2 Feb

Chapter 5

Sandy could not decipher how on earth she scaled the shrubbery banking the river, but she did know that when she made it to their camp, Illuminada was already packed up and waiting for her entry.

‘Here! Grab your sleeping bag I already have your backpack! Let’s get out of here!’ called Illuminada.

Sandy did not argue. She grabbed her sleeping bag and made it away from the clearing as the lizard-like creature struggled to cross the clump of shrubbery.

Sandy really had to struggle to catch up with Illuminada. For a woman so old, Illuminada was quite agile; an agility which did not cease to amaze Sandy. They ran for the longest ten minutes Sandy had ever known and slowed down when they got to grassy part of the land.

‘I think we lost it’, said Illuminada, panting.

‘What in God’s name was that?’ asked Sandy, all traces of anger replaced by fear. ‘It looked like an alligator. But then I know alligators don’t attack humans.’

Illuminada shook her head, ‘Don’t believe everything you read Sandy girl,’ she said, her breath coming in longer gasps.

‘You mean that was an alligator?’ Sandy enquired.

‘No. It was a lizard,’ answered Illuminada and when she saw the look on Sandy’s face added, ‘a monitor lizard.’

They walked along the grassy plain until they got to a shady tree. Illuminada motioned Sandy to sit on a rock.

‘Hungry now?’ she asked Sandy.

‘Well I am but…’ her voice trailed off.

‘You want to know more about the monitor?’

‘No. Yes…I mean I would love to know about it but I wanted to know how you got our stuff together so fast…it was as if you were waiting for me to run out of there.’

Illuminada heaved a sigh. ‘You sound embarrassed’.

‘I am embarrassed’.

‘You were being quite stubborn Sandy girl and I couldn’t warn you about the presence of the monitor.’ She paused, ‘Besides I didn’t want to spoil the fun.’

‘You actually consider this funny?

‘You should have seen the way you scaled those shrubs, it was a magnificent sight’

Sandy was taken aback. ‘I could have been injured or worse.’

‘In situations like this you just need to be proactive,’ she said without any hint at an apology. ‘Besides you were not injured…or worse’.

Sandy considered for a while, ‘Well I really must thank you for being ready and allowing me to see the great monitor.’

‘You are welcome Sandy.’ She settled on a rock next to Sandy’s and got out the cured meat and a food flask. ‘I reserved your breakfast’.

Sandy was more than grateful to receive it. ‘Oh thank you, I am starved’. She received the flask as well as the meat and bit into it.

‘This is really tasty’, she said with her mouth full.

‘No talking with food in your mouth’ Illuminada scolded. ‘Where are your manners?’

‘Flew away through your imaginary window I believe’. They both laughed. ‘You were going to tell me about the monitor lizard’.

‘Yeah the monitor…’ she poured some juice for herself and handed Sandy the pack.  ‘Well we have different species of the monitor lizard. You could find them in India, Australia, West and south of Africa. They are giant lizards and they are carnivores. The rock monitor and the white throated monitor are found here in Southern Africa. The one you saw back there is the white throated monitor.’

‘I wish my parents were here’, Sandy mused.

‘These things happen and there is nothing you can do about it.’ Illuminada looked up to the heavens.

‘I think we should be getting a move on. Those clouds are heralding rain and we need to find shelter…’

‘Or any other human,’ Sandy finished for her. ‘Do you have any idea where exactly we are?’

‘We crashed somewhere near the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This is almost the wet season and usually there should be lots of tourists in the Mukuni village of the Leya people.’

‘What would attract people to such a village?’ asked Sandy as her stomach made a distinct growling sound.

Illuminada arched an eyebrow, ‘Was that you or me?’

‘It is nothing’ Sandy answered embarrassed.

‘You can’t interfere with nature my dear…you just have to let it out’.

Sandy looked even more mortified than ever when her stomach growled louder.

Illuminada threw her a kitchen knife. ‘There…’

‘Where did you get this?’

Illuminada ignored the question. ‘Go behind the tree and dig yourself a modest hole and do your thing’.

‘I am certainly not exposing my neat behind for any Tom, Dick and Harry that comes along.’ She said determinedly.

‘If your ‘neat behind’ would make Tom, Dick or Harry appear, I believe that would be a welcome development, don’t you think?’

Sandy picked up the knife and did as she was told. Aside from the terrible growling of her stomach and the purging nature of her business, it was quite uneventful. When she was through she found Illuminada was already standing and waiting for her.

‘Feel better now?’

Sandy nodded as she handed her the knife.

‘Some elephants and Rhinos graze these plains. I pray we don’t run into them.’ She looked around. ‘That way should take us back to the Zambezi. Let’s see if we could run into any fishermen.’

‘Do you think that’s a good idea? I don’t want to be pursued by another monitor.’

Illuminada smiled. ‘Don’t worry about that. Did I tell you the monitor is also edible?’ she giggled and it sounded like a crackle to Sandy. ‘We could kill ourselves good meat for dinner. Come let’s go find the Mukuni Village.

They walked for about an hour before they happened on a row boat at the bank of the river. A look around revealed no one was about.

‘What do you say…’ asked Illuminada, ‘do we borrow the boat?’ pointing at the oars ‘See, it has two sets of oars as if it was left for us’.

How convenient, thought Sandy, a lot of strange things are happening here.

‘What other strange thing could happen? Would the river flow up stream now?’ Sandy could not keep the sarcasm off her voice.

‘But that is an impossibility’, answered Illuminada as she climbed into the boat. ‘You had better get in here; it is going to be a rough ride since we are going downstream. That happens to be the direction we would find the Leya people.’



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