Decided to dip into Kruger National park for lunch yesterday. The entrance gate is just 20 minutes from our gate so it’s an easy dip. We thought we might find fires raging, or at least the source of some of this smoke haze. Found instead a desolate landscape of brown dust and sticks coming out of the ground that are leafless trees. Nothing to burn here. In the wide landscape, elephants were floating along well worn paths like sailing ships – their ears unfurling sails. Dust baths have blended them with the landscape as they carry the red earth on the curve of their backs.
It was all so incredibly calming. Kruger has good roads and speed limits. The steady pace of the road rolling out before us; animals sleeping under trees; the sun on our faces and arms. Bright white-blue heavens spreading wall to wall force a slight screwing up of eye lids; soon the mesmerising effect of the passing landscape did the rest.
So often we pass cars in Kruger where the driver is all agog, and the passengers have slumped up against the windows; chubby cheeks sliding down the glass, forcing the sleeper to pull amazing faces at the passing traffic.
My favourite is when a big old bull elephant wants to walk down the road this way. The tourist and park vehicles line up but keep their motors running. These elephants have a sense of humour. The elephant towers over the saloon vehicles – they are looking at his knees. He swings his trunk idly, looping it over one tusk as if it is too heavy to carry today. His head swings with each step too, and ears fan back and forth gently cooling. He shows no sign of stepping off the road. Reverse lights come on like street lights at dusk. The guy in front is rubber necking, feeling trapped. The elephant has his number and gives him a ‘look’. Drivers start to exercise their synchronised reversing skills and the passengers are now wide awake.
The elephant keeps up a steady pace, body moving to the rhythm of the beat. He acknowledges that the cars have moved but never wavers, pressing onwards ever on. Some vehicles decide to turn and take another route. Some hold their ground; others get great photos without a zoom lens.
Finally, boredom arrives at the same time as a well worn path to a waterhole. Some pushing and shoving with the other bulls seems more appealing than herding cars. The giant animal eases off the tar and onto the path. He walks on, never faltering and never looking back.