After dark in South Africa looking straight up into the night sky you cannot fail to be mesmerised by the mass of stars that are visible. From the back of our open top vehicle, one question from a fellow guest took us on an additional safari of solar system. Eric, an American and like me a northern hemisphere resident, simply asked “Where is the Southern Cross?” Nick our guide then took us into the Milky Way, veered across Orions Belt, passing Betelgeuse, and then South to the Southern Cross. Not forgetting Beta & Alpha Centauri and the methods of ancient navigation using the stars. Sitting back in the drivers seat, looking moonward, Nick smiled and casually added. “If we drove to the moon at 120kmph we would be there in just under four months”
Fire baskets and lanterns were burning brightly back at the lodge marking our way home. And just in front of our parking point a side striped jackal sat looking at us disembarking the vehicle. If ‘Come Dine With Me’ was like dinner at Amakhosi it would be worth watching and even taking part in. I sat with Nick and over crumbed calamari, perfectly cooked pork loin, and ice cream (I could not manage Jack Daniels pecan pie!) we discussed everything from the rhino poaching crisis to the chances of the Sharks making the Super Rugby finals. And from our table overlooking the river below, we listened to the grunt of a hippo, and watched him grazing along the bank.
Back in the honeymoon suit, yes I was really being spoilt, the mosquito net was now surrounding the bed and the sheets had been turned. In the en-suit the bath had been prepared, including bubbles, and tea lights and leaves placed on the surrounds. A perfect end to a near perfect day. During the night I was woken by two bangs which gave me a fright. In the morning I put two and two together and remembered the mentioning of bush babies visiting and having a love of chocolate. I had left my welcome gift, a box of chocolates, in the rooms lounge area. A bush babies delight, and they had left me a couple of thank you presents of their own.
During game drives Nick and our tracker Zak found us plenty of game including a large herd of buffalo. They were wallowing, bathing, taking ablutions and quenching their thirst in a water hole that resembled a thick grey soup. They looked to be in heaven getting relief from the heat of the sun.
We managed to come across several large lone elephant bulls. One in particular seemed to take an instant dislike to us and charged the vehicle ensuring we knew who was boss.
The highlight for me though was to be amongst and in the heart of a breeding herd of elephants. There were around thirty five of varying ages moving through the bush. We moved with them and when they stopped so did we. The elephants were relaxed and comfortable with us joining them as they walked and fed. Their diet was varied and they only stopped to eat. Grass was ripped up, bark pulled from trees and leaves stripped from branches. I could hear every kilogram being ripped, chewed and swallowed, we were that close at times. Out of site on three occasions we heard larger trees being felled by young adolescent males. Then there were low rumblings of communication between the herd, keeping all in touch with what was happening. One young female approached the back of the vehicle. She sniffed the air around the guests on the rear seats directly behind me. Stephanie & Christina, who appeared frozen to their seats, sat motionless and waited for the trunk to be withdrawn before moving. Our time with the herd was rewarded with a special introduction to their newest member. A four month old baby, who emerged from behind mum, to greet us with a mouth full of grass and flapping ears.