South Luangwa is lovely because it is so unspoiled and natural. There are a handful of lodges inside the Park’s 9,000 square kilometres, but most tourist accommodation is located outside, in the Game Management Zone, across the Luangwa River. It is not geared up for mass tourism, so it remains quite exclusive.
Earlier this week, I was following a safari vehicle carrying local non-African tourists. I was shocked to see an empty plastic water bottle thrown out into the park. I stopped, picked up the bottle and continued to follow them. The vehicle stopped for morning tea, so I drove alongside and handed back the empty water bottle, saying, “I think you dropped this.”
The tourists didn’t really understand the message which I was trying to convey. They just looked blankly back at me. I was furious, but concealed my anger and drove off.
When I told the story to another guide, he said that some local clients had been eating a packet of biscuits during the game drive. They tossed the empty packet out into the Park. The driver saw this in his wing mirror, stopped and reversed. He picked up the packaging and handed it back to the client, who said, “You didn’t need to do that. The packet was empty!”
This prompted another guide to tell a story of local guests on a game drive who brought with them a large bag of chicken bones which they threw at sleeping lions “to see some action.” When the guide protested that this was not permitted, the guests couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. It beggars belief.
I can understand that on a four hour game drive in the cold morning air, some people do need to empty their bladders. The guide normally stops at a safe area, checks out the nearby trees and shrubs, suggesting that tourists could relieve themselves in the bush. So it is inevitable that one occasionally sees a square of toilet paper, but this should easily degrade within a few weeks. However, I have seen used toilet paper in the middle of a vast open plain, with no shelter for hundred of metres. When I asked why people would do this, a guide replied, “Maybe they wanted a room with a view.”
Yes, the smallest room with a view – across a languid bend in the Luangwa and on to the purple-tinged hills of the escarpment in the distance.
Just as I was considering this, I remembered one of my patients in Leicester who used to crap al fresco on the grass verge outside Subway. That’s one way of countering the odours of freshly baked bread which set your gastric juices churning.
When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go, I suppose.