My amazing friend Lindsay and I head out to spend a night in the bush, a gift of togetherness after a long time of doing, doing, doing. We can’t wait to be surrounded by Zimbabwean beauty and the sounds found in silence, so we pack up and head out as soon as we can on Friday morning. We make it to the outskirts of town, listening to music and chatting away until we are flagged down at a police stop, where we are told the insurance on the vehicle is expired. Lindsay says that cannot possibly be true and we both get down to check the stickers on the car. Indeed, they are expired by a couple of weeks so we patiently wait for the $5 ticket we are given. We chat with the police and Lindsay tells one of them that the energy drinks he is drinking (cans sitting right on the table) are bad for him. He ignores her and keeps writing out the ticket which we take and show to every other police who stops us on our way.
Forty five minutes or so before arriving at camp, we stop for the best fries ever! $1.50 buys us each a good sized bag of fresh fries, which we eagerly take from the saleslady. Vinegar and salt are dumped on top of the fries, right in the bag and we dig in, filling our bellies with the greasy goodness, erasing all hunger from our minds.
Bellies full and following the directions carefully, we trace and retrace our steps as we come close to the camp, not finding the turn mentioned on the website, until finally, we go blindly down a sandy path and thankfully, arrive at our destination. We drive fast on the windy path, with Lindsay explaining that the sand is deep and we don’t want to get stuck. Getting out of the car, I cannot help relaxing, drinking in the surroundings and smelling the clean air. Sitting by the pool with a drink in hand is how our day away really starts, the water too cold to get into, but perfect to admire and enjoy.
Staff come to greet us, including the guide who will be taking us out for a game drive. We look at each other and I say, “I know you”. At first, he isn’t sure, but I ask if we met at a camp called Gwango some years ago and he says, “yes! Five or six years ago” and we quickly piece together that he was our guide way back then. Munya left an impression on us then and he does it again now by taking us on a beautiful drive, staying out long into the evening, allowing us to hear and feel the bush as the sun sets, leaving us in the pitch black.
As stars pop out, he and Oscar, an intern, show us the constellations, when one of them suddenly announces the arrival of buffalo. We sit and stand still, quiet, all lights off and allow our ears to do the work as we listen to hundreds, perhaps a thousand buffalo walk right below us, kicking up dust as they move from one place to the next. We can’t see them in the dark, but we know t he line is long. The sounds are magnificent. I am entranced between the sounds of movement and the stars, knowing I will never ever forget this moment. Oscar turns on the super bright flashlight at the precise moment a very young buffalo limps his way in the back of the herd, his momma urging him on with her snout. He’s been hurt by a lion, we are told, and won’t last long. Lions will be heard tonight, we are promised, as they know where the buffalos are.
We return to camp, high on the sightings, the smell, the fresh air, and the night which envelopes us. We sit outside where a bucket of burning coals is sent on either side of us, making our personal space toasty against the cold winter air as we eat a delicious meal of chicken, potatoes and roasted vegetables. Elephants join the party, arriving one by one…babies and adults…to drink from the swimming pool and keep us company as we feast our eyes on their beauty.
This never gets old, I say in a whisper.
Never, agrees Lindsay.