My life has two modes at the moment – Work and Play. I came back from Namibia and worked like the clappers for three weeks so that I could take time out last week to connect with nature again. I just had to have my green fix! I am a restless soul and right now I am treading water and being patient as another chapter of my life is unfolding - I am stuck between my circumstances and my future so I need to have milestones to peg my time on as I make progress and last week was one of them – a trip to a reserve not too far away that I have wanted to travel to for some time. My next milestone is my December trip and first time ever visit to the USA. I am literally counting the days and its 22 more sleeps. That’s another three weeks of working like the clappers! Don’t get me wrong I am so grateful for my work, it is a blessing, but it was great to get away last week.
Samara – I have been receiving a newsletter from them since I entered a competition so had been following the development of this ten year old reserve for a while. It has been the dream of Sarah and Mark Tomkins to return these plains of the Camdedoo to their natural state, a time when animals roamed freely and were plentiful. They started to buy failed farms in the area and the property is now over 60,000 hectares. It is being stocked as funds and circumstances allow and is most famous for its cheetahs. The owners live in the UK but visit often, and are passionate about the environment. It is beautiful – I felt at home from the moment I arrived and because it was mid-week I was the only guest on the first night so it was personalized service and my own private ranger!
Elephants are a new edition to the reserve – they have just adopted a small herd from Kwandiwe so there is a particular interest in tracking them and seeing how they are settling in ….and I can report very nicely thank you!
We followed them for a while and then headed towards giraffe we had spotted in the distance. As we drew nearer, Thendui (my very own ranger) parked the vehicle and we approached them on foot. They were quite at ease with this but also curious to see who had come to visit! They are tall – we all know that – but when you are on the ground they are look really really tall. I spent almost an hour meandering with them – ensuring a reasonable space between us. It felt a little surreal. We stopped for snacks and sundowners and were joined by the elephants as they had their evening snack – again Thendui anticipated where they would be emerging and we drove there and again on foot waited for them to emerge – we kept our distance but again to be on the ground as they came through the thicket was such a thrill. Back at the homestead a bowl of warm water and a fluffy towel was waiting as was a lovely warming and very welcome sherry!
Dinner for one that evening ….I got chatting to a chef who was using this quiet time to train staff on a new menu and yes – of course she identified me as the person who would eat anything and everything that they had prepared and I was a very willing guinea pig. Afterwards I rolled off to my room to find warm, fragrant bathwater waiting and chocolate truffles begging to be eaten! I was in heaven……..
Day 2 and up before the crack of dawn to catch the early morning game. Our first visit was to a mother and baby rhino and once again – we walked in perfect silence towards them from the vehicle. They grazed quite happily and allowed us to about 5 meters away. Unbelievable – I was taking a morning stroll with the rhino. Her little boy was most interested in us and mom had to keep nudging him to keep him from getting under our feet.
Then to top this we tracked the cheetahs to a rocky incline – hardly visible from the vehicle as we walked closer up popped mom cheetahs head and then her four cubs got interested and joined her for family photos! Again we were very quiet and Thendui ensured that she was comfortable with us. He has been at the reserve for six years and has known the mother and cubs from birth so I felt quite safe. They are not tame by any means and had we tried to touch her or her cubs, we would have been their next meal. It was awesome standing there with them in that wild and beautiful place – no sound, no litter, wide skies and fresh clean air. I was in heaven…….
I was fed sweet potato pancakes with berry coulis on my return and just in case I was still hungry, a Karoo breakfast followed. It’s no wonder that I returned to my room and slept.
I awoke in time for afternoon tea and was joined by a Swiss couple – she a pharmacist and he in shipping – hmm Switzerland is land locked but it does not stop them having a fleet, I learned!
Our afternoon drive again consisted of close encounters with giraffe, although the cheetahs were elusive. We followed the elephant and while we were sat watching and discussing them in the vehicle, and the smallest one decided to chase us. Whether he was wanting to make friends or wanting us to leave him in peace – we will never know. As we pushed foot in the vehicle - I learned how fast elephants can run.
Another sumptuous meal awaited but I ate quickly and left the young Swiss couple to a romantic tete-a-tete. A warm bath awaited me and a night of sweet dreams.
I was sad to leave the following day – sad because I had such a great stay but also because I know that the next few weeks are going to be hard slog as 2017 careers to an end. I want this year to be over as, despite my travels and envious proximity to nature, on a personal level it has been a challenging one for me. My life is going through a major overhaul – a very welcome one and I am excited for the changes to come.