East, west, home is best. That is always what we say when we miss home. In my profession, it has become more of a habit to miss home. It works like the clock. On a seven day safari, the fifth day is when the longing begins. On a 15-day safari, the tenth day is when the tiredness kicks in and I begin dreaming of home, a strong cup of coffee and some home noise.
Talking about home noise, I once finished my safari and headed straight home for the usual family welcome. I did expect the home noise but that is not what I got. I got more than that. Once I had settled down to dinner, the home noise subsided and the place was quiet save for the murmuring of the refrigerator motor. That was what I was waiting for so that I could relax on the bed and do a mental post-safari notes.
But as soon as I got to bed, another type of noise started. It was a very loud noise and with a very high pitch. The highest I could imagine. It reminded me of the time I used to do camping safaris. The type of camping that is very basic. Just a tent erected on a flat surface in the middle of nowhere. That was when I could not sleep because of the high-pitched sounds coming from the bush. The sounds were the same as what I was hearing at home, but in the bush, they were coming from several sources and the pitch was different. They formed a sort of a long musical chorus that made the noise bearable.
But what I was listening to, here at home, so far away from the bush, was one high pitch that was threatening to tear off my eardrum. I woke up and closed all the window of the bedroom. That made the sound even louder. Which meant the source of the maddening song, was inside the bedroom. I decided to find the noise maker and throw it out of my only sanctuary. I needed a quiet night and I did not expect such noises in Nairobi, let alone my house, and indeed, my bedroom! But as soon as I switched the lights on, the noise suddenly stopped. Now, that was annoying. I did not know where to begin looking. There were several places where the noise maker could hide. Either it was in the closet, or in the bathroom, or within the bedroom area. I took a torch and went under the bed. There was nothing. I could not even attempt to look at the closet. It was so full of stuff that it would take me a day to ransack the whole place. So I went to the bathroom, looked under the sink and the entire bathtub. There was nothing. I gave up and jumped on the bed. I put off the lights and heaved a sigh of relief and let my mind wonder off to the bush. The noise maker read my mind and came back with his monotone of a song in its loudest!
I was a tired man. Such a man is easily provoked. I wanted to shout as loud as the noise maker, to see whether it would feel disturbed and stop the game. But I was in my house and etiquette demands otherwise. I resolved to fetch the noisemaker in the darkness by following the direction of the sound. I started tiptoeing around the bedroom with a keen ear. Whichever corner of the room I went to, the noise seemed to come from the opposite side. I was so full of anger that when I passed close to the bathroom mirror, I thought I saw sweat on my face. I was cursing silently because the noise had evolved into a surround sound. It was coming from all over the room. I gave up the second time, went to bed and put on the lights. Like magic, the noise died. I could sleep without the noise from the stranger, but I could not sleep with the lights on. The best option was to get back to the living room and watch a movie until late, when the noise would no longer bother me if it would still be there. I picked up my shoes, and, right inside one of the shoe, was my enemy noise maker! A cricket!
How does such a small insect make so much noise? Find out next week.
Steve Kinuthia is a veteran professional safari guide and the proprietor of Bushman Adventures Limited.