We drove down the hill using the diff lock. It was a hill I would have struggled to walk down, never mind venture down in my little car. But we were not in my car. We were in a powerful vehicle with all the capability of coping with such a steep slope.
It was rough going. The people in high back seats of the game viewer were having a hard time hanging on. But we crept down the hill, ducking branches to left and right, peering over the brow of every steep downhill step, inching our way to the bottom.
A river bed awaited us. Packed with large stones, it was an easy crossing on this day when rain had been scarce throughout the summer months. The few millimetres which had fallen earlier in the week had soaked into the thirsty soil and caused us no problems.
We bumped across the stream. I had seen it on other days –gurgling its way down the valley – and once in a torrent after a heavy storm. But today it was dry. No chance of a drink for thirsty animals here, then.
We continued through rough scrub and flowering bush – the colourful bushes offering food for skittering sugar birds with their long tails and sun birds with their crimson or orange breasts. Vibrant colours in a sea of green.
Around a corner, along the flat valley floor, the valley changed and opened up without warning into a lush plain of grass and meadow flowers. We spotted giraffe behind a clump of bushes, their stately heads high above the branches. They stared at us, undisturbed by our presence. Aloof, at home in this place that was theirs. We were the visitors here. We stopped to watch them, awed as ever at their grace and beauty. They did not turn to see us go when we moved on, but continued with their meal, pulling leaves and twigs off the succulent tops of the shrubs that surrounded them.
Further on, we found zebra, wildebeest and a couple of young male eland. Each animal stopped eating for a moment to gaze at us, then continued to chew on their lunch. Hungry by now, we ate our own, watching the beauty of the place, drinking in the silence and the isolation.
All too soon we needed to leave, to climb the steep hill back to civilisation. But there were moments in that secluded valley I will revisit in my mind when life gets too busy. Moments of silence and calm; moments of grace and beauty; moments which heal the frazzled soul.
Thank you, Lord, for such moments.