There is a moment in the day were everything seems to pause. Birds stop twittering, cicadas stop buzzing and anything on four legs stands motionless in the sparse shadows.
It is hot. Steaming hot. Sheltering hot. Oppressive hot.
Not a leaf is rustling. Even the wind thinks it’s too hot. Nothing moves.
Heat radiates from the ground into your face and the light is so sharp you walk with a continueal squint.
We’re talking 39 degrees celcius……in the shade!
Between two and five o’clock the only thing you can do is lie down and not move.
For days now big clouds have been building up promising relief to the parched grounds. But still it holds. Magnificent cloud-formations drift by without releasing their so needed loads.
Humidity is high and leaves us soaked with every movement.
It is in these hours we go out on a walk. I’m with three guests and with Heribert who carries second rifle. We move beyond the waterhole in front of the lodge to decend the steep incline that leads us to the Msine River. There used to be shade there but most leaves have gone and what is left on the branches has shrivelled.
Everything is grey and everything is dusty. It is hard to spot ellies as the whole surroundings are a pallet of greys. Rocks, trees, bushes and the soil….all grey.
I rely a lot on my hearing when I walk in terrain like this but it sometimes seems that the air is so thick and hot that even sound has problems to travel.
In front of us is a Borassus Palm with all its fallen leaves piled up at its base like one big shelter. In front of the Palm, at the bottom of the gorge, there is a spring and we often find wildlife there. I have Heribert stop and stay with the clients as I go down a few meters to see what’s there, nothing. I’m about to turn and motion them to come down when I hear the unmistakable sound of an ear-flap. I look back and a big ellie comes down.
I move back up the path and motion the guests to move out. One guest stands still and says “Elephant”. I nod and say “go”. Still he points and says “more elephant” He’s blocking the others from going up and we need to get out…fast. I tell him to start moving!
We move into a position on a little ridge about four, five meters high and position us behind some dry bushes. I motion everybody into a crouch and not to move and be very, very quiet.
A good eight meters away from us the ellie comes down and moves into the pool. It looks happy to cool down his scorched feet in the water. From behind him five more ellies of different ages walk up. From up close we observe how they drink and splash water over themselves obviously happy with a short relief of the heat.
Our position is perfect, high up but close and down-wind from the ellies. Still I’m nervous because in that valley the wind tends to swirl and change direction. And I keep constantly looking over my shoulder….. I don’t want to be trapped on the path we came down by another ellie.
And then it happens….. it starts to rain! Thick big drops of hot water come down on us. The sun has started it’s decent and colours the raindrops golden.
It is a magic moment.
The ellies playing with water in front of us, we behind scrub getting wet too. Enjoying the cooldown and the smell of wet earth.
It’s a teaser though, as the ellies move on the rain stops, leaving us wet and hot. Anyway, we still have the promise of a cold, cold beer at Christopher’s Baobab.
So on we go!