I have fulfilled a childhood dream.
On the 5th October, 2012, Callum and I were handed the keys of our new old Land Rover TDI Defender. We met the landy, now named Layla, in a parking lot in Maun, and it was love at first sight: then our epic journey began.
Starting with the long drive from Maun to the Kruger National Park.
It turns out, I love camping in the Kruger. Unequivocally, it was the most relaxed and at peace I have felt in a long time. It transpires that there is nothing better than that thatchy smell of the reception area at the park gate; the sound of your seatbelt being unclicked and your window being wound down as you cross under that first boom and catch a glimpse of your first impala; the cosy sound of surrounding bush-lovers setting up their tents and braai stands; the evening note-comparing over the washing up.
I was bowled over by the communities that seem to relocate their entire neighbourhoods into the campsites, even setting up satellites and television sets. The spirit of the Kruger is undeniable: it catches you unawares and soon you find yourself happily wandering around with your towel slung over your shoulder and your toothbrush in hand, waving to people you have only known for a day, thanking them for helping you push start your landy (Layla liked to keep us on our toes at all times), sharing stories and photographs of your day.
By far my favourite campsite was the Olifants satellite camp, Balule. Overlooking the Olifants river, this tiny campsite is limited to about 12 sites so each lucky couple or family can enjoy the spectacular view from his or her tent. One morning at Balule,
I stumbled blearily towards the shower block as the sun began its slow crawl through the sky. We rarely allowed ourselves a lie-in, preferring to be the first vehicle out of the gate, but this was an exception. There is no power at little campsite (you shouldn’t need it anyway really) so a head-torch is usually required in order to use the toilets. I chose one of the two cubicles and was about to step into the shower when I saw a round, black object near the plug-hole.
Ah, I thought, some kind of large beetle. No problem, I would just scoop it out with my shoe.
As I attempted this, the ‘beetle’ sort of flopped forwards.
Ok, I thought. A frog.
Still unperturbed, I continued in my effort to ‘shoe’ it out of the shower. As I did so, two wings suddenly flapped open.
Oh crap. This changes everything.
I think I have mentioned before that anything that flaps is on my Nightmare List, and bats at close quarters are probably at Number One. Trying not to panic, I surmised that the easiest option would be to grab my stuff and use the next cubicle, leaving the bat to its next unsuspecting victim and keeping my own embarrassment to a minimum.
Unfortunately, as I opened my cubicle door, someone else ran into the previously unoccupied shower and I was left standing there clutching my very inadequate towel around my very naked body. I glared at the ceiling and muttered various expletives under my breath. I was now going to have to deal with this creature.
Taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I was NOT a pathetic child, I tried once more to scoop the bat out of the shower using my shoe. It flew right into my face. The sound that came out of my mouth was reminiscent of a panicked whale, as I tried to quell my scream into a muffled yelp so as not to alarm my fellow shower-er. This situation was becoming dire.
I eventually had to enlist the help of a very sweet Afrikaans girl who was innocently brushing her teeth, and who was not too bewildered to be disturbed by a stricken-looking, naked girl babbling on about a bat in her shower. Thankfully, the bat was removed, unharmed, and I was able to hang my head in shame whilst at least successfully washing myself.
For more info on Kruger, check out this story about a self-drive safari through the park: http://africageographic.com/safari/?i=4&s=11