February 27th, 2013
Guess what? After two weeks photographing the animals on safari I can hear their thoughts:
Today we fly home. Blech. Last night we had our final dinner out in the bush. This was the moon that was out:
Our field ranger Jon-o drove us to an enclosure called a boma. We didn’t know it, but it took our staff five hours to set everything up so we could be transported to a waking dream that only movies seem to take us to today.
Votive candles inside paper sacks illuminated the scene, camp lanterns hung from every tree and a gorgeous, aromatic pit fire crackled in the heart of the boma. The table we’ve eaten all our meals on in the 1933 Lodge was transported to the boma and set meticulously in Dutch colonial fashion.
But we were reminded by an elephant’s trumpet that the wild was just beyond those paper lanterns. I felt like Peter O’ Toole in Lawrence of Arabia sitting astride a camel looking across that wild, vast Bedouin desert taking in the glamour of the wild.
Being in nature, for me, is like being in the center of the universe due to its immediacy. Senses are heightened and happenings seem to hold a deeper meaning.
Just after our group had gobbled down the appetizers; platters of sage bread, roasted quail and olive salad, voices rose in song from the dark periphery of the boma.
At first they didn’t seem real and I thought someone from the lodge must have set up an iphone and speakers to play traditional African music as an accompaniment to our meal.
But the rhythmic, a cappella ululations seemed to move closer until Lucas, our lodge manager, dramatically doused the pit fire with lighter fluid and it flared up to reveal two lines of local women dressed in colorful African garb marching toward us. One songstress was the caller, singing out a question, the rest of the brightly garbed women responded as the chorus.
I’m not Shirley MacClaine (in case any of you might be confused), but I believe in a past life I must have been an African woman. Tears sprang to my eyes when I saw the women and I wanted to leap up and join them, but felt awkwardly conspicuous in my four-inch espadrilles and my bushy blonde hair. So I just listened and rocked back and forth.
There was something primordial in the singer’s voices, it seemed each note touched every part inside of their bodies before it could emerge from their mouths and there is always something powerful about voices that join together to create one complex sound.
After the singers departed to much fanfare our dinner of Springbok, ostrich and lamb was served. Following that was Faith’s homemade blueberry tart.
Reluctantly we all climbed back into the Jeeps and our bush guide Jono drove us back to the lodge using only the light of the full moon as his guide. In the moonlight the bush took on yet another personality; mysterious, fertile. Magic.
As I sit here in my room, The Sand, writing this last missive I can hear a very noisy hippo harrumphing just outside our room. Henry has the sliding doors flung open and only the screen door shut. Our four-poster bed, enclosed in mosquito netting, looks out on the river 200 feet away.
Shortly, when Henry is sound asleep, I’ll tiptoe over and slide those glass doors shut because I’m still worried I’ll wake up with a Hippo curled at the base of our bed. But I get it, Henry wants to be as close to Africa as he can be before we go home and return to our safe, predictable lives.
In a week or so I will be writing a post about our visit to the local Henna pre-school in Huntington village. Here is a photo of one of the pre-school ambassadors.
I want to write, in particular, about Thembi Mdluli who grew up in Huntington and has single-handedly brought sponsors, like Nokia, into her village to give the children there the opportunity to have lives full of possibility like my own daughters’.
Having been raised to be respectful I thanked and thanked and thanked all of the local African people who made up our wait staff and made us feel so treasured during our stay, to which they replied, again and again, with great South African warmth, “It is our pleasure.”
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