Late in the afternoon, just for a second or two, I nodded off at the wheel, a very scary situation to be in. Both of us have had very little sleep recently. It all started a week ago when a blind passenger hopped on board. We've named him Ralph.
We first took notice of him in Vila Gorongosa, Mozambique. Early in the morning, it was still dark, Sig whispered "I think we've got a mouse under the bed". We weren't really concerned about it, our goal that day was to get to the border and we were sure that a days drive would drive him out of the van, but in vain. At the border which was now closed for the night, we parked up in a Pensão courtyard twenty meters from the road where a long chain of lorries were lined up to cross at dawn. Not too far off a disco carried on till midnight and at regular intervals another lorry would arrive. There wasn't much hope of a decent nights sleep. So we had a few beers and dozed as best we could.
By 2 a.m. Ralph was awake, he was still with us and having a whale of a time beneath the bed. We shoved the bedding and matresses, together with most of our other stuff from under the bed onto the front seats and began to asses the damage. He had nibbled away at the instant noodles, at our oats and even at the espresso. Worst of all, he had been at a milk tetra pack and had spilt most of it. Droppings were everywhere and judging by their size Ralph must be quite a large mouse, he certainly has a large appetite. I was by now furious and emptied our pepper spray into any and every suspect cranny and corner that I found. Things then turned urgent and we had to get out fast. By the time we had recovered, the dust had settled and we had cleared up most of the mess it was dawn and so with next to no sleep, in a bad temper and with all the windows wide open, set off for Zimbabwe.
We spent the following night at a filling station in Gweru. Ralph was still with us. Banging on the wall didn't impress him at all. We didn't want to attract too much attention to ourselves and so had to put up with him. We now had all our open edibles and anything in paper or plastic hung up in a bag from the ceiling. Beneath the bed was only tinned or jared stuff. We swaped sides of the bed and I spent what seemed hours lying and listening with a large knife within easy reach, ready to pounce upon him if he showed himself. Sure enough at length there was no sound of him but I could allmost sence his presence beneath the fridge. A head popped out and disappeared again. I carefully took the knife and poised myself. A little later he came out, about a foot into the open, stared at me for a split second and darted back. I was so dumbfounded that I couldn't react, he was either the largest mouse I've ever seen or a rat !!!
The next day we were more concerned with finding diesel than with Ralph. We managed to get hold of some at another filling station and a long queue and figured that it would be enough to get us to Victoria Falls, perhaps we could top up in Bulaweyo. That didn't happen but we made it to the Falls and spent another restless night in the municipal campsite. The next morning was spent organizing ourselves sorting out visiting the Falls tomorrow and the afternoon was spent trying to get hold of a mouse / rat trap in town. We were shown a trap, made of recycled tin can, but weren't convinced and then found some rodent grain pellets. That evening we made several little deposits here and there, especially beneath the fridge and hoped for the best.
We were up very early the following morning and spent an enjoyable time at the Falls. Ralph had eaten most of the grain and we hoped that would do the job. However, that afternoon as Sig went to fetch something from beneath the bed she saw him and is too convinced that it's a rat. Fortunatly he didn't jump at her or anything. Cornered rats can be dangerous. Perhaps the pellets are beginning to work. We emptied the van from top to bottom and cleaned the mess as best we could again. Between the kitchen block and the bed are holes in the wall for the water pipes and electric cables. He's been gnawing at the cables and at the holes, trying to enlargen them. We plugged them all up. Needless to say he has disappeared again. Sig is livid, He's even had a go at her shoes!!!
Our last night in Zimbabwe was a nightmare, Ralph has obviously sussed us completely, Once again we turned the van upside down the following morning. To no avail, he's now no longer under the bed or beneath the fridge but behind the Dash!!!
We then crossed into Botswana and after nodding off at the wheel, decided to call it a day. We pulled up at a campsite near Pandamatenga. I was in desperate need of some sleep. The next morning, after a week with Ralph, it was high time for us to get rid of him. I knew he was under the bed and that if we began to get at him he would escape behind the fridge into the dash. First of all we blocked his escape route with our table and opened the sliding door so that when he came from behind the fridge he would have no other choice than to jump out of the van. We then began unloading everything. I was inside and passed everything to Sig outside. She was armed with a sweeping brush and would chase him away when he jumped out. I had my knife.
It worked a treat!!! Suddenly Sig shouted "Hinter dir !!!". I looked round and saw Ralph trying to jump over the table, turned back to grab my knife, turned back to Ralph and saw him jump out of the van. Sig was shouting, jumping about and waving her brush. I jumped out and Sig chased after him, he had gone under the van and then taken off toward the sanitary block. We threw everything back inside as fast as we could, and drove off in a cloud of dust. The campsite staff watched us go and must have thaught we were out of our minds. We laughed our hearts out, at last Ralph was gone!!!
- Thankyou Ralph