When I was a young boy, I spent a lot of time on Lake Kariba in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). That was because my parents and neighbours owned a hotel there. I would often see my dad talking to a gentleman in safari style clothing. Younger than my father, this fair-haired gentleman carried himself gracefully, spoke well, was exceptionally friendly and strikingly handsome - well, that’s how my mom described him to me! One day my dad called me over and introduced me to him. His name was Rob Fynn, or Mr. Fynn to me.
He owned a safari camp on the other side of Lake Kariba called Kazungula Safaris. I found Mr Fynn to be very friendly, and even though I was a scrawny kid, he took time out of his day to find out what I was up to every time we crossed paths. He had time for everybody. I always wanted to visit his camp, but I never got the chance. One day Dad told me that Mr Fynn had been attacked by an elephant. He was almost killed and lucky to be alive. I always wanted to ask Mr. Fynn what happened - there were so many rumours, but alas, I never saw him again.
Safaris, Planes, Land Rovers.
Fifty years later, I was talking to someone, here in Australia, who suggested I read a book called Angel in a Thorn Bush, written by someone called Rob Fynn. I couldn’t believe it - a name from the past! Was he still alive? Yes, and living in Harare, Zimbabwe! I bought the book immediately. What an amazing account of Rob’s incredibly fascinating life. The story starts well before his venture into Kazungula Safaris in (then) Rhodesia.
Rob became a pilot in the UK, and I now understand why the elephant that attacked him wasn’t able to kill the man. If his daring exploits in a flimsy airplane weren't enough, Rob embarked on an expedition to travel the length of Africa in a Land Rover. For me, this section of the book, which covers some of the most daring and dangerous ventures he undertook, was incredibly interesting. Forget the dangers, isolation and extremes of the Sahara Desert and various little-known Central African states, it was the historical account of what this part of Africa was like in the early 1970s. Rob unwittingly records what perils travellers faced in those days, the people and cultures of very remote settlements, and the harsh environmental hazards that exist in parts of Africa.
There was a particular scene where Rob and his friend voluntarily crashed through a dense thicket of thorn bush in their Land Rover, with no possibility of turning back. It made me wonder how many skeletons are sitting in disabled vehicles somewhere in that formidable forest? Rob’s descriptions of Kazungula, Fothergill Island, Kariba, Mana Pools and Chikwenya were refreshing to read. Often, I came across the names of people I knew, and places I had visited with fond memories.
It was never going to be easy going for Rob, and the hardships, tragedies and personal loss were portrayed with compassion and respect. But Rob is an exceptional man, with an incredible ‘can do’ attitude. There were good times too, and Rob’s narrative was peppered with humour and amusing incidents. Throughout the book were some of Rob’s personal photographs that enhanced the story well. It was good for my soul to see photos of Kariba as I remembered it - and enlightening to see Rob as I remembered him when I was that scrawny little kid.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Angel in a Thorn Bush.’ I enjoyed the humour, the anecdotes and incidents. I also believe this book contains a valuable historical account of parts of Africa in those early days, accounts that should be preserved for future generations. Oh, and I finally found out what really happened when Rob was attacked by that elephant. But I’ll leave that for you to discover!
I would definitely recommend this book. Five Stars!
Kariba's tourism industry has had its fair share of economic challenges! But Zimbabweans always make a plan and thanks to those who have the vision and the dream, tourism is on the rebound. Somewhere unique where new memories are made daily for those who care to visit this remote slice of African paradise.
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