The last of the fresh meat.
I don’t take a fridge along on my journeys; just a coolbox, for what that’s worth in the African heat. So, perishable food only lasts for the first day, or three, while still passing through the Middle World. Here, one can supplement with food bought from the locals – coal-fried chicken, some wonderful coal-fired buns, grilled maize cobs, cassava, wild spinach…
After that, once I get into the wilderness proper, the mainstay becomes dry food, like grains, nuts, cured fruit, and what the wonders of preservation technology can bring to the palette. Most of my wanderings are on foot though, and then one can partake of what the bush offers – some venison, wild fruits, roots, fish, wild honey… If one comes across one of those rare groups of semi-nomadic bush dwellers, there may be wild rice, cassava, course-ground maize… African bush people are marvellously friendly and generous. With them, all is shared.
On this occasion, en route to where I was heading, I gave three men a lift. They were probably heading for some godforsaken cluster of huts further along the barely-negotiable track I was using – our communication was limited to the very basics, so the purpose of their journey I could only imagine.
The roads and tracks in that part of the country were a nightmare to figure out – the ones on the maps did not appear to be on the ground, and the ones that were on the ground, obscure as they were, seemed to have been overlooked by the map-makers. My passengers helped me find my way along those meagre meanders to a place called Chimoio. It wasn’t where I was going (I was heading further north into the wilderness), but it was a bit of a town, and likely to be known to locals.
That evening in our overnight camp some way off the road side, they also helped me to change a tyre that had gone flat earlier in the day – I mean change like, use tyre levers to prize the tyre from the rim, remove the tube, patch the tube, lever the tyre back onto the 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 tubeless ones are easy to repair – until they pick up a big puncture or a tear on a sharp stone or a stick that one cannot plug. 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, an evil concoction from tins, and some buns that had become as dry as rusks – barely edible after toasting over the coals and lathered with butter. 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…