Sunday, November 18, 2007
Mrs B-Day and a night driver to remember
Today is Mrs Blog's birthday plus-one here in Safari land and, let me tell you LOF, there is not a lot of movement in the bushveld.
A cast of thousands (well, 23) gathered here in Preotoriuskop Camp to celebrate Mrs B's significant chronological milestone (we don't mention the number, itself, out loud). Party pictures may be posted in the near future - subject to approval by the birthday girl and laws regarding nudity on the web.
There was Jane, aged 23-and-a-bit; Di The Leopard Whisperer (DiTLW - so named because her snoring once attracted the noctournal amorous gruntings of a male leopard in a remote campsite in Zimbabwe - true story); that doyen of aged drug-addicted punk musician wastrels, The Barman, and The Barmaid, who also turned 40 (oops, sorry), the day before Mrs Blog; Brother-in-law Book, looking like a cross between a Columbian drug lord and 70s pornstar with his "Movember" facial hair; Mother-in-Law Blog; Mother Blog and Ali G; Colonel G (an army buddy of mine); and my glamourous, well-read, brainy, stylish, financially-independent, single publisher, C and her lovely kaftan-wearing sister, L; to name but a few.
The night before the birthday (I may fall asleep, hungover, at the keyboard before we get to the actual bash, so stay tuned) Mrs B and I organised a Kruger Park night drive for all the guests.
This was a high-risk event, LOF, as Mrs B and I have been on more than our share of long, cold, boring night drives over the years, however sometimes you strike it lucky.
Not so the three other people (two of them dour-faced Dutch ladies) and another gentleman, who rolled up to the Pretoriuskop filling station, definitely out of luck, to find they would be sharing the 23-seat national parks game viewing vehicle with 20 drunken loud-mouth Australians.
Mrs B went through the motions of trying to shush the crowd, but once the first champagne cork bounced off the roof there was no turning back. A group setting away from home brings out the worst in any nationalitly, I find, and Australians are no exception to this rule (in fact, I think we wrote the text book regarding drunken obnoxious behaviour abroad).
Well, LOF, our captives - I mean fellow passengers - could have stepped up and joined the party, or remain fixed in their seats with arms folded, lips pursed and disapproving scowls branded on their faces for the entire trip. The ladies chose the latter.
Anyway, we set off into the late afternoon, the breeze through the open-top vehicle providing a little relief from the still-strong heat. Mrs B raised her highly attuned little nose and said; "Smell that? Elephant."
I nodded, as I always trust her olfactory judgements - even though to me it smelled like a two-day-old lion kill, to me - perhaps a buffalo carcas, I mused silently.
"Cheese and bikkies?" asked DiTLW, who was sitting in front of us with Jane, aged 23.bit. DiTLW and Jane, 23.bit, have been bunking together during the trip and are, in the eyes of the Kruger National Park, officially a "couple" in terms of their entry permit - something that caused their first outburst of hysterical laughter, which has not abated for four days.
DiTLW, like Mrs Blog and me, is biologically old enough to be Jane 23.bit's parent, though DiTLW is, as they say in the classics, young at heart, or, as Jane 23.bit put it; "She's great - I thought that I was, like, going to be the immature one until I met Di!"
As I accepted the proffered biscuit and cheese Mrs B looked at each other. We had both been wrong, but the cheese tasted quite good - dead elephant odour notwithstanding.
The deteriorate of our relationship with our fellow Dutch passengers was most definitely not helped, LOF, when Colonel G saw the first rhino and barked, in a voice that would have set a regimental sergeant major's a heart a-flutter; "STOP!"
The driver faga-ed ma-brakes-i (came to an abrupt halt) and those who weren't in the brace postion suffered spinal injuries.
DiTLW and Jane 23.bit shrieked as their box of crackers slid off laps and the aforementioned stinky cheese (and I do not exaggerate here) flew into the air, over the shoulders of Mrs Colonel G and landed, with a malodourous "plop" in the lap of one of the dour-faced ladies.
She looked, in horror, at the piece of legalised mould sitting in front of her. For a moment even Jane 23.bit and DiTLW were silent as the woman lifted it, gingerly, as though she might die of framage poisoning, and tossed it back.
What could have been a jocular ice-breaker was, in fact, the nail in the coffin that buried any chance whatsoever at all that these ladies might enjoy themselves....
On the upside (and there is always an upside on the Park Safari) the drive turned out to be the best we'd had in 12 years of travel in Africa. We saw:
- lions (two males and then, later in the night, a posse of lionesses out shopping for meat)
- rhinos (by the score, or so it seemed)
- spotted eagle owl
- and, to top it all off, a leopard.
Age is an interesting thing. I am three years older than Mrs B and while she was concerned - quite rightly, I suppose, in her mind - for the well-being of the cheese-spattered ladies, I couldn't care less. If people choose not to have a good time, that is their problem. No one on the birthday safari was rude or abuse to them (though the cheese incident may constitute assault in some jurisdictions). One of the great things about getting older is not giving a F*%$ about lots of things.
Interestingly, too, some of the most raucous behaviour and inappropriate commentary during the drive came from the back seat, which was filled, to capacity with Mother Blog, Ali G, their travelling companions M and A, and several empty bottles of white wine. Good on them, I thought, though I did have to lower my head behind DiTLW's when Mother Blog started shameless flirting with the driver/guide.
Still, a fun time was had be all - well, most.
Mrs B likes lions, so here are a couple we saw on the night drive.