Strathspey Wildlife  
Africa 2006
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Saturday 4th February 2006

I woke early this morning, and decided to take a walk with my camera in the hope that I may catch the sunrise - but at 6.45 am - I had just missed it. It was however very pleasant to walk the paths through the estate, overlooking the valleys which were holding on to the cool mist before the sun hit them. I passed a local house, at which the woman was already busy, sweeping the outside of the house. A Doberman cam bouncing over to me, and I breathed a sigh of relief as he arrived, tail wagging. He then tagged on as I continued along the track to a high point. As I turned, the dog ran off into the bush, sniffing amongst the vegetation. I returned to our cabin, where Nancy was bird-watching on the veranda. We had spotted a pin-tailed whydah - a striking bird with a very long tail. We told Chrissie - and she was quite disappointed not to have seen it - but she was rewarded with a sighting later.  We went for our breakfast at 8am - and were joined by our host, Geoff.  Having commented earlier on his son Peter's  failure to mingle with the guests at Ruaha, it really was very pleasant to have his company at the breakfast table. I couldn't help thinking he had the air of a Scottish Highland Laird. Geoff announced that he had managed to arrange the school visit for us - saying that some of the children and their teachers had agreed to turn out  to meet us.


Following breakfast, we assembled -  at "9 am sharp"-  as requested by Geoff - to witness the sheepdog demonstration. Geoff explained to us the finer points of the art, and gave the signal to the shepherd to begin. Despite being Tanzanian, all of his commands were familiar to us - no Swahili terminology here - "Come by" etc. was the order of the day. The shepherd worked his dog to perfection - or so it seemed to us - in an apparently faultless demonstration. A quick tour of Geoff's "Secret Garden" followed - a little oasis set amongst the shade of the trees with all manner of colourful plants and trees. We had little time to linger however - and we returned to gather the remaining 3 footballs, some small bouncing balls, toy cars, pens, pencils and rubbers to donate to the school. Not everybody had elected to visit the school and the local village experience. On arrival at the school, the children had laid on a demonstration of song and dance. Some of the boys performed some back-wrenching gymnastics (they would be to me anyway) but then lost out to the girls in a tug-of-war.

On completion of their performance, I took out one of the footballs - but rather than give it to the teacher, I kicked it to the assembled boys, and they
went wild and organised themselves for a game of soccer. I took out a second ball and gave it to the girls - and they started a game of netball - using a makeshift basket on a post. These balls had been bought in the UK at JIB Sports for a knockdown £10 for 4. All the inconvenience of packing the partly-deflated balls, re-inflating them later was worth every penny - so much happiness - for so many -  at £2.50 a time!! For those who had chosen not to come on the village/school trip, we felt that they had missed something special. These Tanzanian children, in common with their African cousins elsewhere are so well-mannered, well-behaved, and so keen to learn. Many of them live in poverty, oblivious often of the extent of the trappings of Western wealth - and they never stop smiling !! It was onward then to the orphanage, where some of the orphans again welcomed us with song and dance. I gave away my last football, and distributed some bouncy rubber balls. They played with them briefly, and then dutifully returned them all - one by one to the teacher. They took a look at a collection of "Matchbox" cars I had brought out. Having seen children playing with crude, home-made wooden toy cars last year in Rwanda - I thought that these would go down particularly well. Finally - a bag full of pens, pencils and rubbers - and it was time to carry on our tour of the village. All the children gave their goodbyes - an array of happy smiley faces. I shook hands with the male teacher - and then the lady teacher shook my hand - and curtsied - quite quite humbling. On route to the school, Geoff had stopped off, to show us the developing site of the proposed  development for the orphanage. Each of the 6 planned houses was under the control of a housekeeper and a group of orphans. As we looked over the site, Geoff told us that all the ground had been excavated by hand. In our land of JCB's, mechanical diggers and earth-movers, it was quite amazing.


It was on then to a demonstration by the local blacksmith, with his home-made bellows and pump, driven by a bicycle wheel. A trip to the local "Medicine Man" completed the trip - showing us various local roots and plants that helped keep him in a busy "surgery" comparative comfortable lifestyle. His art had been passed down through generations of his family - but he did not know how far back it stretched. On our way back, Geoff showed us the local dispensary/clinic - hard to believe that this served 11,000 people. Unfortunately, as this was Saturday, we were unable to visit. Nancy had brought a brand new stethoscope - courtesy of a UK rep - which Geoff promised would be most welcome and would be passed on - in company with a bag of old spectacles brought out by ........... and would no doubt be of benefit to somebody. Our morning had been  a most rewarding experience. We returned for lunch - rhubarb crumble for dessert once again !!! We took a walk in the afternoon to the lake in the valley below - a round walk of around 2-3 miles. This was
 a lovely setting - with the offer of a dugout canoe for your use - we decided to stay on terra firma. We encountered some large colourful butterflies, though they were impossible to photograph as they closed their wings whenever they landed. We decided not to linger, as we were being attacked by woodland ants as we stood. We returned to our cabin, where our laundry, which had been placed at the front door earlier that day, had been returned washed, folded and perfectly ironed. Off to the lodge for a "Kili" before a dinner of beef casserole, rice, cauliflower cheese and local veg - and cheesecake to follow. A relaxing couple of drinks around the open fire followed. An early start was scheduled for tomorrow. We had all really enjoyed our time with Geoff and his staff at Mufindi - We could not have been made more welcome.