My 67th birthday has come and gone and given how miserable I was last week, that all changed with a phone call on Thursday. I constantly am amazed by how quickly my mental status can vary, not quite from on minute to the next, but certainly, within the course of a day, it can vacillate like the tide during the full moon.
THIS was the best birthday present I could have wished for in a lockdown situation! The paperwork for a trip that would return me to the bush not only for my birthday but for an entire week. I have to admit that I was sceptical about having to get a permit from our local SAPS office, but despite my preconceived concerns, it all went off without a hitch. The interaction with the staff was pleasant and using humour to deal with the situation did help. At the end of the day, it was me that was feeling unsettled about obtaining the document, the Captain that I dealt with has obviously been dealing with this extra paperwork for a while. Documents clutched in my hot little hand, it was back home to prepare and pack.
Less than 3 hours from Johannesburg, Mabula Game Lodge is going to be my base while I do research for content that I will be producing for them for the next few months. If you had asked me last week if this could have been a possibility, it would have been the furthest answer that I could have thought of. Yet, here I am, back in a space that makes me happy and creative after nearly drowning in a sea of self-doubt and imposed lockdown. Even the driving gods were on my side it seemed as I was able to bypass the roadblocks and traffic stops.
To misquote the iconic line from the classic film “Gone with the Wind”…”Francolin, my dear, they don’t give a shit”. This is certainly how I still feel about the current situation, but given the fact that I am in the bush, it is just that much easier to bear. I am also acutely aware that at the end of the week I will be returning home and I have decided that I will put myself into a 14-day voluntary quarantine, just to be cognizant of those that I might come into contact with. So, unlike the francolin, I actually DO give a shit.
I am trying NOT to get too caught up in the rhetoric, fake news and the continuous bleating of those who believe that THEY have all the answers. It is far too easy to take a shot at the stupid, for that cannot be cured. Incompetence, on the other hand, can be changed with training. Being in the bush and away from the regular onslaught of the plethora of news channels and (mis)information is good for my mental attitude as well as my physical well being. Yes, it is COLD…but not unbearably so and the clear skies and open areas of this reserve make my heart soar.
Lo and behold, the first animal that I get to see after my arrival ends a 53-year wait for me. This Aardvark has moved into the number one spot on my Mammal Top 10 once I had seen the Pangolin in November 2019. Like everything that is happening in this current lockdown world, this sighting should not have occurred. This is a nocturnal animal that is rarely if ever seen during daylight hours. Yet, here it was, snuffling along the side of the road, oblivious to our presence, searching for food.
And the sightings did not end with the Aardvark. It was as if the bush was allowing me to remove the cobwebs of the last 80 days and regenerate my mind, body and spirit.
These cubs warmed my heart and almost made me forget the madness that lay on the other side of the fence. A world that I would eventually be returning to, though not of my own choice.
Like this Red-billed Hornbill, I will be doing a happy dance as I work here, trying to keep my mind focussed on the job at hand rather than the mayhem that I am certain will still be in place once I pack up and return to Johannesburg. And I, therefore, end this diary entry on a positive note. With thanks to the skeleton staff at the lodge that I am dealing with from a distance.