The Bushveld 2 – In the Timbavati Bushveld
Part 2 and back to the first part here.
Timbavati Before the Game Fences
Childhood… Who remembers that? And if you do, how much? And of that how much, how much is true? And how much is colored by better memories, ignoring the facts. Good or bad memories… it does no good remembering the bad, but keep the good pure and unsullied by fiction.
That’s what’s so hard about bush life. You are living in a dream anyway, so how do you keep to the facts? That is my task for this next article, about being a child in the sticks, growing up in… ‘my bush’.
Carrying on to the camp up north of our Timbavati bushveld, requires the crossing of a number of dry-river-beds, small and large. Although in this world, a small stream in flood is no time to cross. Crossing the dry sandy rivers usually calls for a 4×4 or something like a Volkswagen, with weight in the back to get through the sand. In some places, the crossing is for eighty to one hundred meters, between tall reeds, often over rocks and islands.
Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
As the day and the journey progresses, it begins to get really hot. Water bottles are hauled out; cloths are soaked for wipe downs and the air blowing through the windows cools you – sort of – down.
After a long journey on the dry dusty dirt road, we arrive at the Marula tree, our turn-off into the Timbavati bushveld area, here four other name boards are attached to the long-suffering tree. When on this two-track road, it seems as if you can taste the smell and coolness of the bungalows. Only three more rivers to cross and the game begins to appear, as if they know you’re friendly and have come to greet you on the road. Or are we intruders in an otherwise peaceful existence, causing them to run off further into the bush. There’s a special why animals react to vehicles in the wild, indicating if they’ve been shot at from a vehicle, or not. Call it instinct but you can tell.
Here in the Timbavati bushveld, is a world far removed from, as some would say, ‘civilization’ where the nearest small town White River is 170 km (105 miles) away. Or the mission station at Acornhoek, run by Nuns, the nearest medical facility and trading store, being a little closer at 70 km (43 miles). Here at camp, there is no electricity, radios or phones, except that radio in the vehicle and used from time to time – once a week – to listen to the news, in case the country has been nuked or attacked. Anything else is of no consequence to life in the sticks, apart from injury and sickness. And who dwells on that out here in such a vibrant world?
What do Francolin, Milk and Wildebeest Have in Common – Breakfast
On school holidays here in this Timbavati bushveld, growing up as a young boy, the day started by going out at 5-6 am with a single shot .22 rifle to hunt francolin – a small ground bird – for breakfast. I once complained about the single shot .22, instead of having the neat 10 shot magazine breach loading one in the gun cabinet. This brought a sharp retort and a story of old, about the single shot muzzleloader. How one boy my age, temporarily married his nose to a percussion muzzleloader, when the hammer slammed down on the percussion cap with his nose in the way. Like I would be so stupid as to do that? Well, this kept me happy with my single shot .22 for years to come. And I was only once treed by a local leopard. Apart from tinned food, what you shot or gathered, is what you ate, after the chef, (aka camp caretaker, chief cook and bottle wash) and you, pluck and prepare the meal in time for breakfast.
Orange juice! Now there’s a treat for breakfast that only happens when you’ve first arrived, until the two or three bags of oranges you bought on the road, are eaten up. Another thing is fresh milk… well, sort of fresh, bought yesterday on the way-down and after that, it’s brack water and powdered milk all the way, using a hand crank egg beater to mix.
Yesterday we shot a Wildebeest for camp meat and biltong, as well as rations for the workers, putting them in a very festive mood in their start to the day, having eaten much-longed-for meat last night. This means we get Wildebeest liver and kidneys with bacon for breakfast, instead of me hunting for francolin.
A Little Light Goes a Long Way
Bacon! Yes there are two paraffin deep freezes we stocked when we arrive. That was my job, to fill up and light the fridge and deep freezes. And then every evening, also my job, the lamps at dusk. First, were the Tilley and Coleman paraffin pressure lamps, then came the usual four hurricane lamps, for walking to your bungalow when needed. These were always kept in the scullery. Each bungalow had a lamp hooked on the wall, which was lit by the occupant when bath or bedtime came around. The table Tilley, was for the lounge and one Coleman for the stoep – porch – another for the kitchen. The last one was hung in the Boma, from a tree branch, conveniently placed to see the food on the table and as a light for the braai – barbecue.
The time has come for supper, which, except when raining, was always in the Boma, Timbavati bushveld style. A log wood fire is set up on the sand in the center of the Boma and there the meat, onions and potatoes are cooked. Arranged in a semi-circle, are beach-type deck chair facing the fire, with a tall dry river-reed wall attached to posts at your back. On every post sharply contrasted by the light from the pressure lamp, are antelope horns proudly displayed, as reminders of a hunt long past and food well eaten. Sitting down facing the fire, silence reigns, as everyone listens and enjoys the night sounds. A nightjar, then a hyena, some jackals, then lions out to mark territory or hunt, a leopard grunting as it walks past the camp, a wood borer beetle drones in a post near my ear – um, ignore the beetle – a cacophony, sounding out the rhythm of the night in… ‘my bush’.
Below are the exceptionally talented ‘handpan’, ‘hang’, ‘hanghang’, or if you prefer ‘hang drum’ players. There are many similarities between these and the Djembe African Talking Drum in tonal sound and pitch.
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