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  Field Notes From
Africa's Miracle Delta



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Africa's Miracle Delta On AssignmentArrows

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From Author

Kennedy Warne



Africa's Miracle Delta On Assignment

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From Photographer

David Doubilet



In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs courtesy of Kennedy Warne (top) and Jennifer Hayes


 

Africa's Miracle Delta On Assignment Author Africa's Miracle Delta On Assignment Author
Africa's Miracle Delta

Field Notes From Author
Kennedy Warne

Best Worst Quirkiest
    My most unforgettable moment was when wildlife guide Brad Bestelink spotted an elephant about to cross the channel where our boat was traveling. We beached the boat and waded up to the crossing point, then crouched down so that only our heads showed above the surface. The elephant came down to the water's edge and started to cross. When it reached us it stopped dead and turned to face us, ears out, trunk swinging. What a situation. Nowhere to run. No place to hide. And an elephant ten feet (three meters) away, staring us down. After a long moment, it flicked its trunk, splashing us with water as if to say, "Keep your distance, humans!" and walked on, sloshing through the channel and away into the woodlands on the other side.

    Frank Mashebe, my guide at Jao Camp, was driving me in an open-sided Land Rover one morning when I saw what looked like a long stick lying across the trail. When we were almost on top of it, the "stick" suddenly reared up to the height of the Land Rover's hood and veered away to one side while Frank swerved to the other. "Black mamba," he said. This wasn't Frank's first encounter with the fastest and deadliest snake in the world. Once one had struck the window frame of his vehicle, just inches from his shoulder. The sound of fang on metal was something he'd never forget, he said, rubbing his shoulder at the memory. Another guide told me that if you get bitten by a mamba, you don't radio for an ambulance (you'd be dead long before one arrived); you hightail it to the nearest bar so you can enjoy a last drink before you snuff it.

    My interpreter, Carlos, sprained his wrist the night before I was due to leave Angola and was late picking me up the next morning for the drive to the airport. As a result I missed my flight. "Don't worry," he said, "I have a friend in the military."
    We drove to the Huambo military airfield, where a giant Russian Antonov aircraft was warming up on the tarmac. We negotiated a price, and I climbed aboard for take-off. Twenty minutes later the plane touched down, and I walked toward the door, happy that I would be able to make my next connection. Then I looked outside, and my heart sank. I was somewhere in the desert. In broken English, a soldier told me they were making a stopover to load a consignment of food. Four hours later I was sitting dejectedly under the aircraft (the only shade on that baking-hot airstrip), when a young soldier gave me a ration pack. As I scooped chicken and rice out of a tin can with my fingers, I thought, How bizarre. I'm a New Zealand writer sitting under a Russian plane in the Angolan desert eating army chow. Whatever next?


   


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