I woke to the comforting smell of smoke which was drifting over from the sentry fire. The sun wasn’t up yet but the morning’s dawn was doing a valiant job at providing some light, this was quite an achievement given the layer of cloud that had kept us warm through the night. It was 06.00, relatively late to be getting up, certainly by sleep out standards. Normally everyone is cold and uncomfortable and up by now. But there was only Patricia who was doing the last watch. I joined her at the fire for the most important job of the day – putting the kettle on for morning tea and coffee.
The guests went with Sean and Brett to Lanner Gorge whilst we headed back to camp with the back packs and other odds and ends as various things had to be done in camp. The rubbish run was one such thing and luckily Hine and Nicco were on duty.
I walked with Sean this afternoon, the first time I’ve done so and by heck does he walk fast. It was actually my hundredth walk as a qualified Back-up. It';s not something you normally keep a record of but whilst I was on leave and a little bored I went through my old log books and numbered each one. The walk was a goodie with my first ever sighting of a porcupine. He was walking strolling a long the path in the afternoon sun with not a care in the world. Only a juvenile he didn’t know we were following him. However, he must have heard something as he looked over his shoulder before raising his quills and trotting off.
As we made our way across the flood plain we bumped some buffalo in the lala palm scrub. We saw three or four who moved off when they saw us, promptly followed by a bull and then we flushed the rest of the herd. There must have been thirty plus. Good fun to see the buffalo up close and a nice send off for the eight guests who leave us tomorrow morning.
After drinks and nibbles at the lookout spot half way up Manqeba Road it was dinner back at camp and then drinks around the fire. The guests had got together to say a little thank you to each instructor and back-ip. Vanessa had the honour or misfortune of addressing me in which she described two James Bailey’s. Firstly there was the fun “Happy Christmas James” that jokes around camp and then “Rifle James” who as she experienced for two and a half hours this afternoon is much more sensible and mature when out on a walk.
It was another late one around the fire, I didn’t put the cover over the glowing coals until midnight. However, the company certainly made the late night worthwhile, a really nice way to finish of my stint as Back-up here at Makuleke. Tomorrow morning its a 05.00 wake up to take the guests to the gate and in the afternoon my course mates come back for Advanced birding and my last 13 days in Africa.