It’s a slap in the face, after a plunge into the wild where time stands still and our only marker was the gentle spin of the world on which we stand we are on our last day of Safari. Dragged back to a connection with dates and days that we are yet to be comfortable with we’re in the waking instant that takes an eternity between slumber and a harsh morning light that comes too soon. Just like those days when the rain teems just outside your window and the cosy warmth of a cocoon beyond the reaching claws of time is the only place to be we close our eyes tight and sink into one last day on the road. Selebi Phikwe is our metaphor for a cooked breakfast, we’ll be there tomorrow and we can’t wait for it but the realisation of times and dates has come a little too quickly, for one last day we shut eyes and pretend that the moon kisses the stars in a sky that demands nothing but a gazing eye.
But this moon kisses no stars and our gazing eye falls only to a blanket of pale blue, we’re jumping off the deserted island and into the world beyond in one last chase for memories we can grasp. Serowe is a four hour drive away but the destination is worth the trip, we hope. In a word we drive towards rhino’s, a beast we barely even stood a chance of seeing and of course we haven’t. One of the famed ‘Big-5’ along with the elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard, this list harks to hunting days and although it is a little off kilter to many sighting priorities it remains the romantic checklist for any African Safari. We won’t get the five but hopefully we get over half way, but in truth the rhino is more than a checklist beast, endangered and hunted to near extinction for it’s horn it remains one of the most iconic animals for anyone thinking of Africa; and so we go hunting but not in the Big-5 sense of the word.
Amazing as a Rhino is it must wait for another African sight that attracts just as much attention but is little known beyond local borders, humans. That’s right, people just like you and me but lifted from the pages of glossy magazines and placed onto the dusty red soils of Africa, it’s ‘fashions in the field’ like a day at the races but no one is losing money or cheering on a horse, it’s everyday life. Someone needs to alert Stephen Hawking on some bizarre phenomenons of physics that are yet to be explained by science, that being what African women are able to do with their hair. Braided into impossibly fine strands, straightened, teased, swept up into a sculpture or in any other endless variation that lies beyond my words, wonders grace sculptured faces at every turn. So often we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere to find an athletic sculpture of a person in a dusty dirt road wearing an eye popping cocktail dress set for an evening of high society, a juxtaposition that fashion shoots attempt to imitate but never reach.
In Francistown this phenomenon is all over the place, a sharp looking guy struts, yes he struts with catwalk swagger across a litter strewn vacant block of dusty red soil and defeated plant life. In this nearly post-apocalyptic scene this vision of fashion glam in his polished shoes, suit pants and shimmering pink shirt and vest owns the world. An elegant feline-like woman of fierce grace crosses paths in a one piece skintight black dress sporting flaming red bands down each side just to accentuate her taut body with curvaceous behind, lets not start of African ladies rumps, even a gay man has to look. In an distracted moment I wait for the rest of the backup dancers for this stylised film clip to begin. But no this is not a million dollar three minute extravaganza, it’s just another day in Botswana.
From the wonder that is African style and physical fine tuning we plunge into surely our last game drive of the safari, but we’ve said that before. Like the smell of fresh coffee on a stubborn morning the drive is bliss, good roads and loads of animals, this greeting into a waking world seem so much less daunting already. We sit at a waterhole on a pan with 16 rhinos in one field of vision joined by impala, wildebeast, zebra, giraffe, jackals, vultures and springboks. It’s the African scene I was hoping for throughout Chobe and Moremi, it’s staggering. And just for the record, we have a new winner for the coolest animal, the rhino takes the title; Charlie still likes the pretty impala but I’ll take a rhino any day. Power and purpose built muscularity are defined in this animal; there’s a field of life but there’s only one creature to look at.
It’s possibly a little prophetic but the game drive we searched for has been most closely reached on our final day, maybe we needed to pass our penence for a due reward. This will be our last game drive and we’re thoroughly done. In this rude call back to a world of defined calendar dates we now look forward to Selebi Phikwe and seeing Heidi and Herman again no longer yearning for the soft cocoon of a timeless wild existence. The Milky-Way has bid its farewell and the sun again rises to shine light on a world we could never avoid forever, and now, just now we’re ready for that cooked breakfast that is a return to the un-wild world. It’s a return to childhood for Charlie and for me now it’s a return to a place of security also. We’re metaphorically awake now and ready for a hot breakfast with our favourite Germans in Botswana, someone call Phikwe, we’re coming home.