Last night we met some friends for sundowners at a waterhole in the middle of the reserve. We greeted each other like long distance travelers although in truth we were an hour away from each others camps in either direction. We settled down on a fallen log to chat and listen to the evening. The log was plastered in hard grey mud from the regular back scratching of mud caked warthogs. The sculptural form of our bench allowed for a three way seating position, so gals could chat and sip wine while the soft light fell around us. Pearl spotted owlets called pure rising notes, and the half moon took over the daylight shift with ease.
‘Right lets pack up and head back to camp’. We were the visitors so we let the others set off first in their open land rover, spotlights raking the darkness on either side searching for night creatures. We hung back. We lost them pretty quickly. We stopped to listen but there was only the silence of night – which is not silent but filled with nightjar calls and a sudden snort of a wildebeest standing unseen in the shadows.
So we took a guess, and turned right, then left, then right. The track swung around and tried to disorientate us in unfamiliar country. I watched the stars; the Southern Cross hung low on the horizon so we could see we were heading west towards a big bright planet which I have since found out is Jupiter. We stayed on this bearing, the woodland yielding no secrets on either side of the track. Left, right, right, left, oh err – ok left….Ha! We found the place – clever us. Their power was off so there were no lights to guide us.
We gathered in the cosy kitchen, lit by candlelight, while culinary artists posing as friends whipped up a feast of flavours. Outside the moonlight threw shadows over the silver sands of the river bed. A male waterbuck appeared at the edge of the pool, and then vanished again. The shadows held promises of unseen eyes all around us.
After the heady feastiness of dinner, our lovely hostess (who I thought I knew) brought out a song book and spoke of a song she had found. ‘How come you have a song book in camp? Who does music here?’ I ask clumsily. “Oh we all do” oh! She moved across to the old upright piano which had two candles in its very own brass candle holders. Lifted the lid and began to play. Now there I was thinking it was an artfully placed piece of décor. I never knew this about these friends.
Soon her husband brought out his drum and was beating out a lively rhythm. One by one, everyone gathered in the pool of candle light around the piano – with our hostess’s fingers flitting over the ivories like fairy dancers. Old old lovely songs from the fifties and before. Funny how we even knew some of the words. We sang along drawn into the lively energy of the surprising event. It was a timeless scene and took me back to somewhere lovely in my mind.
It grew late. Reality knocked, and we had to leave. We drove back through the reserve in the fading moonlight. The moon became an amber smile dipping to the tree line, showing its teeth in the still waterholes. We saw two rabbits and a mouse along the way, but plenty of trees pushed over the road by elephants, and fresh rhino middens. Two hours later we were home. The candlelit evening stayed on as a warm place inside.