In the hustle and bustle of this chaotic world, there’s nothing quite like a week in the bush to restore ones sense of equilibrium.
I have been looking forward to this week all year and am now sitting on the verandah of our chalet, perched high on the river bank overlooking the Crocodile River. Beyond the watery flood plain, dissolving into the hazy horizon, spreads a blanket of bush veld that forms part of the Kruger National Park. We are staying at the Ngwenya Lodge that is situated to the South of the park, close to Komatipoort and near to the Crocodile Bridge entry point.
For the first three days all I have wanted to do is sit and allow the tension and adrenalin of the past few months to drain from my body. I feel immobilised and am happy to do nothing but stare off into the distance, emptying my mind as the sounds of the bush wash over me. It takes a while for my body rhythm to synchronise with the harmony of the bush, but I am fully prepared to succumb and let Nature take the lead.
Perched on the railing in front of me are a couple of Egyptian Geese. They are cocky and noisy, hanging around in the hope of receiving titbits from the kitchen. I marvel at their colouring, the layers of richness within their feathers, and sigh as I realise that Natures artistry is so much better than I could ever hope to achieve. On the grassy patch in front of the chalet a group of excited weavers have found some seed, which they are devouring as if it were their last meal. Cheerful, chatty little characters, their yellowness creates a fluorescent halo of light.
To the left my eye catches an unexpected movement, and there, emerging from the scrub that lines the river, comes a leguaan, otherwise known as a monitor lizard, it’s scaly, dragon-like body slung low to the ground. From the look in its eye and the ominous forked tongue that darts in and out, I can see that this guy has attitude and as it rapidly approaches the verandah, I instinctively lift my feet. This is one little critter that I certainly don’t want to tangle with. I soon learn that these large lizards come to the chalets in search of eggs, which they devour by smashing the egg on the wooden railing and then gulping it down at speed.
Out on the sandy river bank, the scene is ever changing, a montage of elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and numerous species of buck that come down for their daily drink and bath. The regular residents of the waterway, crocodile and hippo, are always there and it doesn’t take long to spot them, either lying on the edge of the water or lurking below the surface.
I could happily sit here all week, listening to the soothing sound of the rapids and the grunts of contented hippo, but it makes sense that we should also check out what’s going on in the Kruger National Park.
So early each morning and evening, we pack ourselves into the vehicle and set off to see what surprises the wilderness has in store for us. Over the period of a week, we are to see a wide variety of game and I come away with snapshots of numerous memorable moments. Now although, or maybe because I am a bush girl, born and raised in Zimbabwe, where animals roam free and far beyond conventional boundaries, I have an enormous respect for the wild and a heightened awareness of my human insignificance in the greater scheme of things. Despite the fact that our wild life is threatened by humankind, I know I am the weaker species and extremely vulnerable when up against any wild animal. So I never take anything for granted and each encounter with the wild is edged with a tingle of anticipation and a desire to know that I have an effective escape route. No matter how many elephants I have seen in my life, each time we approach one as it crosses the road or grazes quietly in the bush as we sidle past, I hold my breath and hope that it is friendly. After all, it was only a few months ago that graphic video footage of a vehicle being flipped over by an irritated elephant spread like a wild fire on social media and I sure wouldn’t want that to happen to me!
But we are careful and respectful and thoroughly enjoy our trips into the park. Here are a few images of an average day in the bush:
For me the highlight of our trip was to see the magnificent rhino and I found myself mesmerised by their every movement, willing them to stay safe and undetected by the snipers bullet. I am acutely aware that the privilege of being able to see these animals in the wild is something the next generation may not be able to enjoy and as I watch this powerful, primordial creature anxiously nudging its baby to safety, I am ashamed of the human species. I feel the rhinos vulnerability and soak up our silent interaction, not wanting it to end.
Another special treat was to see my favourite bird, the Ground Hornbill. They strutted their stuff and looked us up and down from beneath the canopy of their eyelashes. Such attitude is seldom seen in any other bird and if I were to choose one bird that I would like to be in another life, this would be it.
And so it was that my week in the bush sadly came to an end, but as I sat out on the verandah watching the sun go down over the river and the veldt beyond, I felt immensely grateful that we have places like this to come to when we need to unwind.
And what would life be without friends and family to share these experiences with? So to Malcolm, Rene, Tammy and Craig, thank you for making this possible and helping to restore my soul.