Monkeys Never Forget
Flatdogs & Mzungus
Peeping Gilberts
Bus-ted Tourists
Wading with Cobras
Not Dead Yet
Bush Calls


But Not For Lack of Trying!

Don't get between her and the septic tank

Some people it seems come to Zambia seeking a near death experience.  Some have that experience thrust upon them.  One young American backpacker suffered the latter.  Having woken up in the Flatdogs campground after a lovely night’s sleep accompanied by hippo and hyena lullabies, this young man wandered over to the ablution block for his morning, well, ablutions.  As he walked through the door of the bathroom in his sleepy morning haze - THWACK! - a snake uncoiled from above the door and bit him on the forehead!  Instantly terrified and certain of his impending death, the poor guy then realized that said snake was still coiled menacingly above the only door out.  Afraid he would provoke the snake further if he made too much noise, he began calling “Help!  Help!” in a very soft voice.  Kate, one of the Flatdogs managers, heard his faint plea, but she thought it sounded so soft and distant that someone must be yelling from across the river.  The frantic chap kept up his quiet pleading certain he was doomed to die alone in the bathroom save for his snake executioner.  Finally in desperation, he saw a small window behind him in the bathroom, and with adrenaline-spurred strength, he busted out the window shattering the frame and wriggled out through the small opening to land in the bushes outside.  Kate was walking by just then and saw a very pale American stumbling unsteadily out of the bushes with a trickle of blood running down his forehead.  The still stunned camper was saying “I’ve been bitten by a snake.  I’ve been bitten by a snake, but I think I might be okay.”  Kate immediately realized the snake needed to be identified but was worried about tending to the distraught camper.  She said in her best melodic British accent “You’ll be all right.  If the snake was poisonous, I’m sure you’d be dead by now!”  (which of course wasn’t strictly true, but I’m sure he found her words reassuring).  After sitting down on a couch by the office, he said “You really should warn people about the snake in the bathroom!”  Meanwhile one of the safari guides went to investigate and found a lovely pale green with black spots bush snake – a common non-venomous species.  I’m sure the poor American will never feel the same way about entering a bathroom!

Black is beautiful, right?

Other visitors seem to seek out danger.  A past-her-prime American actress was recently in the Valley for three weeks with her goddaughter.  Said actress had already caused a stir upon her arrival in the country when the customs agent discovered she had carefully cut out her official US passport photo (“because she hated her picture”) and pasted in a new photo (of course without all the official seals and stamps) in its place.  After much hullabaloo and talk of her VIP status, the Zambian customs official did reluctantly allow her into the country.  Once she arrived at one of the local bush camps, she continued to behave, well, like an aging actress, I suppose.  On the second morning of her stay she found a snake sliding along the floor of her luxury grass hut.  Just as any normal, sane one among you would do knowing Africa is full of deadly poisonous snakes, she reached down and picked it up.  To the horror of the camp’s safari guides, she emerged from her hut holding the snake in her hand.  The unhappy snake was repeatedly biting her on the forearm as she murmured, “Ow!  Ow!  Ow!”, but she didn’t let go of the snake.  Finally one of the guides roared “PUT IT DOWN!!!” snapping her briefly out of her apparently chemically-induced haze to obey.  Despite her best efforts to the contrary, she was unsuccessful in tempting death since the snake was a non-venomous olive green snake.  The locals speculated that having failed to win any awards of note in her career she was angling for a Darwin award for dying stupidly.

The spitting image of his Dad

Sometimes the guests are unwitting potential victims of risky activities.  At one of the posh bush camps catering to the world’s rich and self-important, a guest announced, after a lactose-laden dinner, that he was lactose intolerant and began to vomit repeatedly.  The helpful young caterer (in charge of meals) now worried that she was at fault.  Remembering that another guest had left behind their prescription medication for vomiting, she rushed off and returned handing two pills to the grateful, ill guest.  About an hour later, the caterer was reading the package insert and saw “Contraindications: Lactose intolerance.”  She panicked and immediately got on the all-valley-everyone-is-listening-all-the-time channel on the radio and said to her boss at the main camp “I think I’ve just killed a guest!!!”  Realizing that offing


guests is not a great advert for future safari business, the manager hastily switched them to the camp’s private radio channel.  After discovering one and one half hours had passed since the guest had downed the problematic pills, they both decided that he would probably live but agreed that the caterer from here on should dispense only Tylenol and topical anti-histamine cream.  (N.b., as most of you probably know, but this naïve young caterer didn’t, lactose intolerance is fatal only for the olfactory comfort of those nearby the afflicted, who might be bombarded with malodorous issuances from the bilious one.)

And so, they all survived to tempt fate another day.  I could tell you lots more snake stories, but then, that’s a slithery slope.

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This page was last updated 08/29/07