Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Up early again, 5am ish. Although you could look out of the house door here and perhaps fool yourself visually that you were home in Yorkshire, some of the grassland and scrub has an almost home hill feel to it, the noise tells you instantly, and all the time, that are somewhere quite different.

Every kind of insect and bird here in the veld seems to bellow its existence at anything else within earshot. At some point of the day, every flying and crawling thing takes a few minutes to just stand around and yell “Here I aaaaam, its meeeeee, listen to meeeeee.” In particular there is an insect, of a size and shape I have yet to discern, that makes a constant shrieking noise not dissimilar to a car alarm. I would imagine that there is a good financial reward awaiting the man who can put an end to this aural menace.

At dawn and dusk the volume gets tweaked all the way to 11, the birth and death of daylight is greeted with a truly frenetic cacophony, a multi layered chirping, twittering, hooting orchestral tune up when the light changes.

Africa here is vibrantly alive, the rain falls, the land is verdant and lush providing bountiful food for the numerous creatures that depend it. What has really surprised me about the animal life here is the sheer quantity of it, Africa is fecund, febrile, life sustaining. Herds of impala can be seen constantly, kudu, giraffe and other grazers roam in large herds, there does not seem to be a single stretch of river or large pool without its resident hippo and crocodiles. Elephants roam everywhere, we have seen herds forty and fifty strong, mothers and older daughters shepherding babies of all sizes.

Following the herds of plant eaters, but more secretive, are the predators. We chanced upon a pride of lions eating a giraffe, and a secretive leopard slid down from its tree perch as we approached. Jackals and hyena patrol the road, and in the skies great eagles wheel on the thermals and vultures display a black sense of humour by roosting only in the branches of dead trees.

By late afternoon the luggage had still not arrived, KLM had left a message at reception saying it will definitely arrive tomorrow. I am beginning to believe that I may never see my favourite Megadeth t-shirt ever again.

The food at camp is interesting, and every camp has exactly the same menu. There is a choice of a carvery, in which the meat is alright but the vegetables were put on to cook yesterday, or an a la carte selection with just 3 items, steak (of what ? I’m unsure, kudu perhaps), breaded chicken, venison with a sauce (kudu again, monkey gland sauce anyone ?). Limited yes, but also very cheap, £25 for a two course carvery with a couple of drinks each for both of us.

We discovered on arriving back in camp today that one of the three inch long, hard as nails thorns that grow on the trees here had penetrated one of the car’s tyres. They tell you not to drive through the piles of shit you see everywhere on the roads because elephants can apparently ingest these evil looking spikes and pass them out again. The temperature mid afternoon was 40 c, I lay in the sand beside the car twisting the jack with rivulets of sweat pouring from me, ten minutes work and I was soaking, my t-shirt glued to me, and my deodorant stick ? Amsterdam, Johannesburg or Mars, but not here at Berg-En-Dal.

After going to bed early, we are awakened by a truly incredible thunderstorm, I grab the Biblical Apocalypse Meter and the needle is hitting 9.9 on the scale. The lightning flashes constantly, sometimes small bolts connect to earth, sometimes large forks arc across the clouded sky. The thunder booms and crashes, coming from all directions, in between rolling salvos the local birds scream their panic into the strobe lit night. Then, with a blaze of light that fills the sky and an accompanying drum roll that shakes the windows and can be felt right inside you, the lights in the house die, and the air conditioning grinds slowly to a halt.

I feel almost as if God has decided we should experience this show of nature’s force without distraction or impediment, in moments the storm has cranked up to full aural and visual effect again and for almost two hours the barrage continues overhead. It is almost beyond description, humbling in its intensity, inspiring in its terrible majesty.

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