Everyone knows the fairy tale about Jack and the Beanstalk; but, let me tell you that I have been there and actually seen and touched the beanstalk -- and no longer believe it to be a fairy tale. Jack didn’t actually cut it down; or if he did, it grew back -- because today it’s alive and well – in Africa.
We left a dry riverbed and drove into the small circle of trees nearby, to have lunch. There it was -- this enormous vine; the first thing that came to my mind was the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, as this was larger than any vine I could ever imagine. Surreal is a word that a country boy from Missouri wouldn’t find opportunity to use very often, but I used it on this occasion. It means something like: ‘this can’t be real’, ‘it’s beyond logic’, ‘beyond anything my mind can comprehend’. The main arms of the vine were hanging on the trees under the canopy, sometimes spanning 150-200 feet between supports – impossible!
There was no ground cover in this forest, as the canopy was very thick during the growing season – shutting out the sunlight; and the mature trees were sparse inside, making it easy to see the multi-trunked base of the giant vine about 40 yards from where we parked the safari car.
This patch of forest was perhaps 250 yards in diameter; walking around under the canopy, the vine extended in every direction – all the way to the top and edges of this small circle of trees; and the total mass of trunks and arms must be some kind of a world record. The PH told me they discovered the vine while tracking an elephant through this small forest a couple of years back. It was now their favorite lunch place when hunting in this area.
We had lunch and rested for a couple of hours before departing the forest and hunting our way back toward camp. During that time, I began to understand; this was Africa and Jack’s beanstalk had obviously been there for a long, long time. It had outlived the trees that it had grown on in its early years and was now supported by the second or possibly even a third generation of trees. Jack may be long gone, but his beanstalk is still there.