Our minibus turned off the smooth tar road, tyres crunching on the gravel. Suddenly away from traffic, we faced a long, narrow wedge – a valley rising up into a tall range of mountains. My wife explained to me that, in winter, snow fell on the peaks ahead. Unusual for Africa.
For us it was sunset at the tail end of summer. No snow. Instead, the gravel road was hot and red in the sun, and the bush on the valley floor was a hundred shades of gold and green. A troop of baboons walked on the side of the road, welcoming us to our stay at the organic farm. “All this fruit is ours” they seemed to say. “Leave it alone and we’ll let you stay”. I made a mental note: Lock the windows, hide the food. Then an eagle hovered above, scanning for movement in the bush below. My daughter noticed how fierce its claws were. The mouse below would have no chance but the eagle needed to eat too hey Dad? Signs appear on the side of the road with directions to our cottage.
Minibuses dont do well on steep valley roads. The steeper the road got, the more we slipped and slid until finally the bus reached the cottage like a tired animal, happy to lie down and rest in the car park. By that time all the children had left seatbelts behind, and sat on our laps in the front. No health and safety standards. No space. Lots of fun and excitement with a valley full of baboons and birds, and a sliding slipping bus ride.
The cottage gave us everything we needed. Or rather, it kept everything that we didn’t need away from us. No phones, no TV, no internet. Even the baboons left us alone. As a replacement the girls played and played. Adventures in the amazing bunk bed with a ladder and a nook in the wall. The deep swimming pool to keep us cool and occupied by a couple of frogs, beautiful leopard spots on their backs. I showed the girls how to catch a frog gently in my hands, and they squealed with laughter as it hopped out my hands and launched itself away to the nearest bush.
Everything growing on the farm was classified as organic. Or rather, the soil in which it grew was classified organic. Not the biggest farm I have seen, but it stood out from larger, mass producing farms as each piece of fruit had an extra “organic” certification. Fancy baboon feeding scheme, you might think. Apparently they allow outsiders to use their soil so that they can claim their produce is organic in the markets. An interesting concept. Hard work though.
When we went to the nearby town for a meal, the girls attracted the attention of another family celebrating a birthday. They gave us about twenty balloons. We crammed them into the car, so that our minibus looked like it would float away as we rumbled back to the cottage. More squealing with laughter. Then the girls decided it would be nice to pass on the balloons to the boys who lived in workers’s shacks on the farm. I was proud of them for giving away such a treasure. I was also glad our minibus stayed on the ground throughout. Gravity works.
Such a short and simple trip away but it gave us more than I hoped. Happy Tuesday chimps.