It took me a while to settle back in the city and also to formulate my thoughts and experiences into something tangible. My trip to Tamboti was a spiritual one. I stayed there alone for a while about four years ago, and although I have returned for short visits, this one was to seek whether the same would happen to my soul. And it did!
Saturday 21 April
My daughter and I leave at 5:30. We decide to enter at Kruger gate so that we can start travelling in the Park sooner. As we stop on the bridge, we start crying. The African Fish Eagle greets us five times. We stand there and smile and cry. Silly women we are!
As we pass through the gate, our first sighting was that of a Zebra and the customary Impala. I love April/May, as the rutting season is in full blast, and the humble Impala struts their stuff.
A quick stop-over at Skukuza. The toilets smell like Home.
We pass the low-water bridges of the Sabie and Sand rivers, and marvel at how strong it is flowing. We’ve seen it with very little water at this time of year on previous occasions, and we feel happy that the animals will have a good winter. The next sighting we have is of bathing vultures in a pool of the Sandriver. My daughter has never seen this before, and we sit watching their behaviour for a while.
By the time we reach Tshokwane, I feel a bit tired. The lush vegetation requires a lot of concentration. At some places, the grass is so tall, one cannot see the Impala’s legs.
We stop at Nsemani dam and marvel at how full it is. The last time my daughter was there with me, we saw the sad sight of fish struggling in a tiny puddle of mud. The abundance of nature is joyful.
At last we arrive at Orpen gate. I love the staff at Orpen gate, they have warm smiles and they are chatty. We head for Tamboti, armed with wood and ice. As we turn into the sand road, we are met by a herd of Wildebeest and Impala. The tiredness is seeping away.
17:30 – we had a good shower, our tent made home. We watch the tree across the Timbavati where we know a troop of baboons sleep. The sounds of night starts gently – the last excited gossip of the day-birds fill the large trees around our tent. And then, the familiar bark that eccho’s across the river. “Our Family” is coming in from day of foraging. The night concert starts, the gentle pruup of the Scopps Owl in the tree just behind our tent, the chatter and scolding of the baboons and the vicious snorting of an Impala ram to herd his harem in for the night. The White Faced Owl calls from the river bank and the Gaint Eagle Owl replies. On cue when the darkness finally comes, the evocative Fierynecked Night Jar sings the nightsong. And then it is very quiet. The sounds of human activity reminds us that a fire must be made. We get up, mesmerised and glad to be Home.
19:30 The mozzies are eating us alive! The PFS comes out and we almost spray out half a can. The camp is filled with delicious smells of meat roasting over coals. I also smell the beautiful fragrance of earth and grass mingling in the smoky air. The human sounds are becoming hushed. And then, from somewhere in the dark, she calls, her spine chilling Whoop! Whoooop! that no one can mistake as one of Africa’s dark magical songs. We don’t see her, but hear her as she comes through the tall grass outside the fence. And there she stands, looking at us in the dim light. We slowly walk down to the fence and eye her through the diamond mesh. She is a beautiful spotted hyena and she is nursing. She looks at us and sniffs the air, turns and becomes part of the night again.
We stumble around out of sheer tiredness. One last coffee on the deck and then to bed. The Zebra’s whinny and the lions roar shortly after. KILL! There’s a KILL somewhere in the darkness. Sleep – I don’t think so! So we sit on the stairs to the deck, sipping our coffee and listening for the intermittent roars that tear into the star-studded velvety black African night.
As we sit, a branch outside the fence is suddenly torn off. We jump up in surprise
(ok) and a leisurely ellie saunters past us – not more than 30 feet
!, snacking on our fence bushes. SLEEP? We have never been so close to a wild elephant, smelling it, listening to it’s tummy rumble. Bliss, heaven and cherries on top. At some stage we even get a long two minute stare from our visitor, and we are beyond any pleasure that we had ever known. The ellie moves on. Our adrenalin is way up. We MUST sleep now. So another hectic day in Africa ends amidst the chorus of roaring lions.
22 April to follow.