back under my tree

20 March 2012

After a month on the road, first to Botswana and then south to the Western Cape to tend to matters at home, I finally arrived back under the fever trees last night.

No serious rain had fallen while I was away and the Nissan Patrol, now with her tail up like a lustful lioness after having the rear suspension replaced, danced and dipped merrily over a mud-free road. Dried cornleaves littered the three villages I passed through, a sign that the harvest was coming in and that the cooking pots would be full again.

Man Friday was there to welcome me in camp and seemed quite eager to redeem himself after his sins over Christmas had led to him spending a spell in the trenches elsewhere. He even unloaded the heavy generator all by himself!

After all the supplies I’d brought were packed away safe from baboons, monkeys, rats, mice and ants, I was looking forward to a refreshing cold shower but there was none to be had. The pump that is used to pump water from the river had also been in for repairs along with the generator, and the tank had long since run dry. I settled for a splash from my precious drinking water supply, opened the flaps of my tent to let the breeze through, and stretched out on my bed.

My feet, I soon smelled, had a rather sour presence. Then, when I’d cooled down a bit and crawled under the sheets, I discovered that a mouse had taken over my bed while I was away. Besides the strong smell of mouse pee, it had left its droppings and gnawed holes in my bedding. I took it as a welcoming sign: What a joy to be back amongst living things, to hear the sounds of the bush again and to sleep unfettered by barriers and alarms!

This morning, when birdsong and the chatter of baboons woke me, it was time to get things up and running again. An inspection showed that Friday’s good intentions hadn’t quite stretched as far as action, so I mapped out the tasks for the days ahead. The grass around camp stands tall and drying and has to be slashed to prevent it becoming a fire hazard when winter approaches; the landing strip, helipad and road all have be cleared again; there’s firewood to be brought in; a thirsty wild garden to water; electricity and comms to get going, plus all the other things one has to do when you’re your own municipality and utility company.

Good news is that there seems to be more animal movement close to the river now that water isn’t available everywhere. An elephant bull had left its melon-size dumps right in camp and I’m told that while I was away a group of lions had a raucous mating session on the river bank one night. The snarls and roars apparently went on for hours, much to the consternation of the baboons who only left their trees late the next day after a sleepless night.

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