It was just another box of books donated to the Socastee Library last month until volunteer Eileen Villano uncovered the journal, a red, handwritten paperback detailing adventures in Africa.
“I realized it was probably a treasure for someone,” Villano said. “It’s like reading a novel.”
The story captivated other volunteers as well as Villano, who made it her mission to find the author who wrote of her travels so vividly 33 years ago. She found a boarding pass stuck in the pages that, with a little detective work, led her to Carole Moore of Murrells Inlet, who joined Villano and other volunteers at the library for tea Monday to be reunited with her memories.
“This was from my first real, rough African trip,” said Moore, who had forgotten about the journal, one of several she wrote, but was thrilled to have it back. “This is precious to me.”
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Socastee Library is used to getting donated books, but it is rare to find such a personal item in the mix, especially a journal that told stories so compelling that library volunteers sneaking a peak at its pages couldn’t put it down.
Her talk Monday to about a half dozen library volunteers was just as riveting, bringing to life the episodes described in her journal with an animated story-telling that covered everything from wars to politics to getting to see the physical beauty of a country that she still regularly visits.
Moore was a single stewardess when she visited Africa in the early ’80s because of her love of animals and said it began her lifelong love affair with the continent.
“The first time I put my foot down was in Kenya, and I had the feeling I had come home,” she told the group. “I looked out at the Maasai Mara [National Reserve] and thought this is where I want to be.”
The journal tells her story, which was in no way run-of-the-mill, and her readers were anxious to hear more details about certain events, some of which Villano had marked. Moore talked about the particular journal stories, as well as about the landscape, the people and the history.
“You got onto the river for the first time ” said Susan Caulfild, prompting Moore to expand on a trip across Lake Kariba, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“It was actually a ferry boat - it was so crowded, then it began to pour,” said Moore of the excursion that was supposed to take four hours and lasted a day, “but that ride was hysterical.”
One of her companions, a ranger named Lana, was a central character the volunteers wanted to hear more about. Alas, Moore said she soon lost touch with the woman, whom she found out “was a real nutcase.”
Moore was asked about “the accident,” which Caulfild said was hair-raising to read, and Moore recounted how she was driving a Mercedes-Benz truck with two companions, when they had a blowout, went off a cliff and, after several rolls, survived with only concussions.
She also told how she washed clothes in murky, crocodile-infested waters; watched drunken baboons that had eaten too many marula berries (from which Amarula liqueur is made); and had only a few encounters with snakes, although they were rinkhals (a form of Cobra), puff adders and one black mamba.
In addition to the stories in the journal, Moore revealed that she met her future husband, a South African, on that trip, and she has permanent residency in the country, although she is still an American citizen. She moved to the Grand Strand because of her sister but said she is here until her two dogs, which have health problems, leave her.
“I have a hard time settling down in the States,” she said. “I want to go home.”
Villano said reading the journal and finding its author has been an education for all of them, and the group encouraged Moore to write a book, one that could make a movie about her life.
“I cried,” said Moore of being contacted by Villano. “I just found this so surprising that anyone would really care.”