Continuing the amusing stories from my childhood

I’m going to continue my short stories of amusing or dangerous events from my African childhood, or my travels as an adult.


No TV in those days so life was all about adventure and the outdoors. In fact, if you are living in East Africa, why you would want to watch TV is beyond me. I can hear my kids going “oh no, here goes dad again – ‘in my day you had to make your own fun’”. Well, I still make my own fun I think.

We would camp a lot. One time we were out in the bush in Uganda and there was a nearby waterhole which the indiginous people used as a bathing spot. We asked them if it was ok for us to swim there and they said “of course it is”. It was a small waterhole, what you see in this photo was pretty much all of it.

After spending a few hours there, this very crocodile walked out of the water and up the bank. It was an absolute monster and I can’t believe no one knew it was there. To my knowledge, none of the locals knew it was there and no one had ever been taken by it or any other croc at that waterhole.


The flood at Bushwackers.

Everyone looks back on moments in their lives when they realise that, but for a few seconds or minutes and through no fault of their own, they might have been killed. It may be avoiding some lunatic on the road, not being on a plane that crashed (a plane did crash in Addis Ababa once, killing quite a few passengers – my brother Mark was on the plane before it and the whole episode caused huge panic at my Grandmother’s home in Yorkshire until he walked through the front door, blissfully unaware of the crash or the state Grandma was in) or it may be something like wandering around in a river that had all but dried up. Yet again, we were at Bushwackers, camping by the Athi River. This is a very large river but on this occasion, drought had reduced it to less than a trickle. There were a few tiny pools of water in the middle, probably fifty metres from each bank and no more than an inch or two deep. Mark and I were there, collecting small freshwater shrimps that had become stranded and we assumed were going to dry up like toast pretty soon anyway. After an hour or so, we returned to the bank where the tent was pitched, for lunch.

I can clearly remember what we were doing. Every Easter, the East African Safari Rally would be running and sometimes we would watch the final stages in Nairobi as the mud splattered cars came home. The crowds would be huge but all the Africans would leave when the great Joginder Singh arrived, whether he won or not. This time we were camping but keeping up to date on the radio. All of a sudden, whilst listening to the broadcast, we all noticed that the ambient sound had changed. There was a huge roar in the background that we hadn’t noticed up til then and we all looked up together and saw that the river stretched from one bank to the other and had become a raging torrent. Boulders, six metres in height were completely underwater. The force was something to behold. Dad went downstream taking photos and was convinced he saw someone being washed away to their death.


Mark and I were standing in the middle of all this less than fifteen minutes earlier. Rain had fallen upstream and caused a flash flood. It must almost have been a wall of water that came down and we would have had no chance of survival had we found a few more shrimps.


The dwarf toads.

When you are the mother of two animal mad kids and wife to a man who is even worse than his children, chances are you are going to come home one day and regret ever getting married. My mum had to put up with a lot, from being dragged from England to live in Africa, moving from house to house, town to town, village to village. She shouldn’t have had to put up with our hobbies as well, but that’s exactly what mothers do.

One day she came home just after Dad, Mark and I had come home from a collecting trip. She opened the bathroom door to run herself a much needed bath when she was met with a sight she would never see in North Yorkshire. There were over forty dwarf toads (of the type below) hopping happily in the bath. Well, where else were we supposed to put them?