I have to admit that life in Africa is rarely dull. Of course, living in a city, life does get humdrum as it does in any other city in the world. But Africa offers amazing opportunities of getting away from city life and experiencing her wild side from time to time. Recently I had just such an opportunity. Endless adventures delighted us. Each time we ventured out there were new events, sights and sounds to experience. The smell of the rain as it swept across the valleys towards us, after a prolonged period of drought, was delicious – I believe I could even taste it, that smell. Here is a little tale of one of our many adventures. A simple tale, but I hope it gives you a taste of life in Africa and the excitement it can offer from time to time – and a glimpse of the imagination of the Creator as He shows us incredible creatures.
The day had been mild – blue skies, skudding clouds, clear views to the mountains. A day for adventure and we waited eagerly for ours to begin.
In the middle of the afternoon we set off at a leisurely pace, driving the dirt road to our destination. But even as the clouds of dust billowed from our tyres, so clouds of mist rolled in from the east and swirled around us in ever increasing density.
We were greeted with tea and tasty snacks and then, excitement growing, we clambered up the sides of the high vehicle to settle ourselves for the adventure that stretched before us.
The mist, at times almost light rain, swept across the hillsides. We left the main trail to penetrate the dense bushes on the side of the road. A rocky track wound through flowering ericas. Our guide stopped to show us the flowers. Red and yellow tubes, they are a favourite food for sunbirds whose beaks are the same shape; for the birds do not eat the flowers but sip the nectar, and their beaks collect the pollen to spread to the next plant they visit. The flowers were slightly sticky and waxy to the touch, protection, we were told, against the rain and heat. Breaking off the ends of little flowers we tasted the sweet nectar – heavenly food for tiny creatures.
We moved on; to be shown dung beetles and the composition of the dung they use as nests for their eggs and food for their young.
By now the mist had become light rain. There was little action among the animal population as they hunkered down in the rain.
My glasses were covered in fine droplets. I closed my eyes for a second – a second!
‘What was that?’ My companion’s voice was shrill with excitement.
The conversation revolved around the elusive cat-like animal that had run across the road in front of us and now defied identification. Wrong colour. Wrong ears. Wrong tail. I could not help for I had not seen it! For the rest of the time I made sure I kept my eyes wide open, rain or no rain!
The open vehicle swayed and bounced down the track to a small dam. There was much evidence of wallowing, rolling and digging in the damp banks that surrounded it, but nothing visibly enjoyed its gift of water on this wet afternoon.
And we drove on through the dim grey light along the red dust track to pause at another dam alongside the road.
We watched two geese on the roof of the bird hide, and as we did so, the water parted – and a hippo appeared, soon to be followed by its mate.
They settled back into the water, until only tiny ears and beady eyes were visible. We watched, entranced, hoping for further action; and we were not disappointed. The smaller one raised her head and yawned a yawn that could have swallowed Africa. Enormous jaws parted wider than our imaginations thought possible, and we laughed in delight at the amazing spectacle.
Time and again they submerged and rose. And then they moved – towards the far bank and the slope they used to leave the water. Slowly we drove towards their point of exit and once again watched, scarcely daring to breathe, as the female came up onto the bank, already grazing to satisfy her colossal appetite.
Perhaps no-one could say hippos are beautiful. But there is an awesome grandeur about the huge creatures when seen out of the water.
She took no notice of us. The male began to rise from the deep, grunting to her as he laboriously climbed the slippery bank and start his daily meal. We left them to eat in peace, each one of us marveling at the wonder of creation and the vibrant imagination of the Creator.
Such was our adventure and, as we drove back in the deepening darkness to our own meal, we were well content.