I consider having grown up in Africa to be one of the greatest privileges of my life thus far.
For a little kid it’s like having the world’s largest playground! These are a few of my favourite memories.
Playing in the mud with my sister during an African rain storm. The rain pelts down so hard it’s like a mini massage on your shoulders, potholes filling up with water making perfect swimming holes, the dust rising into the air and the smell of new life all around. Of course Babe (the bushpig) and the dogs would join in. Who needs a mud wrap in a fancy day spa! Farming with Dad. I loved going out into the lands with my Dad to watch him work. I used to pretend to be his foreman and he would teach me all about the workings of the farm like how to remove suckers from the tobacco plants. This was sometimes dangerous work due to my Dad’s cheeky sense of humour. I remember the day he gave me a chilli and told me it was a tomatoe. I bit into it and man did it burn! He roared with laughter and of course I cried but, in hindsight it was pretty funny. These risks were worth taking when I got to ride on the back of the motorbike or even drive the tractor by myself!
Camping and game drives within 2 minutes of the back door. What a privilege to be able to load up into the back of the truck (known as a ute here in Australia) and drive around the farm to observe wild animals such as zebra, warthog, impala and baboon basically in my own back yard. One year, a zebra actually introduced himself to our horses and decided he would stay. We named him Zulu. There were also plenty of camping spots on the farm where we used to spend the nights sometimes. The stars are brilliantly bright on a clear African night. Rescuing animals. If there was an animal in trouble you can guarantee I would try to help it. From moving tortoises off the road so that they wouldn’t get squashed to extracting Bush Babys from the wood pile and releasing them, I was always thrilled to help.
Extraordinary school trips. In Zimbabwe, we didn’t go on ‘normal’ school trips like to the museum, we liked to go a bit more extreme. Far and Wide has to be one of the iconic school trips for children growing up there. An adventure camp that teaches you survival skills such as orienteering, hiking and abseiling, plus an obstacle course, plus bunking in with your friends is like Heaven for a Zimbabwean kid. In Junior School we got to go on a camping trip to Kariba. We were picked up in the back of a lorry (big truck) with the back covered in with canvas and piled in like cattle. Such fun! We visited the crocodile farm, reptile park and for me the most exciting part was taking part in an anti-poaching procedure in the local bushland. We were taught how to look for, locate and remove snares by the rangers. What an amazing skill to have and at the end of the day we were so proud of all the snares we had managed to remove, feeling like we had made a contribution to saving the wildlife we all love so much.
I have so many great memories and will treasure them forever.