Stirring Stories

Tales of Africa – Mermaids and Elephant Poo Gin

As regular readers know, I spend the month of January in South Africa escaping the worst of the northern hemisphere winter.  This year it was particularly refreshing to escape Boris, Brexit, Trump, the Royals and variously entitled millennials. I spent every day of January looking for the deeper meaning of life, usually finding it in a cocktail bar at sunset.  Along the way there were adventures..

Martinimandate tales

Reasons to escape London. Mountain top adventures with Cost Center #2


Accident at a red light. Hooker unhurt.

I was cycling up to Chapman’s Peak Drive – one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world. Stopping at a traffic light I noticed the woman across the road. She was hard to miss. Her top was cut so low, and her skirt was so short, that they threatened to meet in the middle! She was smiling and blowing kisses at anybody who made eye contact.

Martinimandate tales

Fabulous Cycling along Chapman’s Peak Drive

The chap behind me must have signalled because she came bounding over and jumped into his car. He got so excited that his foot slipped off the brake and his car rolled into my bike!

Fortunately my feet were firmly planted on the ground and I didn’t come off the bike – I was unhurt. My bike was undamaged, but the rear tyre was wedged into his bumper. I yelled at him to back up. Keen to get out of there and make friends with his new lady, our man backed up aggressively – into the vehicle behind him. I heard the unmistakable sound of breaking glass. Meanwhile the traffic light had turned green. I cycled away.

Another day in Africa.


A Nearly Naked Damsel in Distress.

The Cape Town to Rio Yacht Race is one of the most storied races in the world.  Open to both professionals and club racers, the 3600 mile crossing takes an average of two weeks.  There’s glamour, bravado, and lots of champagne at the start of the race. Once the yachts reach Rio there’s always the carnival to look forward to. africa

Anti-Clockwise from top. This trimaran travelled so fast it blew away a woman’s clothes; mermaid on stranded jet-ski; gallant rescuers pluck her from the ocean.

The best place to watch the race is from the water – chasing the yachts from a safe distance. Sailing back from watching the start of the race, we came upon a woman in a crippled jet ski, drifting dangerously into the Atlantic Ocean. She had lost power and drifted too close to one of the racing trimaran (three hulled) yachts which had blown away most of her clothes. Fortunately she was wearing a lot of makeup.

Our attempt at towing the jet ski only ended up in capsizing it, pitching her into the Atlantic. A life rope was cast and she made it onto our boat. She thanked us, grabbed my arm, and batting her long fake eyelashes at me said  “God bless you!”

NOW what am I supposed to do?


Gin made from elephant poo. No shit.

Escaping crazy women and crazier drivers, I drove to Franschhoek, in the heart of the wine district to lunch with a gin maker.  Les Ansley and his wife Paula, both academics from the UK moved to the wine country for lifestyle reasons.  They found their calling in making gin from pachyderm poo.  It turns out that elephants only digest about 30% of what they eat.  The other 70% consists of lovely herbal matter that makes a rather delightful gin.  Fresh poo is shipped in from the Botlierskop game reserve (FedEx delivers a lot of shit apparently), and after suitable cleaning is distilled into a very smooth amber coloured gin. africa

Indlovu gin – nothing to poo poo about

Les is a whisky drinker and recommends drinking Indlovu gin (meaning elephant in several African languages) on the rocks.  It also makes a very flavoursome gin and tonic.  I brought a bottle back to London where it has become the central attraction in my cocktail cabinet.  Les is now experimenting with a gin made with prickly pear and vanilla – favourite foods of the African elephant. I guess this counts as some kind of vertical integration down the food chain… africa

The cleaned elephant dung smells herbal and woody.

I love the Indlovu product.  Apart from being a remarkably fine beverage, the backstory makes for good conversation. And remember that good drinking is really about the conversations we have while imbibing.  Each bottle is market with the geo coordinates and the date the poo was collected.  Geography and seasonality affect the elephant’s diet – and the flavour profile of the resulting gin.  I promised Les that I will bring him back some elephant poo from Sri Lanka to experiment with.  I wonder whether I will have to declare it at customs…


2020-04-02T15:51:15+00:00February 17th, 2020|