In the last year I have started ticking some things off my bucket list.
Climb a mountain. Tick.
Be in a movie. Tick.
Write a novel…well, yes, let’s move on, shall we?
And just this morning, a slightly overcast Tuesday, I have managed to tick 3 things off my bucket list, and now, safely back at the Lodge, with a cup of Earl Grey to hand, let me share with you My African Adventure.
I am staying in a stunning game lodge called Shikari, owned by our dear friends Gail and Brendan O’Keeffe.
When we popped in to see them last weekend in Johannesburg, Brendan casually asked me if I wanted to go with him to the bush for a few days.
Gail was London bound.
Himmat was Brandfort bound (bird shoot) so the answer was a given. I may well have just come back from 10 fab days in the Kruger, but one can never have too much of the bush.
So Brendan and I drove to Shikari on Sunday, and in the course of conversation Brendan said he would need to spend one day in the nearby town doing admin-y things and that I should take the Land Rover out on my own and enjoy the bush.
“There is nothing like being on your own in the bush. You must do it.” were his exact words.
I didn’t realize until that moment how much I really, really wanted to drive a Landie, something I’d never done, despite so many hours in the bush on game drives. It was sort of subliminally on my bucket list.
The minute the suggestion was made, I HAD to drive a Land Rover.
Since being on my own in the bush has always been on that famous list, this all sounded very promising.
And so this morning I waved goodbye to Brendan and set off to explore Shikari.
On my own.
All alone in the bush.
The Landie and I bounced companionably through the property, startling impala and wart hog and a beautiful bush buck. I kept stopping to take photos of my gorgeous ride, and I even negotiated a stream, feeling seriously thrilled.
And then the Landie stalled and refused to start.
For 20 minutes I tried, and tried, and then tried some more, but nothing. The Landie was clearly going nowhere.
And so I set out to tick off that 3rd thing from my bucket list. Walk alone in the bush.
That wish I had realistically thought would never, could never come about. Like, for goodness sake, how could I just set off and walk through game-populated Africa alone…
I did it.
But first of all, I tried to call Brendan.
Ah yes, the dear man doesn’t have a South African number.
Tried his Irish number.
Ah yes, the dear man left for Bela-Bela cheerfully telling me his phone battery was flat as a pancake.
Didn’t have the number of either Ben or Frans who had gone with him.
Sms his daughter Justine in Jo’burg. No reply.
Sms hubby who is happily shooting in the Free State, just in case Brendan did, after all, have a local number.
Reply = “Brendan does not have a South Africa number.”
So walk through the bush it was, then.
Engine off, bundle of keys in pocket, 2 cameras draped around neck (note to self, check how much those 2 Canons + long zoom lens weigh…) and off I set.
There is no post fact bravado-ism here, but I wasn’t in the least scared or worried. I know I can walk for hours, and it’s all good training for Ladakh in August. There are no lions or elephants on the property, and so the biggest danger would be coming across a rhino.
Now it just so happens that yesterday Brendan and I spent a fabulously exciting morning tracking rhino on foot, and despite our best efforts, which included crawling on our stomachs for a while, we were apparently so noisy that the rhino, having let us approach pretty close, then took to his heels and fled.
So I reckoned that if I followed my own tyre tracks and made a bit of noise to make myself obvious, I was in no real danger.
And that is precisely what happened.
As I crash-bang-walloped through the bush, I startled 3 water buck, a family of wart hog, a few impala…at least I think that seriously loud crash was an impala bolting…I noted the spoor over my fresh tyre tracks, and told myself there was nothing to worry about.
And so, 7 km later, and with the sun having considerately gone in and the weather actually a tad cool, I arrived back at the Lodge, with 3 fabulously exciting ticks on my Bucket List.
Now to tell Brendan that his beloved Landie is abandoned deep in the bush…