“Welcome to Sire-hee-nee Bashvelt Camp, Kroojah” squawked Australian Kelly from the Garmin as we entered the camp. Fed up with the German bloke aggressively instructing us to stay on the agreed route and even the seductive French tones of Stephanie having palled, we had it set the contraption to Australian English (with the screen showing Turkish). You should hear Kelly trying to say Thohoyandou.
We’d run the gauntlet of Giyani’s cops and cows, both hazards lurking in the shade of occasional thorn-bushes and randomly rushing unexpectedly into the road. We’d negotiated potholes through lovely Venda villages and successfully overtaken numerous lurching Mozambiquan bakkies headed for the border at Pafuri, laden with plastic chairs and plywood cupboards amongst their hefty bags of mieliemeal.
Venus was in charge of the Sirheni office and exhausted from having womanned the desk of this fifteen unit camp all day on her own. We asked her if she played tennis and she said “I weesh”. I think anything would have been better than the stress from running out of ice and firewood, the only two items in which she was expected to trade, and having no ranger to take a bush walk as none have been trained to the improved standard required following the recent spate of elephant tramplings. And she could not take payment as the lines were down. The goddess of love was forlorn. For Venus, it was not a good day.
Nor was it good for one of our party (a small person) who wet his bed that night. We strung the sheets in surrender along the shade trees in the morning and, sure enough, Martha came to the rescue and whisked them away. I offered to help her carry the wet mattress out into the sun but she simply turned it over and remade the bed. Problem solved.
The northern part of the Kruger (apart from the said mattress) was, in Kelly’s parlance, as dry as a dead dingo’s donger and it became increasingly hot. We had two consecutive days of 45C. Armando, a self-confessed Mozambiquan in charge of maintenance in camp, turned our fridge to maximum and washed our sun-baked cars. Still there was no ice or firewood. Venus was looking more and more frazzled and the lines remained down. We headed to Shingwedzi for the day.
The game was phenomenal. I don’t know what happened to bovine TB but the buffalo (and the lions) are thriving. And I wonder whether we shouldn’t think about culling a few elephants? A couple of hyena gawped back at us as we stopped to ogle them. A magnificent rhino ran at full tilt in a cloud of dust across the road in front of us, we hoped he wasn’t being pursued by human predators but it seemed likely, and by every waterhole, an agglomeration of creatures queued up to slake a dusty thirst.
At Shingwedzi we waited an hour for a few sandwiches, low gear being the order of the catering day in the stultifying heat, then threw ourselves in the swimming pool. Some of its existing inhabitants from the caravan park even bravely stayed in the water with us whilst we swam, regardless of the alarming fact that some members of our party were indisputably non-white. My, we have come a long way.
Back at Sirheni, we stopped to see if Venus had, by any chance, become serener but she didn’t appear to recall ever having seen us before. It was going from bad to disastrous, we explained to Norman, the camp supervisor, when he stopped by later and injudiciously asked us how we were. But if he found us a leopard, we’d forgive him anything. So he did, moments later, by the dam. Right in front of our hut.
A light wind blew across the water. The evening cooled and this lovely scene was bathed in the soft golden light that only the bush can provide. Who needs ice, firewood, trained rangers and unstained mattresses? Sirheni, itself, could not be more serene. You can’t beat the Kroojah, as Kelly would say