It was the food run this morning and I’d not done it for a while so I put my hand up. It’s an early start and still very dark at 04.45, this can be a little disconcerting especially when you catch “impala eyes” in the light of your head torch. This gave my heart a gentle kick start on what was a very cold winters morning. So cold in fact I was still chilly when driving to the gate in the Landy despite wearing my long sleeved vest, a shirt, two fleeces, a jacket and my new fleecy gloves.
There was a breeding herd of elephants on my return, this is the last thing that I wanted to see given that I was pulling a trailer and I still can’t reverse with it on. Luckily they gave me no bother other than a trumpet from an adolescent bull as he crossed in front of me.
Jaques and Garry the two “Back-Ups” from Kapama left after brunch. Their departure and my going up to the Trails Camp meant that we had no time to play the final tape ball test match. Honours shared at 1-1.
What a relief, the “Trails Group” of seven that I’ll be living with virtually 24/7 for the next four days all seem to be great. They’ve also brought a lot of luck with them too. First up despite only managing a short walk due to their late arrival we got an encounter with four elephant bulls at Rhino Boma.
The drive back to camp was the highlight of the day, first of all we parked amongst a large herd of buffalo that were crossing Pafuri Main. Rhodes simply rolled in and then killed both the engine and lights. We sat there listening to their various noises as they milled around us. We drove back over the old landing strip and spotted a thick tailed bushbaby which was happy to sit in the spotlight for sometime so we could all get a proper view.
As we were making our final approach to camp, John, one of the guests said that he’d thought he’d seen a hyena way ahead and that it had turned off the road. It certainly had turned off the road, it had actually turned off and was walking down the short access road to camp. But it wasn’t a hyena, it was a big male leopard who was walking bold as you like along the sand road scent marking on the bushes as he went.
I don’t know if I was over reacting, I probably was, but nonetheless I was frantically calling Eva and Flora on the radio to warn them. I had visions that they would be waiting for us at the end of the road with the hot towels and big smiles giving us a very large and warm welcome only to see a huge leopard followed by a LandCruiser full of safari goers come straight towards them. Luckily he turned off just in time and layed up in the bushes. We had now turned off the engine which meant that we could all hear Flora and Eva chatting. Not just us, the leopard could as well, his ears pricked up and he cocked his head towards them. It wasn’t long before he got bored of ears dropping and he was away into the night.
I’ve come a long way over the last eight months, I now feel totally at ease in these unfenced camps. However, I was slightly apprehensive when I wandered up the drive just ten minutes later to do my own bit of scent marking. I scanned left to right, right to left and then left to right praying that I wouldn’t get a pair of emerald eyes reflecting my torch straight back at me.
What a great start to the trail, especially when you add in a couple of buffalo bulls that were feeding behind the showers whilst we had our dinner. Even if nothing else happens on this trail it’s still going to an incredible one.
Lying in bed there was still so much going on under the fullish moon. The eles were shouting, the impala rut was at full tilt, the baboons and vervets were going mad as the big male leopard wandered through his territory, the zebra and hyena were not to be out done and there was the usual symphony of crickets acting as the backing track to another wonderful night in Africa. Before I fell asleep I heard the leopard calling, like clockwork, every six minutes he would announce his presence to those still awake along this stretch of the Luvuvue.