"I went on a guided 4x4 tour in one of the natural parks of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe with some other folks a while back. Our guide was a pretty tough looking fellow who was very well versed in the natural world. He was happy to point out the various flora and fauna we passed as we drove through the parks and, at one point, were poled along the Okavango swamps in low canoes called mokoros.
But we did have one American woman on the trip who really had come to Africa utterly clueless. Her first question when we came across a pod of hippos was 'Where do the hippos lay their eggs?'
Uh…hippos are mammals, ma’am. They don’t lay eggs.
At one point, we came to an incredibly beautiful desolate area where there were ancient baobab trees on the edge of magnificent salt pans, or flats. They are called 'Baines’ Baobabs' after the famous naturalist Thomas Baines who painted these in 1862. These magnificent trees are up to 4,000 years old and have changed little over the years. They are surely a sight of a lifetime, and as I sat sipping a drink with the guide and taking this in, I reflected on how lucky I was to see this beautiful sight.
This woman sat there, saying 'These trees are ugly. This is all so ugly.' At this point, the guide was starting to getting a bit impatient with her.
It only got worse
As we drove on the next day we came across elephant dung in the road…it is literally everywhere because elephants are so plentiful in Botswana.
The guide pointed at it and then said, offhandedly, ‘The elephants came by here pretty recently, we should see them later.’
The woman looked at the dung wide-eyed and said, ‘How long ago did they pass by?’
The guide had had it by then.
It’s pretty obvious that wet looking dung is recent dung and dry dung is old dung, but instead of calmly explaining this to her, he jumped out of the jeep and bent over the dung, sniffed it, and then stuck a finger in it and cleverly licked his middle (non-dung covered) finger, and said, ‘I think they came by 23 minutes ago. They are close.’
The woman was amazed at this ancient tracking knowledge. ‘How can you know this, to the last minute?’ she questioned.
‘Fresh dung tastes like cinnamon,’ he replied.
This woman jumped out of the truck, stuck her finger in the dung, and licked it. We were amazed.
‘I can’t taste cinnamon?’ she inquired.
The guide silently got back into the truck, shaking his head. We were all clapping. The elephants were indeed pretty close. The woman never mentioned this moment again.”