Still three hours from the lodge, we were hurrying along an overgrown path beside the lake. We were anxious to reach the lodge before nightfall, when everything with teeth sets off hunting in these parts. But something else seemed to be bothering my companion, Christina from Scotland. She had convinced the local fisherfolk to make wooden carvings for her to sell to the guests of the four-star establishment, and her backpack was full of tiny carved crocodiles. “Why just crocodiles?” she had asked the villagers. “That’s what we see the most,” was their reply. Truth is one thing, business is another. How was she supposed to explain this to the guests who regularly enjoyed a swim in Lake Malawi? Crocodiles can be dangerous on land as well: Some can reach speeds of up to 25 kilometers an hour from a standing start. With this in mind, we quickened our pace, but exercise makes you hungry, so we decided to stop for a brief picnic beneath an ancient baobab tree. There were two sandwiches in the basket, a large one and a small one. I told Christina she could choose, but she motioned for me to do so. With a moment of hesitation, I grabbed the bigger one – and will never forget the look on her face. Disappointment, certainly, but also a dawning comprehension. Until then, she had taken me for an honest, helpful, witty co-adventurer, but now she knew that
in a pinch I was nothing but an egotist. What did I learn? That it’s always the small things that give you away.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.