Having been on a few trips to game reserves and stayed with my wife, family or friends I was now an expert at all thing’s ‘bush’. I was an old-fashioned adventurer, a lone pioneer, looking to discover not only my inner man but new lands and exotic creatures. I had all I needed & looked the part, or so I thought. As it turns out a khaki shirt & a torch, the size of a pencil, with a beam like an old candle are not quite enough. I have a low pain threshold and my new khaki shirt was already giving me terrible joggers nipples. This was just the start of 48 hours alone in the African bush.
When I arrived alone at my rustic bush camp it took me ten minutes to pluck up the courage to get out of my car to open the gate. I scanned the immediate area, looked for any movement, sat in silence listening for any noise that would give away the location of a wild animal. I should point out that there are wild animals here, from snakes, to leopards, to elephants. I jumped from the car when my instincts told me it was safe to do so. I grabbed the gate & opened it wide before retreating to the safety of the car. As I started the engine, I watched the gate swing back shut. My outdoor skills were going to be vital to get me through this wild experience.
Once in camp and again after a thorough check of my new surroundings I deemed it safe to unpack my supplies. Cool box containing mainly bread, boreowors & chutney flavoured chips (crisps) check. Beer, 24 cans, check. Clothes, possibly not enough boxer shorts, check. Charcoal & firewood, check.
I took the welcome pack from the rustic kitchen and sat under a large thorn tree shading from the red-hot summer sun to read it. A loose A4 sheet fell from the pack. The sheet was a simple matter of fact warning that a black mamba snake was currently also in camp. It went on to say how best to react if you and the aggressive, huge, highly venomous, lethal to man, snake should meet. Oh bugger…..
Enjoy, relax, I had been a scout, so be prepared. I stripped down to my boxers and in true English style made myself a cup of tea. I had come from the English winter, so my skin was white, very white, with occasional freckles breaking the starkness. I would also say that any athleticism had abandoned me. But alone, I was ok with myself. “Mr Mark, Mr Mark” A voice echoed around my camp! I was not alone! A guide, by the name of Simon, had come to check on me & take me for a bush walk. Now I resembled a matchstick, my blushing red head and white body. “When you and the rest of your group are ready, we can walk” Simon said. When I replied that I was here alone, Simon laughed, checked round the camp, and laughed again. I assured him I was alone, the look on his face far from filled me with assurances.
On returning from our bush walk Simon watched me, from the closed gate, scamper the last hundred meters to my camp. I turned, said goodbye, and waved. He waved back shaking his head.
The sun was setting fast and my priority was to get a fire established and some separate charcoal on the go ready to cook. I opened a beer to cool down & ease my nerves. With both fires lit I had a second beer. It was dark, by my third, really dark. To this day I still giggle at night, as in Africa, you really cannot see your hand in front of your face. In the pitch black it is also noisy, very, very noisy. Insects, frogs, sploshes in the nearby river, breaking branches, the wind gently making its way through every surrounding thorn tree. My torch barely lit my cooking area but at least my fire was roaring. I sat, senses on overdrive, and ate my probably cooked borewors and enjoyed another couple of beers. My inner man felt comfortable & safe by my roaring fire. Note to self for next trip: Bring more wood. My wood was nearly gone & I could not see the steps to my rustic room. I grabbed the remaining beer and walked quickly through the darkness. Bats, they looked huge against the clear moonlit night sky, startled me as they flew from their roost. But now, I was safe in my room. Laying on my bed, protected by a lightweight mosquito net against all of Africa’s nocturnal man eaters, door bolted, I drank a beer. Crickey, it was noisy outside. Was that a leopard or maybe a hyena? I needed a wee. Nerves had got the better of me. The torch now barley lit the empty beer can I was about to re-fill.