We’re in Madikwe Game Reserve up on the Botswana border in the north of SA for a wedding of a friend. It was a hell of a trip up here yesterday. Leaving Alex at home in the safe hands of Granny and Poliswa, we set out at 5:30am for the flight to Jo’burg and then on again for a further four and a half hours driving through places I’d only ever seen on the weather map, through the flat, barren Gauteng and North West landscape.
It struck me as we flew from the lush, green corner of SA that is Cape Town and home, up across the Karoo and into Jo’burg that there is a hell of a lot of South Africa and that most it is very empty and very brown. Also that the houses and cars in the Free State are really small. (Although that could have something to do with the fact that they were 35,000 feet below me).
It’s my first visit to a proper game reserve and though it’s a new experience, I’m not overwhelmed. Sure – it’s another thing to tick off on the list, but that’s actually all it comes down to – list ticking. Who’s seen what (everyone’s seen everything), which ranger is the best (they’re all great) and the all important question – the real competition: who’s got the biggest camera lens (mine’s tiny, but it extends and it’s very powerful).
Mealtime conversations are dominated – as of course they should be – with stories regaled of visits to other reserves and close encounters with The Big Five, discussions of auto focus techniques and has anyone seen anything interesting from their chalet. I’m sat on the deck outside ours right now watching a small herd of Tsessebe drinking from the water hole about 10 metres away. I’d never even heard of a Tsessebe before this morning. There’s a sole Impala with them. I’m going to call him Vlad the Impala.
Yes – I’m enjoying the experience, but the whole safari thing is not wowing me in the same way that it is many others here. Thus, I find myself sat with the wife’s laptop, a cold beer and my rattly iPod, occasionally glancing at Vlad et al, but enjoying the music more than the view. Does this make me a true city boy? Incapable of relaxing, needing constant stimulation, bright lights, the hum of the city; enjoying seeing my venison medium rare rather than endangered?
So be it. Each to their own. Life could be worse. The sun is shining and the stunning sunbirds are singing over the quiet bit in the REM song that’s on right now – which is actually improving it. I may even drop Michael Stipe an email and suggest a remix. I’ll be back in civilisation (well, Cape Town) in a couple of days, when I’ll also pop in some photos – in the meantime, I’m going to try and upload this.
If you’re reading this – it worked. If you’re not, you smell.