October 08, 2012

A South African Adventure

Sometimes you just need a holiday. As much as I love going away for long weekends, going back home or hopping to a European country for a few days, it’s not the same as when you go really far away. Feeling out of the loop is a novelty these days.

Last Saturday myself and 4 other crazy ladies catapulted ourselves to South Africa. After pink champers in the taxi, we put on our safari hats and headed straight for somewhere that served more prosecco. Holiday mode is one of those rare moments where nothing actually matters. Well, until you get back of course, but that sort of chat is strictly banned from the table.

The flight was hideous. 11 hours of flying, bloating, having your ears pop and feet swell is no one’s favourite past-time but when you realise you’re flying over Africa it makes it that little bit more bearable. Landing somewhere a million times more different to the place you left never fails to excite me. The Lion King soundtrack on the iPod and a over measured G&T was the best combination for keeping up the excitement. Oh and a dribbly snooze.

We then climbed aboard a tiny aeroplane that genuinely reminded me of those ones you build out of polystyrene. Nothing adds more buzz to an adventure than the thought of plummeting at any moment. But we got there in the end. It always makes me laugh when you nod and say ‘thank you’ to the cool and casual pilot. What you’re really saying is ‘thank you for getting me here safely, after flying this dodgy metal thing through the air’. It’s actually a huge thing to thank someone for. The journey made it feel that little bit further away, and the more exciting it felt to be going there.

When we arrived at our destination: the Royal Madikwe Safari lodge, we were welcomed in a way that brought tears to our eyes. Five of the lodge staff sang a beautiful African song to us as we drove up the hill and it was so expected and so lovely. We got out of the car in a dazed act of love and sleep-deprived excitement we gave each of them a massive hug. We were so happy to be there.

The week was magical with safari drives every morning at 5.30am and then again in the afternoon. The temperature differed considerably as we put on our big socks and scarves for the morning and our barely-there-shorts for the afternoon drives. Nothing quite like a brisk morning drive with an alcoholic coffee to start the day. Much different from the boring Starbucks at my desk that’s for sure. We would pass a giraffe getting low at a watering hole, elephants scratching their bottoms on trees, rhino’s wondering around, zebras, kudus, impalas, to name but a few. We spotted a leopard, twice, after being told me most definitely wouldn’t. We also learnt a lot about bark. But that’s a whole different blog post.

Adam our ranger was awesome. Not only could he take a joke but he loved the animals and knew exactly how to approach them. We got really close to the lions and his excitement during a kill meant we were a bit frightened to be maybe a bit too close.  Nothing was too close for Adam who would carry on getting nearer even if it meant getting caught in between a hungry lion and a unsuspecting victim. But his passion for it was part of what made it so good. This was better than the David Attenborough stuff. We were there, right in the middle of it, in the wild. Of course the Lion King phrases were in full flow. Cue Rachel (when we getting a bit sad by the waterbuck wailing as it was dying): “it’s the circle of life”. It actually was.

Having elephants walk past the house never got old. We’d be sitting outside having our scrambled eggs only to see almost 30 elephants in a well formed line on their way to the watering hole. They’d even sneak up on us at the pool to drink from the reservoir and every time it was such a nice surprise to see them. Baby elephants made my day. Holding each others tails and get lost in the between the bigger ones.

We went to a bush party. A real life party in the South African bush. After thinking that we were maybe going to another lodge (with toilets for example) we set on our way. When we’d arrived, we realised we differently weren’t at a lodge, but in fact, the middle of the bush. A big expanse of land and a little fire. We started to get a little nervous at the prospect of lions, snakes and scorpions maybe getting a little too involved with our party. I didn’t really want to accidentally wee on a snake. Could we really relax and start drinking excessively? Yehhhh, we could. With in minutes, rangers from all over the park were radio’d in to the location and screeched to a halt as they drove as full pelt towards our spot. The fire was blazing and music started. A party in the middle of nowhere. It was liberating, scary and most of all – so much fun. To be somewhere so remote, with no rules, couldn’t be further from the life in London I had temporarily escaped from.

The only thing that saddened us about the trip was the rhino poaching we had been informed about. On our trips around the park we’d spot a few vans who were the anti-poachers, on the hunt to stop the awful poaching of the rhinos. After seeing the big beautiful rhinos in the flesh, it makes you even more sad and confused that this is going on. The fact that it may be as soon as five years for the rhinos to become extinct was the worst part. Why, for such selfish materialistic reasons could it be worth losing such an amazing creature forever? It baffled us. If you can, please buy a bracelet from here, and help the worthy cause. http://www.rhinoforce.co.za/

All in all, I’ve realised what a magical place South Africa is and how amazing the people are who we met that live there. Having a week far away from your normal every day life is so special and SO necessary. If anything just to remind you that there is other stuff going on other than your stuffy office job.

A very special shout out to the beautiful @meerajade who’s birthday we were celebrating out there. Lots of hilarious memories and bush banter that will stay with me forever. What happens in the bush, stays in the bush………

http://www.royalmadikwe.com/

ps. More photos on Instagram – follow me on emgan.

xx

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