Home Articles Tales of Zambia Life at ZAF Livingstone - Page 6
Life at ZAF Livingstone - Page 6
Monday, 23 November 2015 10:32
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Once we had moved into the Chalets Hotel, the temptation of afternoon sessions in the Fairmount bar became a thing of the past, by virtue of our location at the Chalets, and I spent many afternoons on the Zambezi, fishing. One afternoon in particular I had gone to a spot on the river close to some rapids which extended most of the way across the river (which was a mile wide here), blending into a rocky bank on the near side. A small group of elephants routinely crossed using the rapids each afternoon, and it became known as „the elephant crossing place“. The area was perhaps two hundred yds upstream of a hostelty known then as The Falls Restuarant. Anyway, I parked my car off the road some 50 yds from the rapids, and ventured forth with my rod and tackle box in search of a likely looking spot. Just below the rapids on „my“ side of the river was a large pool – adjacent to which was a sign BEWARE CROCODILES. Naturally, I avoided this pool, and continued downstream along a small track. This was at the back end of the dry season and the river was very low; most trees had shed their leaves, and a thick layer of litter covered the ground. As the track took me inland from the river, I heard a distinct rustling sound. I was still nervy from the mornings activities at the hotel, where Brian (Hilda's son) and I had encountered (and despatched with Brian's 4.10 shotgun) two snakes that moring – one a boomslang, and the other a puff adder. I stopped dead in my tracks, and quickly noted a large snake, head reared up four feet from the ground, scanning left and right, approaching me rapidly. I stooped to pick up a loose rock and threw this at the approaching snake. My movement obviously caught its eye, and it locked on to me immediately, increasing its pace. I am not bullsh-----g when I say it was at least four mtrs long! My first impression was cobra or black mamba. I went into a cold sweat, and considered my options. In hindsight, I was amazed at how quickly one can go through thought processes in search of a „best option“. If it was a mamba, it could probably outrun me, and the car was perhaps 100 yds away. No chance. If I went into the adjacent pool, it may well pursue me in the slow moving water – if the crocs don't get me first! Little chance. Run for the rapids – 50 yds distant, and get out as far as you can – hoping that the snake would not be able to keep up the chase across the rapids. I dumped my rod and tackle box, and ran as fast as my little legs would carry me, half expecting to feel its fangs at any moment. I made it to the rapids, and scuttled out from the bank through the broken water. When I felt that I was relatively safe, I looked back to see the b----y snake still head up four feet patrolling to and fro along the bank above the rocks. I shouted back „Up yours, you b-----d, up yours“, whilst giving it the V sign with both hands. It was not long before the snake lost interest in me, but I waited another half hour before venturing back towards my car. Fishing was over for the day, and I had no further interest in my tackle box or rod for the moment. The following day I related the incident to one Derek Maritz (a South African contract guy) who was bush orientated. „From what you say Mike, it is 90% sure it was a female black mamba - with a nest in the rocks by the rapids. You were between the snake and its nest, when you disturbed it. Others have died for less!“ Fifty years on, and I still go cold at the memory. I have one consolation; it is said that a Black Mamba may live for up to twenty years. If so, that b------d has been dead for at least forty!

We were due to be repatriated to UK at the end of '67, and were ready for it when the time came. Muscle flexing by „the locals“ became very much a feature of life and as each day passed one sensed an increasing threat. My wife and I had considered permanently moving south to Rhodesia before my UK return date, but it was clear to all that the flood tide was sweeping southwards at an alarming rate. We agreed that we could not leave such a legacy to our children (or theirs).