Because different groups were out this morning it meant that Jomi and I only had one rifle between us. I opted for the camera instead of a weapon, Jomi has his lead trails guide assessment coming soon so it was only right to make way for him.
Our mission this morning was to see if the Fever Tree Forest was accessible from Camp. Exploratory walks are my favourite, no firm route planned and no knowing what you may bump into. This would have been a very mild version of what the Victorian explorers like Livingstone must have experienced. I can see why they found it so addictive.
We first had to edge slowly through the tall sporobolus grasses. This was slow progresses to ensure that we selected the best route with frequent stops to listen out for tell tail sounds of buffalo. There were definitely buff about with fresh dung and spoor as we went. It was tense progress, so much so I found myself carrying the camera in a rifle ready position.
We emerged from the long grass into a clearing. As soon as we did Jomi held up his hand to signal stop. There was a herd of 50 plus buffalo who took fright as soon as they got our scent on the wind which was pretty immediate. We diverted to the west of our original route to give them plenty of room. Then we were in the Fever Tree Forest.
The dew was still fresh on the grass which was soothing on my scratched shins, these have taken a hammering from three months of walking through the scrubby undergrowth.
Jomi proceeded carefully. Not from a safety point of view but because he was carefully unhooking the webs which the golden web orb spider had spun through the night. He’d then reattach them to another branch so we could make our way along the path.
As we walked we were surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of butterflies, these gave the forest its magical quality. The butterflies were broad-bordered grass yellows and brown-veined whites.
The forest opened up into a clearing with a stately looking sycamore fig at the end with a long thin pan down the side. The pan was lined with golden trunked fever trees as they caught the morning light. Each tree is covered with a very fine powder. I’m told that the Shangaans rub some of this dust on their forehead to give them confidence for important occasions.
The forest was alive, not just with butterflies but with frogs hopping across the leaf litter and a snake making off through the grass. There was a baboon alarming the familiar “bahoo” from his sentinel position high up in a fever tree. The birds were in full voice too, the grey backed cameroptera bleating away, the crescendo song of the white-browed robin chat, the whaling of the trumpeter hornbill, the drumming of the bearded woodpecker and finally the lilac breasted roller whose call resembles two chimpanzees taking off in a helicopter.
We couldn’t stay in this enchanted forest all day, we had to finish our task of finding a safe route out so the trails students could walk here this afternoon. The only route available to us wasn’t suitable for a larger group. Its probably not something that the two of us would repeat but we had the pressures of time counting against us.
Once we’d made it out of the floodplain we had to then get around another pan which wasn’t possible without getting our feet wet. This wasn’t too much of a concern for Jomi as he was wearing open shoes. Luckily it was a belter of a day so I managed to dry my boots out by the afternoon.
One word of advise, always check the footwear of the lead guide, if they’re wearing sandals be prepared for the wetter of routes.
Once back at camp I finished slashing the firebreak then it was leading a session on rifle handling. Just the basics today, safe hand over, cycling of rounds and putting in to stage two. Weird taking the lecture, reminded me a little of coaching cricket in Japan.