets are thorn trees. Our darkness is dry and nearly white with stars.

Boo Boo is unraveling his wings.

We will stay here, stay and watch, until he flies.

Author Bio: Peter Mandel is an author of books for kids including Jackhammer Sam (Macmillan) and Bun, Onion, Burger (Simon & Schuster). He lives in Providence.

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