I don’t take a fridge along on my journeys; just a coolbox. So perishable food is only available for the first few days. After that it’s whatever the wonders of technology can bring to the palette, and what one can pick up along the way – a chicken here, some wonderful coal-fired buns there, wild rice, cassava, when on foot, some bush meat, wild fruits, roots, fish, wild honey… African people are wondrously friendly and generous. In my experience, if you are with them they share what they have. Of course, I do the same.
On this occasion, en route to the area where I was heading, I had given three young men a lift. They were from some godforsaken little cluster of huts straddling the barely-negotiable little track I was using, to another godforsaken little cluster. Our communication was limited to the very basics, so the purpose of their journey I could only imagine.
They helped me find the best out of the meagre tracks in the area to a place called Chimoio. It wasn’t where I was going (I was heading further north), but it seemed a useful reference point. The roads in that part of the country were obscure – the ones on the maps were not evident on the ground, and the ones that were on the ground, obscure as they were, seemed to have been overlooked by the map-makers.
That evening they also helped me to change a tyre that had gone flat earlier in the day – I mean change like lever tyre from rim, remove tube, patch tube, lever tyre back onto rim, inflate.
I use tube-type tyres for my wanderings. They are much stronger than the strongest tubeless type I have been able to source. I know, I know, tubeless ones are easy to repair, but I am always scared they pick up a big tear on a sharp stone or a stick that one cannot patch. What then? The tyres I use are thirteen-ply steel-belted, so they offer better resistance to those terrible sickle bush spikes and it has to get insanely rough before they will tear. They do, on occasion, but then one can usually at least get out of trouble with a gaiter on the inside.
Anyway. Back to the fresh meat. Of course I shared with them what I had. This was free-range meat from my farm that I had had vacuum packed. It went with some potatoes and an evil concoction from tins to make up a bit of bulk for companions and a few buns that had become as dry as rusks. We fried them over the coals.
I avoided the tin-stuff, preferring to wash down the steak-potato-bun creation with copious gulps of wine. My companions seemed to thoroughly enjoy everything, including the coke I offered them in place of my precious wine. They don’t often get to enjoy coke and steaks…