The air in the safari vehicle tingled with a sense of expectation as we left Letaba and headed south. Conversation was a little muted to begin with as we tentatively explored our new companions, and wondered if we would merge well over the next couple of days.
Aron assured us he would not be stopping for minor sights, but if there was anything we particularly wanted to look at we should alert him. Our first experience of his proficiency as a guide came as we stopped on the low-level bridge across the Oliphant’s River, where both his and Absolom’s knowledge of birds became apparent.
James, who had told us he really wanted to see Ground Hornbill was delighted a little later when we came around a corner and there was a threesome of the handsome turkeys. After looking our fill, we turned off, onto one of those delicious looking roads with a “no entry” sign. I have always wanted to go on one of those. I sighed happily.
The antelope we saw seemed nervous, and after a quick look at us, all ran away. I wondered if it was because they seldom saw vehicles, or if it was a sign of fear inflicted by poachers. The temperature had gone from 36 degrees the previous day to the low twenties, and clouds were gathering. We stopped for a leg stretch and a log-gather, and had our first taste of walking freely in the bush.
The sun was dipping fast, and Aron showed us his artistic side as he stopped for us to record the sunset, far from the hue and cry of civilization.
Night fell fast, and just as the journey seemed interminable we came to a gate, guarded with skulls and horns. A quick indication of the location of the four huts, and toilets, and an injunction to meet when we were settled to hear about the “Politics of the Bush” had us scampering off smartly. By the time we had claimed our bags, checked out our rooms, a cheerful fire had been made, and our two guides were waiting for us. The excitement, and for some, terror, of a slender snake slithering across the boma floor alerted us to the need to look where we were going!
It was later identified as a reticulated centipede eater.
The ground rules were simple: no food in the rooms, keep the toilet seats down or deal with any thirsty squirrel that might have drowned in the bowl, how the gas geysers worked. Our morning call would be at 5 am, water would be provided in a basin outside our rooms, and we were not to leave our tilley lamps untended in the rooms. Dinner was served shortly thereafter.
Chef Shadrack did us proud, so with full tummies, and the thought of rising before dawn, most of us headed for bed.