I was 6 years old and just a marie biscuit high when my parents lugged me off to kruger for my first 'real' camping trip in the 'game reserve'. I had my own tiny two-man tent which they pitched close to the camp fence and just out of reach of the elephant with the longest trunk.
The braai was going, and very shortly after the sun set, the hyenas began to muster at the fence. As a youngster with a passion for all things wild and dangerous, I thought this was Christmas. In those days, there was no electricity at the campsites (or if there was, we chose not to use it), and soon my dad had 'the BIG torch' out and we watched in fascination as the hyenas strode up and down, laughing as only a hyena at a braai would
Soon, it was time for my bedtime, and I resisted wholeheartedly, objecting strongly that I wanted to stay awake and keep a watch with the torch. Of course, adults know better, especially dad's, and soon dad and I had reached a compromise - he would tuck me into bed in my tiny tent up close to the fence and would leave just the mozzie net closed so I had a front seat view.
And just in case I fell asleep, he insisted on tying a long piece of string to my big toe, which, as he told me back then, to the other end he would tie a nice big chicken drumstick. He told me excitedly that if the hyena came around in the night, the moment he tugged on the bone, I would wake up.
Well. I thought this was a wonderful idea, and I fondly and clearly remember him tying the string around my big toe, tucking me in, and saying that the moment I feel a nibble and tug on the string in the night, I would know the hyena is there.
I do not recall anything after that for within seconds I must have been in dreamland - and when I woke up in the morning, the string had magically untied itself from around my toe and was gone.
I was elated that a hyena had tugged in the night, but somewhat disappointed that I had missed the excitement and for days I spoke about nothing more than the hyena tugging on the string while I slept just meters away.
Its been 40 years since my first real camping trip in Kruger, and even though many years later my dad, who is now 81, confessed that within minutes of me falling asleep he untied the string and had in fact not even bothered to tie on any bone, I still like to believe the hyena took the string and that he's still pulling my leg, just like he did back then.
I have never stayed in anything but a tent at kruger, and in all honesty, as longa s I can still reach the floor, this will never change. So I cannot compare my experiences to a bungalow or hut. But, can you blame me for being just a little biased in favour of a tent.
That was 40 years ago and it feels like yesterday. Since then, I have completed many, many trips to kruger, always camping, and the camping memories just never go away. You just cant beat it!!! Camping has my vote. For those who have never camped, you should try it.