Friday, 23 January 2015


The beautiful gardens of Arumeru River Lodge, outside Arusha National Park, are a botanic miscellany of my past. Here, from my life in Bolivia, are trees of Hura crepitans, a valuable hardwood in the Euphorbiaceae, with a toxic sap, blinding even should a tree-feller get it in his eye. Found widely in Latin America, its indigestible seeds, much loved by macaws, are among the causes posited for the birds' need for stomach-settling kaolin from Amazon river-cliffs. Here too in this Tanzanian garden are Madagascar flame trees Delonix regia and rosy periwinkles from the great red isle, Grevillea and Callistemon from much further east in Gondwana, and many other plant friends from my decade and more in the tropics.

We are undeniably in Africa, however. Hiding on the bough of a Eucalyptus, a Psidium sprouting from its shade, are an adult African wood owl and its feathery caramel chick. And from the shadows of the woods' edge tiptoe Kirk's dikdiks, alert and jerking in their movement, their big sad eyes lined white, their legs too petite for even Degas to imagine.

Tomorrow Arusha National Park. Today, on no sleep, I am happy to be again in Africa.

An iPhone Kirk's dikdik

Leopards at Heathrow, in case I don't see any in the wild

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