The undoubted highlight of the week however was the sleep out. A cloudy start to the day had many concerned that the recent rains might wash out the opportunity, but Mother Nature smiled on us all and as the afternoon wore on, the clouds melted away, setting the scene for another dramatic night under the endless African sky. En route to the site many more birds were encountered but we also found a herd of elephants happily feeding within a few hundred meters from where we hoped to rest our heads…
Perimeters were set and safety rules explained to everyone before a mass collection of wood to keep the kettle boiling for those charged with keeping watch throughout the darkness. After another failed attempt to create a friction fire, rumbling stomachs insisted that more conventional methods were used and soon the camp site was awash with the warm glow of our bush TV. The heat was a welcome relief to the rapidly dropping temperatures, fleeces and hot cups of coffee were the order of the night as a carnivorous feast was enjoyed by all. Mid way through dinner however, the elephants, their curiosity perhaps fueled by their new neighbours for the night, paid us a visit. They kept to the shadows and preferred to merely observe our strange rituals before disappearing like spectres in the darkness. Nonetheless, the occasional crack of a branch and deep rumble throughout the night kept all our senses awake! In another unforgettable moment, a lone hyena quietly passed us by as we huddled around the campfire. Seemingly obvious to our presence, it passed within 20m of where we sat, intently focused on its clandestine nocturnal foray.
The evening was spent swopping stories of similar adventures and marveling at the infinite parade of alien worlds that encircled us throughout the night. One by one, we fell asleep to the soothing calls of the fiery necked nightjars and the monotonous melody of the local insect population that had received new life with recent rains. The night passed without incident and after an injection of hot coffee, the camp site was cleared of any evidence of our presence. But we had not driven more than 100m from the site when we bumped into a huge musthing bull elephant! His swagger was evident as he marched up the road, his temporal glands streaming with his bitter hormonal excess. Thankfully however, he seemed in a good mood and gave us a wonderful sighting as the cobwebs of a night free from creature comforts were swiftly blown away! A whole herd then arrived and we spent perhaps an hour watching them go about their daily routine in the morning light. It was a special end to a special night in Mother Nature’s back yard.
Until next time
Ben and the Bushwise Team!