“It will be a great shot” my guide Sean said. “I’ll show you how to get up”. We were standing next to one of the oldest baobabs in the Pafuri area, in the northernmost part of Kruger National Park. As I put my hands on the nearly 2,000 year old tree’s massive body, I could literally feel its magic.
The baobab, the largest succulent plant in the world, is steeped in legends and superstition. It can provide food, water, shelter and relief from sickness. It is an exceptionally strong tree that can even withstand fires, and it can grow thousands of years old. People have been stripping its bark for centuries in order to retrieve the fibrous substance to make items such as mats and baskets, and elephants can eat large amounts of bark especially in the dry season. This does not harm the tree which is able to regrow its bark, even if ringbarked. Its leaves, fruits and roots are nutrient-rich, and can also be used to treat a number of problems such as kidney disease, asthma and insect bites. Legend has it that an infant boy that is bathed in water soaked with baobab bark will grow into a strong man.
So, bravely going where (possibly) no blonde Swede has gone before, I started climbing up the natural climbing points of the ancient tree. Her bark was so thick, I knew that I wouldn’t cause her any harm. However, there were others that had objections to me being there… “Snake” I heard a voice calling behind me. Thinking that it was a trick, and wanting to waive my blue and yellow flag high, I bravely hoisted myself up to the next step. “Shit, a mamba”, Sean spat under his breath. I am not quite sure what happened next, but before I knew it I was on my way down. Fast. I may have used Sean to break the fall of my not so gracious escape. It wasn’t intentional but given that the whole adventure was his idea in the first place, I think it was the least he could do. “I guess we’ll get that shot standing next to the tree instead” Sean said cautiously. I must admit that having just been closer to a Black Mamba than anyone would ever want to be (apart from possibly Steve Irwin in his days), all my Viking bravery was gone. So I convinced the hubby to pose for the shot instead. It wasn’t easy, but eventually I got him to go close enough to get this one (I think he is looking up to make sure the Angry Mamba wasn’t approaching).
So from now on, I will be admiring these gorgeous giants from a distance. I may sneak in a quick stroke of that ancient bark because there are few things more magic that feeling a 2000-year old living being under your palm, but only once I have made sure there are no grumpy residents around… You know what they say; Africa is not for sissies!