The last 2 memorable conversations I had with my father were about life and death. He told me of his near-death experiences (he had 5 of them). How he’d been down the tunnel of death and had chosen to come back again. Death held no fear for him.
The other conversation (easily guessed if you knew my father) was about when we were going to get back to Mana Pools. Covid had just kicked in and he was feeling somewhat frustrated that we could not book a trip. The combination of Covid and his heart took him before we could go on that planned trip.
He wanted his ashes to be sprinkled in his garden in Constantia with his beloved Australian Cattle dogs’ ashes and in Mana Pools. So I scattered his ashes in the bottom of the garden overlooking Groot Constantia. On the last day in his house, after it was sold, I spent hours watching the baboons celebrating life in the huge garden.
In June my brother and I, and family friend Debs went to Mana Pools. We took his ashes to his favourite Sapi Pan. It’s a pan surrounded by magnificent mahogany trees with 2 resident hippos and busy waders. A huge troop of baboons were socialising around the pan. Unusually they were unperturbed by our arrival. Grooming, drinking water and munching on the water weeds went on as if we were extended family who’d dropped in for a visit.
This encounter set the tone for the trip. There seemed to be more baboons around than usual. In comparison to our chunky Cape baboons, Mana baboons are long-legged and lanky. Outside the Parks Lodge we stayed for the first 4 nights there was always a baboon patiently waiting for a door to be left open as an invitation to enter and raid the kitchen. (That did not happen.)
We then spent 5 nights with Stretch at his Goliath Camp. The place the Clemes Clan had visited annually (almost) since 2007. While we were out marching across the flood planes searching for lions with Stretch, Dad would sit beside the Zambezi sometimes seeing more than we had out on our morning explorations. The last of Dad’s ashes were sprinkled into the Zambezi beside the camp’s sundowner spot in the red glow of the sunset with just us at the camp.
Showers on the last morning of our stay at Stretch’s Camp were somewhat colder than usual. Lions were hanging out behind the tents making it impossible to stoke up the Rhodesian boilers. Eventually, they moved off. One of the lionesses had killed a baboon.
It’s 3 years since Dennis’s passing (my dad). Like so many other experiences in Mana Pools this year witnessing this dead baboon’s body being casually carried by the lioness, its arm waving as she moved, reminded me that we live in a cycle of life and death. Life needs death to keep moving forward.