Pamela MacNaughtan

“If you slice 3-4 of these (Snake Apples) and put them in a salad, you’ll be dead in about 4 hours,” Ian said in Dutch/English/Zimbabwe accent (yes, it really is a mixture of all three).

“If you rub this leaf, it’ll kill you in about 2 minutes.” Once again, Ian had my complete attention.

“If you eat a little of this berry, it will act as a female contraceptive, if you eat too much, you’ll die.”

It seemed as though our guide, Ian, knew more about the various ways to die in the bush than I thought possible. During the time our group spent with Ian, I think he showed us one plant that would not kill us, Devil’s Thorn, which the bushman use for soap. Other than that our botanical lesson revolved around death. Morbid, yes. Entertaining, yes. Ian could sit down and read me the phone book and I would tell everyone that he was an expert on phone books.

Our first day with Ian was spent in Matabos National Park, visiting a village, looking at bushman cave paintings, and looking for Rhinos. Although my ankle was sore, I sucked it up and climbed up the side of the truck and onto my seat several times throughout the day. However, by the end of the day, I was asking if I could swap seats and sit in the front on the following day. Many of the group thought I wanted the front seat so I could be closer to Ian, even though I explained many times that it was due to my sore ankle. I’m not sure the rest of the group believed me.

I’m absolutely amazed by how much Ian knows. It’s incredible. After just a few minutes with him, I wanted to turn on a tape recorder and ask him to tell me stories.

Ian’s family has lived in Zimbabwe since the 1890’s and although most of immediate family has left to live elsewhere in the world, Ian has remained in Zimbabwe. To Ian, Zimbabwe is home and he seems quite content to act as a guide for anyone looking to experience and learn more about Zimbabwe.

Ian drove to Hwange National Park (about 4+ hrs from Matabos) to meet us there and be our guide while we were in the area. Naturally, I sat in the front, bad ankle and all. During the day Ian tracked animal footprints from the road and once again found things that would kill us. Towards dusk, Ian took us to a watering hole where about 100 Elephant were drinking and bathing.

Later that night Ian came to our campsite to take us on a night game drive. This time we would be driving along the highway outside Hwange as the park closes at 6 p.m. The night air was chilly, actually, it was freezing cold. I piled into the jeep wearing a long sleeved shirt, t-shirt, cardigan and my Maasai blanket, as well as long cargo pants, socks and my flip flops (don’t go there, it’s Africa. I don’t care what I looked like). Once the jeep was going the cold seemed to rip right through me, but I refused to say I was cold, so I did my best to ignore it.
Have you ever driven in Africa at night, spot 3 or 4 Elephants on the side of the road, pull over, turn off your headlights and jeep and just sit there, listening? If you haven’t, then it should be on your list of things to do while you’re in Africa. I sat in the front of the jeep, the stars shining above me and listened to the Elephants walk and eat their way across the road and into the field on the other side. It was absolutely fascinating. The amount of noise they made was incredible and I could have easily sat there all night listening to them (as long as I was in a Jeep and Ian was close by).

After we had our fill of listening to Elephants in the dark, Ian started the jeep up and asked if we wanted to have some real fun. Naturally, we said yes. Ian drove further down the road and started to imitate a baboon. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening, then Ian pointed to a tree and we could see the Baboons running down and tree and away from us. Ian explained that the noise was a challenge and the Baboons were running, scared. Then the air filled with the scent of shit. Not only had we scared the Baboons, but we had made them shit themselves as they went running. I know it sounds cruel and maybe it was, just a wee bit, but it was also funny as hell. When Ian almost drove our jeep into a tree to scare the Baboons we were all roaring with laughter. It was a great way to end our evening, our time in Hwange and our time with Ian.

If I ever return to Zimbabwe (which I would love to do in the rainy season), I will definitely hire Ian to be my guide while I’m there. He is absolutely amazing and I know there are scores of stories left to be told.

The following is a clip of Ian talking -cause I think you need to hear him for yourself. 😉

Ian talking about something important, I just enjoy listening to his voice…

Thinking of traveling to Africa?

Traveling in Africa, solo, can be a scary thought -especially for solo female travelers. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it can. What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with joining a group tour.

For 45 days I traveled from Kenya (Nairobi) to Cape Town with Intrepid Travel. This was my very first group travel experience. At first I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but as time progressed, I began to relax and fall in love with this type of travel. In fact, I would definitely travel with Intrepid again. 



  • September 6, 2011

    When I get there I will ask you for Ian’s info because having a guide like that makes all the difference. Amazing stories!

  • September 7, 2011

    He sounds absolutely incredible!!!


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