Kruger Park wake-up call

  • Howard Feldman 2018
I woke up this morning to find that my family had left me. It was 05:20, and it was clear that they had exited in a hurry. Beds were hastily made, the kitchen was a mess, and my wallet lay open at the entrance table. All visible cash had been removed. They couldn’t have been gone long, as the kettle was still hot to the touch.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Jul 18, 2019

So, I made myself coffee (it seemed silly to waste the freshly boiled water), sat down, and contemplated what it all meant.

My family had gone into the Kruger Park, and left me alone in the chalet. For the day. And, as much as I tried to muster even a little outrage, if I was to be honest, I couldn’t be certain that it could get any better than this.

I had, after all, been banned from the Kruger the day before. Not by the park authorities, but by my family, who had determined that I was simply no fun to have around.

“Fun?” I asked. “How is ‘Stop! Go back! I think I saw something! Go forward! No! A little back. Back! Back! There! No, it’s a tree. But I’m sure I saw something,’ fun? In the history of ‘Go back … no forward!’ has an animal ever been sighted?” I pleaded.

That was my first warning.

The second came when we chanced upon a Kruger of cars, (the collective noun for a bunch of cars gathered around a rock, hoping it’s a leopard) and we asked what they were looking at. “Look across the riverbank,” said a kindly lady, no doubt judging us for not having any binoculars.

“After the first tree that looks like a unicorn, to the left of the rock that is shaped like Moses, and you will see two lionesses lying down.” The family were overjoyed. We had seen a lion. “Rubbish!” I said, not meaning to burst bubbles, but wanting to keep them honest. “Would any one of you stand up in court, raise your right hand, and swear, so help you G-d, that what you saw today was a lion – let alone two?” I thought my wife would be proud of me for taking that moment to talk about honesty, G-d, and the legal system. But she wasn’t.

All she said was, “You aren’t coming with us tomorrow.” Apparently, she meant it.

If there was a chance of her changing her mind, it was dashed at the lunch stop (at 11.30) when I couldn’t get the skottel (braai top) working properly. I’m sure it was faulty, but I could see my wife looking around at all the other families, and the fact that the other dads were braaiing with ease. I have never felt less of a man to my family. I know she didn’t mean to judge, but I could sense her thinking, “If he can’t even skottel, what use is he?”

It probably didn’t help that I laughed uproariously at our son, who thought the braai was called a brothel, not a skottel. Apparently, as a family, we don’t find this sort of thing funny. To be fair, this is the same kid who said we needed to go back to Viagra Falls. “What?” we asked him, my wife and I both unable to breathe, before realising he had conflated Niagara and Victoria Falls, not intentionally of course.

It’s not that I don’t like a game-reserve holiday like the rest of South Africa. But for me, it’s more about the tranquillity, the open spaces, the sounds, and the views. I love the sunrises, the air, and the different colours of the trees.

I feel G-d’s presence in it all, and I find that being here allows me to connect with my soul. I don’t even mind the animals – not really.

But I’m as happy to drive around and take in the beauty as I am to see the big five in a morning of driving. I love chatting to park visitors (most of whom look eccentric and bizarre to me), and to the wonderful staff you meet along the way. I also love being with my family, who are ridiculously serious about it all, but who I’m hoping will let me back into the car tomorrow.


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