I was once running a wildlife sanctuary and safari operation in the Zambezi Valley. During the wet season the area was inaccessible by road and therefore very few people came to visit.
We spent most of our time at this time of year doing anti-poaching work. Two other camps from which ant-poaching patrols had also been active had been attacked shortly before this time.
Due to the possibility of an attack on our camp I used to sleep in a different empty room or tent every night. I always kept a loaded rifle next to the bed.
One night I awoke to a sound of voices whispering.
I rolled off my mattress and picked up the rifle and torch I had ready and quietly approached the gauze window. I peered out. There was quite a bit of moonlight and I could make out several figures moving along a path towards the main building. They had one small torch.
I had no doubts. There had been no sound of a vehicle or boat. My own team would not risk being shot by walking around the camp at night without giving verbal warning first. I steeled myself for a fight.
I knew the paths of course and as I was barefoot was able to quietly sneak up on them. There were four of the bastards.
A few feet behind them I raised my rifle and switched on the torch, which I held under the barrel, at the same time shouting in the local Goba language, “IWE MIRAI!!”. They froze and two of them screamed.
Two elderly European couples stood in front of me with shock on their faces. They had turned around and were also shining their one torch at me.
I cleared my throat and said, “sorry, I thought your were poachers”.
They said nothing and even more strangely the two women were looking everywhere except at me whilst the chap with the torch was now pointing it behind him.
It slowly dawned on me.. I was stark naked.
There was nothing for it but to behave perfectly naturally so I said, “how can I help you folks”? I casually slung my rifle over my shoulder and put one hand on my hip trying to somehow look normal.
After a long pause one of the men said, “our boat hit a sandbar this afternoon and we have been stuck most of the night on the river”. “Eventually we managed to push it off but we couldn’t get it started and paddled downstream till we saw the light by your jetty”.
I directed them to the dining area, casually excused myself and nonchalantly walked off to get some clothes on. I later fed them and organized rooms for them and the next day got to know them. They were farmers from one of the tobacco growing areas. Everyone was polite enough not to mention my “commando outfit” of the previous evening and I naively thought that was the end of the story..
A couple of months later I was in a completely different country and met a couple who also farmed tobacco. They had never even been to the country where I worked. They asked me what I did and where I was based. I told them.
There was silence and I wondered what I had said wrong. Then the woman said to me, “are you the guy who runs around naked in the bush at night hunting poachers”?