Everything you’ve heard about those sleep sound machines is piffle, just piffle; you know the ones that sound like dolphins, rainforests or water? Well they’re nothing compared to the sleeping sounds of camping in Africa. Perched in a tent atop our car for the night we doze off serenaded by the call of the wild, Africa style. I’m pretty sure that the sounds around us are all Elephants but who knew Elephants made so many different noises, a veritable symphony. There’s the blaring brash trumpet that sounds like, a trumpet funnily enough. Guttural predatory style growling among all manner of scuffing, scratching, stomping and ruffling forms the backbone of the slumber orchestra. On top of all this is of course the now unmistakable elephant fart, something like a hollow sounding oboe behind someone slowly flapping the curtains of the opera house, delightful.
We’ve thrown away the ‘whale call’ recording, who needs to sleep calmly when you can sleep with such excitement. Strangely enough sleep comes easy, the musicians outside continue to rehearse their discordant melody lulling us to an unlikely stone dead slumber. There’s a wild world separated from us by only a thin canvas tent wall, there’s no fences or barriers to put us back into the safe world we are accustomed to. Yet strangely it doesn’t feel particularly threatening, we’re cautious about getting too close to things that could squash us in an instant but not in any way fearful. It seems strange that the presence of a fence or cage to protect us can actually add to the frightening nature of animals.
At the breaking dawn we are up, the sun a far more pertinent time marker here than the clock, we’re not in Argentina anymore. I’m very proud of myself for being up and about before 8am but it seems I’m still quite a way off the pace, the bustling campsite of yesterday is completely cleared apart from one other car, not a sign of human occupation. It seems that the further we go north the more we get into what we were aiming to experience in Africa. So far south now is the cosy bubble of the western cape, to our north a range of countries in various states of chaos. Botswana seems a little like a Goldilocks country for us right now, safe enough and wild enough; just right. But it’s to the north we journey, not satisfied with seeing a few Elephants we will steer clear of the true danger spots but we can’t resist getting closer to the wild, the human kind as well as the animals. It just so happens that Chobe National Park and Victoria falls are in the north of Botswana and Zambia respectively.
Senyati campsite is our next stop, close to the border town of Kasane which touches borders with Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Although camping is a relative term here until we get into Chobe National Park, for now it’s running water, flushing toilets and showers all to ourselves, very glamping. It’s a strange contradiction, the further we’ve gotten into a less developed wild country the more our campsites have become gloriously catered for. Sitting at the rustic patio bar we gaze across a waterhole to Giraffes, Impala and humans on the plains while more birds than we can count share a space right in front of us like the stage of a theatre.
This progression north has proven to be an insight into the wild beyond the obvious marker of seeing wild animals. Where fences seemed the defining social structure in the Western Cape, here there seem to be no such delineations, humans cohabiting remarkably well with animals we’ve spent our lives somewhat frightened of. At home our lives are so distant from dirt and dust, often thought to be so unsightly. Here those blemishes are part of life as we let go of the ideal of a spotless house, designer furniture and that light fitting that so perfectly represents us. There’s a hornbill close enough to reach out and touch as I type which at home would ‘belong’ in a cage, having a hot shower seems a luxury and I can’t help think that at home we separate nature and our lives to opposite corners of a room. We’re shuffling priorities to embrace being in nature rather than looking at it; feels quite, natural.