Its a sudden decision: Let’s go to a game reserve Dad! – that’s Jess on Friday night.
OK! (I’m chuffed!). I’m working tomorrow, so you guys buy food and gather the camping stuff. Be ready when I get home at 2:30pm and we’ll go to Mkhuze. Remember the tent, mattresses, pillows, your swimming cozzies.
Cecelia helps them. Minenhle & Andile join us. As we head north to Zululand I realise we’ll be cutting it fine. The gates close at 7pm and it’s 3:30pm already, so there’s a change of plan: We’ll go to Hluhluwe/Mfolosi instead. Means no camping and no swimming.
At the gate the usual story: A pessimistic Ooh, you haven’t booked? Mpila is full. The bushcamps are full.
Keep trying, I say cheerfully. Oh! OK, I’ll try Hilltop camp. Just then the kids walk into the office and he gets interested in me and the kids, asking all sorts of adoption questions and Where’s my wife? and Is she a Zulu lady? and so tries harder when there’s no reply on the radio. Will you phone them on your cellphone? he asks me. Sure. We get thru, there’s a chalet available, we book and head off on what turns into a free night drive!
Tom spots an elephant running towards the road ahead of us, ears flapping. I slow down and it turns onto the tar road and walks determinedly towards us, causing great panic on the back seat. We reverse and wait, reverse and wait, giving it plenty of space, till he eventually finds a mud wallow, drinks and heads off into the bush, allowing us to proceed. It’s dark now and later on two more eles loiter on the road and we just wait patiently. All the kids have watched the videos of the elephant flipping the car, so they’re nervous and don’t want to go anywhere near eles.
At Hilltop they’re waiting for us, they give us our key and bring us an extra set of bedding and towels for the fifth body. Bleeding luxury.
AND the big breakfast buffet in the restaurant is included.
The dawn chorus the next morning was fantastic. In that magic spell between pre-dawn and the screaming banshees waking up I made a cup of coffee and sat out on the deck listening in the half light. As the kids started waking two trumpeter hornbills landed in full view and they had a good look through my telescope. I issued a decree banning all post-5000BCE music and they just nodded, acquiescent (!)