Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Exciting Night – by Gary

After visiting Hluhluwe (Shoosh-looey) Game Reserve we navigate our hire car across the veld to our accommodation for the night; a little backpackers hostel and camping ground at the northern end of the reserve.  Being tired, we quickly up our two tents and install sleeping bags.  Vicki and I in one tent, Zeke and Nina the other.  We slouch off to the kitchen area to scruff some dinner.

The weather is looking sus. Grey clouds heap-up bringing on an early dusk, but being roughty-toughty types we ignore it as best we can.  Refueled we quickly seek haven amidst the feathers.  Soon we are pleasantly beached upon the Land of Nod.  But some hours later our slumbers are brought to a rude end.

The distant roll of thunder warns of an approaching storm – ah, likely it will miss us.  The tent lights up like day and a sharp clap, just seconds later, underscores my wishful thinking.  An instantaneous blinding arc of light and explosion of thunder scares the living daylight out of us all.  ‘You ok next door’,  I yell.  ‘Yep, fine!’  Zeke returns.  Thunder; a great rolling backdrop of noise interleaved with staccato blasts, now makes normal conversation impossible.  The lightening is so continuous I could read a book.  Our tent begins a wild dance as the wind arrives, followed seconds later by rain, light at first but building rapidly to a torrent.  It doesn’t take long before a young voice ‘Dad.... Dad!’ reaches us between thunder blasts. ‘Our tent is starting to drip’.

The minutes slowly tick by, then ‘Dad.... Dad, we are starting to get really wet!’  Action required, but what?  I instruct the kids to get dressed, roll up their sleeping bags and mats, open the tent door and prepare to leap out, running as quickly as possible to the adjacent backpackers bunkhouse. ‘Ready?.... one, two, three...GO!’  Like startled rabbits caught in headlights, or perhaps waterfall disco dancers under a strobe, the three of us streak through the drenching storm.  I fall, skidding wildly on my back in the now ankle deep red mud.  Up again, running madly.  We make it!

In the backpackers, its kind of creepy.  A poorly illuminated hallway.  Wild animals thrusting heads through walls, caught in the act amidst the lightening flashes.  One room has a door ajar and light pours out.  ‘Hello... anybody there?’ I yell.  A young woman answers... warily.  Kids have failed to follow me from the foyer.  So it’s just me, drenched, agitated, standing in her doorway in a rapidly growing puddle.  Gloops of red mud are falling off my body. ‘Are you alone?’ I demand between rasping breaths.  The young woman’s looking ever more scared!  Hmm... wrong question.  I retreat, find kids, herd them in front of me.  Returning I attempt a better explanation.  Could she have my kids for the rest of the night?  Just floor space!  Well behaved!  I’ll come back for them in the morning, promise!  As the explanation slowly grows in plausibility the woman relaxes, even smiles.  ‘Yes no problem’ she finally laughs and I beat a hasty retreat before she changes her mind.

Back out in the storm, another hour or so later it’s all over, but its close, damp and muddy inside the tent.  Everything drips.  Vicki and I finally get to sleep.

Morning time, not the best nights sleep.  Vicki trudges off in search of Zeke and Nina to see how they fared.  Finding our children, they are bizarrely enervated!  They’ve sat up half the rest of the night with this young woman swapping yarns of their lives and travels, punctuated with howls of laughter.  The young woman and the flood refugees have become good friends!  They’ve had a fabulous time!

I took a few photos of the bunkhouse the next morning:

Wild animals...

... thrusting heads through walls, ...

... caught in the act...

... amidst the lightening flashes.

The bar!  We had dripped our way through it... wide open and deserted.

Yep... it’s a genuine elephant’s foot stool.

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