The Benefits of Hindsight




We have been away.


We probably oughtn’t to have gone. That’s what husband said. I told him Hindsight was wonderful stuff. Had we known, with the hindsight that was not afforded us when we left home on Saturday morning, how the weekend was going to pan out, then, no, absolutely, categorically, we ought not to have gone.


Especially so far.


Particularly given that I had malaria.


Diagnosed the day before we left, I feigned stoicism and told everybody I’d be fine.


They believed me.


When are other people, husbands predominantly, going to grasp that ‘I’ll be fine’ translates as I probably won’t be, cue unseemly amounts of TLC and radical changes of plan. 


Why are men so literal?


So we went. At 5am on Saturday morning. Me curled up with head on pillow. Children armed with the necessary to entertain themselves for the eight hour drive their father assured them was ahead of us.


I couldn’t pretend to be anything other than Fine. We had planned this trip months ago. Long before we realised we would be mid move. Certainly more distantly than we knew I’d be enfeebled by malaria. Definitely before we remembered how valuable Hindsight can be.


Our road trip to Katavi. One of Africa’s last great wildernesses.




The 8 hours morphed into ten.  The family ate breakfast overlooking the Malagarasi which gave Livingstone perpetual headaches during his expeditions inland as he and his porters were mired in its high waters when the river was in spate. I – with my own perpetual headache – lay prostrate across the bonnet of the car wondering why I’d got out of bed.


We arrived in Katavi in time for a cup of tea. And an early night.


Our first foray into the park the following morning began well. I felt brighter. Things were looking up.


Until – two hours into the third biggest and first loneliest wildlife conservation area in the country – we developed Car Trouble.


Car Trouble comes in a million different guises. It is at its most ominous when you are in country thick with buffalo, lion and hippo and your cell phone registers no network coverage.


Especially given the size and the solitude of our chosen weekend get-away.




We looked at one another forlornly.


‘We are in the S**t’, announced husband succinctly, as if we were all too stupid to have gleaned severity of situation for ourselves.


‘How often do you suppose a vehicle comes down this road?’ I mused


‘Couple of times a week?’ Husband said, scouring the ground for signs of tyre tread. There were none, just ours indicating where we’d come from. The direction we’d hoped to continue in was marked only with the tread of game. And it’s droppings.


With 3 litres of water, 7 naajis, a bag of stale popcorn and three swiftly blackening bananas, things looked dire.


‘We are all going to die’, wailed Hat miserably.


We didn’t. Obviously. For otherwise I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale which my darling children urged would make good blog fodder as we sat in the heat and dust feeling sorry for ourselves.


Finally, for there seemed no alterative, Husband and Son decided nothing for it but to walk for help, armed with a cell phone which they hoped might bleep into action at some point along the way.


The girls and I cowered in diminishing shade, carefully sipping water and wondering whether we ought to be saving our pee in plastic bags. Isn’t that prescribed prophylaxis to perishing from thirst in desert?


How bad was this going to be?


The air was silent but for bird call and the gentle whisper of the bush in response to the faint sighing of occasional breeze. The sky was huge. Huge and empty. No clouds. No planes. No nothing.


The longer we sat, the more I worried I became and the proportionately greater volumes of Rescue Remedy I squirted onto my tongue.


Had I sent the boys in the right direction, I fretted? How good was my map reading, really? Be honest here.


What about buffalo? Katavi teems with huge herds of them. 1000 at a time, great big black hulking brutes with sulky expressions and mean beady eyes.




And hippo. The mammal responsible for more human fatalities than any other in Africa.


And – oh God – what about the lion?


My friend Tash, member of Big Cat Diary crew, recently described to me the aggression and determined hunting technique of the Katavi lion.


They’ll bring down a buff, she said.


One man of 6’2” accompanied by a lean teen would be easy pickings.


Amelia was remarkably relaxed. She lay in the sun and read her book. Amelia never goes anywhere without a book.


‘Chillax man, Ma, it’ll be cool.’


I hoped she was wearing her Lucky Pants.


Hat massaged my shoulders, ‘Away worries, away!’ she demanded.


Almost three hours after the boys had vanished into the scrub and out of sight, a park vehicle – alerted after a call from them – came barreling over our dusty horizon and we were rescued. We picked up the boys minutes later, trailing back to us, through the bush, sunburned and thirsty and coated in dust.


They had been neither gored, trampled nor made mincemeat of by a pride of hungry lion.


They had seen nothing.


Except for a cobra, ‘as thick as my arm’, reported Ben delightedly.


The rest of our weekend was spent trying to ascertain how we could get home given our car could clearly not.


We managed a lift yesterday. We arrived back in the Outpost last night travel weary and filthy dirty.


And full of reflections on the benefit of hindsight …


And now, if you will excuse me briefly, I must move house.










34 Responses to “The Benefits of Hindsight”

  1. Mud Says:

    Wow – what drama! Very glad to hear you are all safely home now. How’s the malaria?

  2. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Hey – hope you’re feeling much better now – it’ll make you appreciate your new home now! Just imagine pre mobile phone days!

  3. Tom Says:

    That’s the thing about large empty places… they’re empty. Love the picture though. You may think I’m cracked but I envy your proximity to these wild places.

    Don’t tell me you guys must depend on the Gold Sled for transportation.

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks Mud. Drama indeed. Glad to be home. Briefly. Before we move Fri into new one. Malaria lingering; don’t think doc ordered convalesence such as i had. taking it easy now … no more trips. not til next week anyway! and that, thankfully, mostly by air!

  5. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Mapesbury, thank you: pre mobiles? imagine it? boys would have been hotter, crosser, redder and alot thirstier. They’d have had a longer walk and we a much longer wait. Could have been worse, could absolutely have been worse … xx

  6. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Hi Tom: nope, i agree: big empty spaces are wonderful. mostly. except when you want to raise the alarm … and nope again: not golden sled. Husband’s posh new work job. lesson learned: even posh new jobs break down. bet golden sled feeling smug!

  7. Roberta Says:

    Well now. With that adventure (test of stamina and grit?) behind you, the move should be relaxing and exciting! Forget hindsight. Think of it as a break from the mundane so that you can appreciate empty boxes!

    I do hope you are taking care of yourself and feeling better.

  8. R. Sherman Says:

    Just wow!

    I hope you’re better.

  9. nuttycow Says:

    Poor Rm – I hope you’re feeling on the mend. Malaria is a pain in the whatsit.

    That place looks lovely. Very envious. It’s pouring with rain here 😦

  10. Mozi Esme's Mommy Says:

    Definitely GREAT blog fodder. I think that’s about the only positive about this – other than the memories, of course. How’s your malaria – or rather how are you? That’s nothing fun, I know. Especially when you’re surrounded by wild beasties, I imagine.

  11. Potty Mummy Says:

    I hope you’re feeling better RC, though moving with Malaria might not be the shortest road to recovery. But your kids are right; fantastic blog fodder…

  12. Potty Mummy Says:

    Sorry, I meant to write RM. Sorry, sorry, sorry!

  13. daisyfae Says:

    [jaw on keyboard] wow. what appears as “adventure” in hindsight is “terrifying ordeal” in real time.

    on the practical side, what about a satellite phone? work sometimes drags my colleagues to remote outposts, and they are sent with global coverage phones. cheap to rent, expensive to use, but priceless in an emergency…

  14. Mom de Plume Says:

    Wow RM, what a hectic getaway you had… and we are feeling a little nervous at the thought of our car making the 2 hour trek to the Drakensberg in 2 weeks. Not quite on the same scale. Glad that you are all in the right number of pieces. Hope the malaria gets gone quickly – nasty mozzies!

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Roberta: a test it was, indeed. Move does seem relatively easy by comparison … so far!

    Getting there, Mr Sherman, getting there …

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Nutty: malaria is a pain. It’s endemic here. Can’t fathom why: so dry. And yes, Katavi was very lovely, the little bit of it that we managed to see … one tiny corner.

    Mozi – getting there. still wobbly. but getting there. don’t think i’d advocate the weekend i had as convalesence though!

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    PM: here, if you call somebody an RC, it means they are a Regional Commissioner and very, very important. It means they drive a big posh car with – sometimes – a small flag on it. I drive a heap. No flag. But don’t mind being referenced as RC one bit x

  18. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    daisyfae – you are so absolutley right about sat phones. i am gng to get myself one. in the hope that it will act as deterrent: owning one i shall never need to use it, having wished i’d had one twice in last 12 months, both on account of Car Trouble in remote areas!

  19. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Mom d P: enjoy the Drakensberg. How very lovely. I have never visited them, only admired from freeway distance. Keep warm. And only mad people do road trips like we do. only mad people. And I am having a rest from being mad for a bit

  20. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    …. that said, Mom d P: i have to do a frickin road trip of 5 hours on Wed just to get to bleedin aiport to make a three hour flight across the border north into kenya … oh gawd.

  21. Maggie May Says:

    I was on the edge of my seat with that one. Glad you made it!

  22. Gill Says:

    Wow what a story, love your blog.

    Gill a fellow Brit living in Canada

  23. Dad Mzungu Says:

    What a situation! I did several “trips” into nowhere when on a long stay in South Africa, but never gave a thought about the car breaking down – and cell phones weren’t even a dream in those days.
    And I hope to be doing similar once I get established in Kenya. I just long for wide open spaces – comes of living on an overcrowded island, I suppose.
    Glad you’re still with us and I hope the malaria will soon be just a memory – like the adventure.

  24. Janelle Says:

    bloody hell babes…??? rivoting read though! and you’ve been tagged by me for what its worth!! lots lots love and hope you’re feeling better??? xx bious xx

  25. minx Says:

    My life is just so boring!

  26. problemchildbride Says:

    Good God.

    I’m glad you made it safe and sound.

    How’s the malaria? I don’t think I’ve ever asked that of anyone before. Seriously though, I hope you’re feeling better.

  27. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    maggie may; i think it’s more exciting now – in hindsight! at the time it was first terrifing and then boring – sitting and waiting always gets a bit boring, no matter where the waiting.

  28. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Gill, and for dropping by.

  29. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    dad mzungu: yup, where would we have been without that phone? a long walk i suppose? and a longer wait by association?

  30. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    janellabella: malaria is fine. as am i. and thank you for the tag … now i need to work out how to post the picture … x

  31. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    minx – everything is relative. really. it is. my children get excited about a trip to Tesco.

  32. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    problemchildbride – thank you. and it’s fine, the malaria. gone. all that remains is more militant attitude towards mosquitoes, with extra energetic swatting.

  33. guineapigmum Says:

    A wise mountaineering friend of mine once said “when you stop having epics, you’ll know you’re getting old”. You’re clearly still a very young spring chicken, creating tales for future dinner parties and grandchildren. I hope you’re recovered from the malaria, if not from the move. gpm

  34. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    i absolutely love that gpm. and you made me feel about 17 again. even if i feel about 97. if that makes sense …

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