Being shown to my chalet I looked between the mountain aloes which stood like guards, in no particular formation, and beyond to the surrounding Zululand mountains. The aloes themselves provided some green relief from the very dry grasses and tress bare of leaves. Their flowers, pale shades of yellow and red, just beginning to form like elaborate headdresses.
From my red stone walled, thatched roofed chalet, the view is simply amazing. Inside, the huge four poster bed draped in a pure white mosquito net gives way to crisp white linen sheets and a mixture of coloured pillows, cushions and blankets. The bathroom even has a large glass window offering a view. Outside through the sliding doors there is a deck complete with chairs, table and hammock. And from here the view is revealed in its entirety. During my stay at Leopard Mountain Game Lodge everything seems to come with a view, breakfast, afternoon tea, drinks at the bar, even from the swimming pool.
Being superstitious I was pleased to see the red sky forming at night and it turned out to be the most dramatic red sky I had ever seen. Dylan our ranger and Donald the tracker, seated on the front of the Land Rover, were also struck by the overhead display. Our sightings through the afternoon and early evening had been good. I always enjoy watching birds so to see woodland, brown hooded and striped kingfishers darting from tree to tree were fascinating. “Eagle owl calling from the row of sycamore fig trees” said Donald from his forward position. Sadly for us it was well hidden. I managed to spot a pair of purple crested lourie within the sycamore figs which earned me a “good spot” compliment from Dylan.
The following morning saw the pre-dawn darkness erupt into even redder and far more dramatic sky than the previous evening. So was this to be a shepherds warning? Well we had seen genets, jackals, buffalo, wildebeest, nyala, impala, waterbuck and giraffes. Even a snake, thought to be a brown house snake, had made an appearance.
During our morning tea break I talked to Dylan about the dramatic views and sky we had been treated to. I mentioned the mountain aloes which seemed to stand guard. “To age an aloe count all the dead leaves and divide them by six. This will give you its age” Dylan explained. We watched zebra as we sipped our tea and dunked rusk’s. “A group is known as a dazzle of zebra, a healthy animals mane sticks up, held up by a ridge of fat, when sick the mane flops with no support” he went on to explain. I had not thought of why zebra seemed irritated as they twitched their nose. Well now I know they often carry an unwanted worm in their nostril.
Dylan had also spotted fresh lion tracks before our tea stop and said he would try to pick them up again before heading back to the lodge. This though was proving difficult as they seemed to go both ways on the dry dusty roads. Then they vanished at times into the dry short grass and away from the roads.
It was looking doubtful that we would track the lion or lions down. Dylan explained that they were very fresh prints, probably less than an hour old. However they were making no sense and did not appear to be heading anywhere in particular. Then just when I was beginning to think that we had been outsmarted I noticed something on the road ahead. Beyond a large curve I thought I had seen a lions head protruding from the grass. Wishful thinking maybe?
On this occasion the wish came true. There on a fork in the track lay two enormous young male lions. And to their left, in longer grass, laid the third brother. These were big boys, their manes just forming, but I was struck by how powerful they looked even in their very relaxed state. Looking at their paws, that looked as big as my hands held together, I could see what had left all of those tracks and prints.