So here's the thing. I know it's not going to make me popular but I'm going to say it anyway. I don't like the bush. The only reason that I can think of for this apparently highly unpatriotic act is that I am a Cape Town boy through and through and the bush is completely foreign to me. I know Mother Nature as a freezing blue ocean and a mountain not a stretch of flat land harbouring animals with murderous intent.
So the Clark's headed off to the Kruger Park for the school holidays. Because I am a wuss and I am afraid of being eaten alive we eschewed the bush camps and started off gently by booking into a hotel just outside the park. My understanding being that the animals stayed in the park and we would be staying out of the park. A healthy compromise in my view.
Imagine my surprise then on arriving in our chalet to find a notice taped to the fridge warning me to watch out for hyena's, snakes and leopards all in the hotel! The Lovely Jacs (TLJ) assured me that it was merely precautionary and that it was clearly never going to happen that I would bump into any of the aforementioned killers.
Not at all reassured I stepped out of the chalet door and down the path to fetch a bag only to step into what is referred to in bush terminology as "animal sign". In my house we call it poop. My 3 girls; the Moose, Mackers and Sizzles, were thrilled that an animal had been right outside our chalet and set about trying to guess what it was from the contents of the "animal sign". My question is this: what is it about the bush that suddenly makes it acceptable to poke around in somebody else's poop with a twig. I mean you don't do that at home. Do you? I would consider it a personal invasion of the highest order to have someone poking around in my animal sign only to shout out "Knew it - Nandos burger, extra hot and chips. It was dad!"
Things didn't actually get much better when we finally made it into the bush the next morning although on the plus side I now know why they call it the bush. Because that is all there is out there. After 2 hours my entire family claimed to have seen several different species of bird, antelope and 4 of the big five. Why must people lie? And why must they lie to the people they love the most? I was in the same car as the rest of them and all I had seen was several million variations of the same bush. To make matters worse I also lost my roll of Mentos when they all fell under the seat when one of the liars in my car shouted unnecessarily loudly "Leopard!" Stupid non-existent leopard in the stupid bush. Stupid Mentos. Why are they so small?
After driving around looking at bushes for a million and a half years TLJ suggested that we stop for breakfast at a nearby breakfast spot. What was most alarming about the breakfast spot was the fact that it was not surrounded by a ten foot concrete wall topped with machine guns and sentries and an electric fence. It was just an open place with a shop and some picnic tables overlooking a crocodile infested river strategically placed by the side of the road in the park. The picnic tables were a particularly nice touch I felt. I mean if a lion is going to stroll into the rest stop to eat a tourist or two, the whole picnic feel just makes it a little more classy and fun. Let's face it, who can resist a picnic.
What I want to know is this: who is the moron who tells you in very big bold font as you enter the park - stay in your car at all costs because if you get out you are dead - and then in the same breath suggests to you that it's a great idea to get out of your car to have a cup of tea or maybe to fry up an egg and some bacon on a rented skottle in the self-same bush. I mean, am I missing something here? Is there some bilateral agreement between the animals and park officials on this issue or some imaginary line that the animals can't cross and all know about that I don't? Do the animals consider it bad form to eat a German tourist at a rest stop? Is it not sporting? What is the deal?
Needless to say I stayed in the car to guard the car while everyone else went to the loo and had an ice cream. Mostly I was guarding the car but I also didn't trust the way that a rather big vervet monkey was checking me out. I'm pretty sure he made a throat cutting gesture right before he fondled himself rather inappropriately. I didn't want an ice cream anyway.
As if all the animals that I didn't see that wanted to eat me weren't bad enough I was also nearly killed by a stupid tree. The one evening we were staying at Skukuza and the girls were running around collecting some massive seed pod things from the so called sausage tree. I had never heard of the sausage tree and to be fair wasn't even aware that the massive hard as brick pods that my girls were collecting were from a tree. I just thought the staff scattered them about in the mornings to make the place look more African. At about the exact moment that I was reaching over to turn my chops on the braai a massive pod dropped from the tree above me and landed no more than a foot away from me making a sizable dent in the rock hard ground. I'm not going to lie to you. I may have animal signed in my shorts.
At the end of the day we survived the Kruger. Everything that tried to kill me failed dismally. I didn't see any animals but I saw a lot of bush. The kids and TLJ had a great time and want to go back next year. I want to go to Syria. I'm pretty sure it will be safer.
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