Last nights game drive was highlighted by a family of grazing giraffes and then stylish zebra before a sunset visit to some sleeping lions.
After dark we headed west by torch (flashlight), in search of harder to find hyena. Our Land Rover took us successfully over rocks, roots, shrubs and sand but somewhere in the chilly night we came round a corner right into a muddy stretch of dirt road. A few attempts by our ranger to navigate the goo were unsuccessful, and we were indeed stuck.
Having just seen lions, leopards, and searching for night-active hyena, the idea of being stuck in the dark in the Sabi Sand bush was rather unsettling. We remained calm while the Tracker and Ranger walked around the vehicle with "torches" to make a plan. I rehearsed scary cinematic scenes of leopards and lions leaping into the vehicle from out of total blackness. I imagined how I would shield Megan as we leapt out and under the vehicle. I imagined which limb could be strategically sacrificed if need be... certainly not my right hand. I am an American, who loves movies. To a fault, I imagine the natural world as a sort of set, designed to set the stage for a story, a romance, a tragedy, a biopic.
And just as I was perfecting my defense plan, the ranger hopped back in, made a few maneuvers as the tracker pushed, and voila, we were moving. It was almost disappointing. Except for the fact that after a short dark stretch of bush dirt road, we arrived at the most magnificent Sundowner Bush gathering yet. A large open sandy area centered around a roaring and perfect fire. A long row of white cloth tables formed a perimeter of cocktails and various safari inspired shish kabobs. We chose the classic safari beverage: Gin and Tonic (apparently early safari goers drank large amounts of this popular cocktail because the quinine in tonic helped to fight malaria), and in my growing quest to sample exotic game meats, I chose the Kudu on a stick. (rather tasty) This gathering was made up of a number of Land Rovers full of safari-goers and we all settled into chairs forming a semi-circle around the fire. From the hillside darkness came a beautiful and enchanting procession of Shangaan women singing and beating drums and dancing with rice and paper shakers on their ankles. Considering my New Orleans heritage, it didn't seem quite right to not dance along with them, but I restrained my urges and enjoyed the show. A beautiful drum beat, voices echoing, and feet pounding the sand whose dust glowed in the fire, certainly felt cinematic and beautifully real. I was thankful for that moment, amid the many moments on this trip. Authentic, luxurious, cultural, natural, serendipitous and eye-opening. I wish I had those women singing me to sleep tonight.