I was born to be a duchess: There seemed no danger of starting a bush fire…


WE reached the Moremi North Gate just before it closed for the night, but the game warden told us that our old camp was now under water and that the new camp was so seldom used that it had been taken over completely by baboons.

He advised camping outside the fence and showed us to a very nice spot, where a garbage pit had already been dug for us.

The following morning Corrie and Richard set out for a walk – ostensibly looking for the wedding ring which I had lost six months earlier – leaving me to strike camp.

Bearing in mind that rubbish must either be burned before burial or buried at least four feet deep, otherwise jackals and hyena will be attracted by the smell and dig it all up again, we had thrown some hot ash from the fire over the contents of our rather shallow rubbish pit.

There seemed to be absolutely no danger of starting a bush fire, as the vegetation was all very green and damp and the river was only about five metres away.

My first indication that something was amiss was an ominous crackling in the bush. I don’t know how it can have happened, because we put only ash over the rubbish, but somehow the wind must have fanned up a flame and we now had a mild conflagration on the far side of the pit.

Rather than try to put it out single-handedly, I beat a path which would take it straight to the river. I think I would have succeeded, had the wind not suddenly changed direction.

Luckily there were some local people crossing the bridge at the time. Equally luckily, owing to some confusion in the initial packing, we were travelling with no less than four empty buckets.

The fire was soon out, and my sigh of relief could probably have been heard in Maun. In Botswana, a bush fire is a serious matter and the penalty for starting a bad one can be a very stiff jail sentence.

Because of the fire, I had been chucking things willy-nilly into the Land Rover and the trailer, so that I could pull out with the maximum amount of salvage if the wind changed again. Once the fire was out, we had to repack all the things which I had chucked in, which took twice as long as normal packing. So it was nearly 10am before we got away.

Although we still had over a week’s holiday to come, we spent only a couple of days in Maun before heading for home. We had to try to get Richard on a flight back to Johannesburg and, besides that, we had run out of film.


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Susan Cooke
Features Editor

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