2 Dec 2011
My plans for the weekend – to get a better understanding of things in the south where The Greater Lebombo Private Nature Reserve is getting off the ground despite the onslaught of poachers and odds – are somewhat thwarted by the fact that all the key guys happen to be away. So, after spending the night on my own in an old farmstead an hour south of Massingir, I return to town in the morning.
The only petrol pump still has no gasolina but I manage to get twenty litres in plastic bottles from a street vendor. I buy mealiemeal in bags, loose dry beans by the kilo, freshly baked Pao rolls, some plastic pipe for transferring fuel and drinking water, soft drinks and a few other things. Which takes longer than one would expect because in the dusty alleys between the shanties of the Massingir Mall the beans guy doesn’t have mealie meal and the mealie meal guy doesn’t have beans. The beans guy doesn’t have a bag for the beans either and no-one sells three-pin plugs.
But, like in most small towns in Africa, there’s the vibrant and colourful life of the marketplace to spice up the shopping experience. All sorts of hawking and enterprise take place in the labyrinth of small buildings and shanty shelters. Traditional handmade clay pots vie with Made in China plastic, there are veggies straight from the fields, new and secondhand shoes and clothes, basic foodstuffs, batteries and all sorts. And the people, despite me being the only person in town likely to suffer from sunburn, are really friendly and appreciative if you take the trouble to engage them.
On the long haul home I cross the five km wall of the Massingir dam again and re-enter the 1 000 000 hectare Parque Nacional de Limpopo that’s my home. Just over an hour later I divert to go and meet my closest pale neighbours at a tourist concession in the south of the park.
Almero and Nicky run Mashampane Lodge, a beautiful tented camp overlooking a tranquil river where water lilies bloom and shy little bushbuck venture right up close in the hope of a treat from the kitchen. All that’s missing are the fairies and Almero, who’s out guiding a 4×4 group. I spend a pleasant hour chatting to Nicky and comparing facets of life in the bush, then it’s time to hit the hell-run home again.
Four hours later, in the last light of day, I reach camp and its comforts where I, as always, sleep the sleep of babies in the loving lap of nature and its oxygenated breath.