Returning to change by Matthew Brennan
I was on my way back from leave. It was the last day of September and close on a month into spring. When I left it was still winter but on this day it was warm into the evening as we expect down in the Lowveld. I therefore had my windows up and my aircon on. Until I reached the entrance into this great game reserve the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, on entry into the reserve I opened all windows and turned the radio off.
It was good to be home and the first thing I noticed was the air thick with the smell of smoke. It clings in the spider-webs, it dancers in the dust devils and settles everywhere, sometimes it rains in the scented ash.
My drive to the lodge was uneventful, and I arrived to settle in. I had arrived just at the end of safari and I am quite keen to see my friends and catch up with the news from the last two weeks. So I knew exactly where I needed to go too. Straight to post safari hub of the lodge, the bar. George and Keith are there assisting guests with drinks and good conversation. I notice that most of the guests are updating whichever social medium they choose to broadcast their stories of the African bush. The older generation always scold the youngsters as they order their drinks. I chat a bit with the staff at the bar, but I’m here for bush updates, so I corner the rangers and greet them and get some talk going.
I start it off, “how’s Tlangisa?” I ask George. “Still going strong and both alive”. “you know what I saw the other day?” George questions immediately. “The one Majingilane male with the Othawa’s, cubs and all. ‘Strue!” Keith weighs in, “And have you noticed the Othawa’s have an extra cub?” This is exactly what I have been hoping for an update on the last two weeks. I notice that a few guests have been paying attention to the conversation and so does Keith so he turns the guests to include them in the conversation. “The Othawa’s are one of the prides of lions here, they have three cubs now but it has been two for a very long time and so we are still deliberating as too which pride this extraneous cub originally belongs too. On top of that the Majingilanes are not the father of the cubs and have killed off five of their siblings. So the question now is why not?”
“Xhikave is here in a tree”, says a lady from across the bar. She points in the general area south. “That girl is pregnant,” says Kimmy as he walks guests from their room to the bar. “And there is an elephant on the lawn. Please the barman will help you with a drink.” All the guests shuffle and jostle to the end of the verandah to get a glimpse of the elephant who is preening the Knobthorns in the garden. He moves from lamp post to spotlight coming and going as the shadows hide him from view, he humphs deeply as he moves out of the orange glow and into the river. “There are cheetah everywhere at the moment. We see them every day almost and the wild dogs have come back twice and they have brought there pups. Dam Three and Dewane have been mating as well as Dam Three and Nyeleti.” Keith starts to roll through the scorecard. It makes me anxious to get out there and see for myself. Having got what I needed I retired for the evening. The sooner to bed the sooner I would wake up to get the day started.
I woke with a start as I’m not used to having light in my room in the morning. I could hear the warbling of the bulbuls outside in the trees and the distinct and somber call of the black cuckoo. I notice that it is overcast, I sighed deeply knowing that I was back. I turned my radio onto the game drive channel while I made my way down to the lodge to start my day with a coffee. My radio crackled to life, “I’m leaving Dewane in a tree with a kill,” loosely translated of course. I get my coffee and I am greeted by all the staff welcoming me back from leave. I make myself a cup and take a moment on the verandah and look at the view, it is breath-taking. I then go look for Nelson. I find him cleaning our vehicle. I ask him about his leave and we talk home life for a bit. He knows my enjoyment of the story and so tells me,” John the workshop assistant was picking up staff today and he saw a cheetah kill an impala, we going to go this afternoon.” He states forthright. “Ok.” Is all I can say against such determination. Nelson also states that there is buffalo in the south at least a thousand he says.
I then move off to prepare for safari and get my equipment clean and working and start to focus on the guests that will be coming in. So by 15h30 when it is high tea I am ready to explode onto the scene. I greet the guests and chat for a bit, I find out what they are expecting from their stay here. I then inform them of how things will work and such and as soon as possible I usher them to the vehicle. There they climb on and I instruct them as to how to remain safe and then. I start up the car and off we go.