We get down from the dock stoked from the boat ride and spectacular sunset. Our captain motions for us to follow him into the admin camp so we can settle up with the Boss Lady for the sunset tour. “Maybe you pay afterwards in case there’s a giant elephant blocking the way out.” “Ha! Ya, I suppose so.”
We make our way back to XA-9 and get the camp in working order. The mattress Jamie left out is somewhat dry and doesn’t look to have been fucked with by any animals. He stacks it back in the truck while we start getting a meal together. We’ve restocked the truck fridge and freezer with some new food options from the grocery store and Kalahari Butcher Shop in Maun.
“Whaddya think about making another stew?” “Definitely. Kudu Stew…do?” “Voodoo Kudu Stew?” “<CajunVoice> Down on the Baaaaaiiiyoooou </CajunVoice>. If it’s anywhere as good as that ostrich stew we made by Orange River it’ll be amazing.” “Ya, we’re killing it with these camp meals, eh?” “Just nuking it.” “Too bad we don’t have any Campari to make a Brosé!”
We chop up some potatoes, carrots, and onions then prepare the Kudu meat we picked up. We’ve got some stock. Got that big pot. Got a bottle of Pinotage. Some bread. Yep, it’s coming together nicely.
We put together a little charcuterie plate with pâté, smoked gouda and some goat cheese from Fairview. Grab our steely porn cups and make a round of whiskey with the Stoney ginger beers from Third Bridge while dinner is heating up on the fire. Excited for the Kudu Stewdu. This camp life is dope.
We settle in with the drinks waiting for the stew to cook. The sun is down and it is capital D, dark out here by the Delta. A single lantern at the neighboring camp a hundred yards away and that’s it as far as you can see. No light pollution out here. No nothing. Peter sets up the camera for a long exposure of the night sky. Never seen so many stars at night as I have on this trip.
There are a bunch of odd sounding birds and insects, some animal rustling in the brush on the edge of the water. Doesn’t sound too big or scary. The senses are definitely heightened to all of the goings on.
“It is very, very dark out here.” “Yep. Lots of weird noises in the dark too.” “Some lightning bugs over there.” “Oh yeah. That’s cool.”
We toss on some music. It’s all over the place, starting with Baroness and eventually getting to Miike Snow. “Where’s Kandy Kamp?!” “Seriously.”
Dinner comes together and it is a flavor TKO yet again.
The Kudu isn’t too chewy. Veggies are melty. Good broth. I’m not gonna say it tops our outstanding ostrich stew but it is damned good. The pinotage is nice with the game meat too.
“Voodoo kudu stew!” “We need some hot sauce. Every place has great hot sauce but the grocery stores.” “Ya too bad we’re out of that Fairview green stuff. Gotta keep a look out for that.” “Shoulda grabbed a bottle of the Old Bridge stuff.” Mark points his spoon at the neighboring camp, “What’s up with those guys?” “Oh yeah. Animal in the camp?”
The other camp are scanning like crazy all over the site. Half a dozen folks with headlamps all looking around for something. Some sitcom timing and an elephant trumpets in the distance. All the lights shoot off in that direction but it’s way too far away.
“Pffffft c’mon. That’s ridiculous.” “Maybe they’re surrounded by hyenas?” “Looks like they’ve got a couple little kids over there…”
Closer than the elephant comes a guttural roar. “Ahh that’s not an elephant.” “What is that?” “I don’t know. What does an angry hippo sound like?” “Maybe a leopard?” “Jesus, that would be scary.” Mark is still watching the other camp, “They are searching all the trees over there with their headlamps. Ya maybe a leopard.” “Fuck, I hope not! That would be terrifying.” Jamie points to the tree beside us, “A leopard in the tree right there… jeeeezuz!”
So this is our dinner time entertainment. Watching the other camp freak out about something and listening to some unidentified animal roar over our house music. The fire isn’t as bitchin as I’d like it to be seeing as it’s our main animal deterrent. “Not great wood, eh?” “Nah. They probably collected it while we were out on the boat.” “At least we have some I suppose. It’s too long and not dense enough to make a decent fire though.” I try to beef it up with minimal results.
“Ooh lights out over there!” “Uh-oh. Headlamps up in the trees again.” “Damn. Most be worried about a Leopard or something.”
There are more roars. Eclipsing the chirpy birds and trilling insects. Hard to tell how far away it is. Or what it is. “Doesn’t sound like the Jurassic Park lion roars we heard back at the reserve in Etosha.” “Ya, no idea what that fucking is.” “This is the makings of a horror movie!” “Oh yeah, can’t wait to take a leak. Get my fucking dick ripped off!”
I get up to make another drink. Drisdelle comes over with his vape pen and offers it, “Ganja?” “This thing still kicking?” “Yeah, I brought multiple cartridges.” We’ve basically been drinking since Third Bridge and have a tidy buzz on the go now. Getting high seems like a super good idea. “Fuck it. Not like we’re in a terrifying situation that I need to be alert for, right?” “Exactly. It’s nice out here.”
It is nice out here. Middle of no where with whack sounds in every direction… wait what’s that? Peter sees it too. He stands up and points to the bush by the waters edge right next to the camp. A set of eyes slides to the right out of sight. Sheeeeeeeiiit! “Eyes! Red fucking eyes! Right over there.” “What?!” “Yep, cats eyes. Nope. Fucking nope, fuck no.”
And all in unison we jump up and run to the truck. Slam, Slam, Slam and we’re all in. Only three doors? Oh, I’m basically on Peter’s lap in the front.
We’re scanning out the windows. “Where’d it go?” “Dunno. What do you think it was?” “Leopard or wild dog maybe?” I managed to bring my wine with me, that’s good. I take a sip. “Shit. Break out the spotlight?” “Hrrm, good idea.” Look over at Drisdelle, “Glad we got stoned for this shit.” “Haha ya totally.”
We fire up the spotlight and beam it across the area where we spotted the eyes. “Don’t see anything.” We keep at it for a bit but don’t spot anything. Ahhh… but then it does glint off something reflective in passing. “Over there, over there!” “Ya fuck, there is something.” Scan scan. Scan the other side. Hard to tell what’s going on or if there’s anything out there.
“Alright, I’m getting out.” “There’s stir-crazy and then there’s just crazy, Jamie.” “It probably ran away.”
Jamie pops open the truck door and hops down. He takes a few cautious steps towards the edge of the brush, scanning into the darky dark darkness. And then he leaps back in fright, “Holy SHTI! it’s right in front of me!” and splits off instantaneously back towards the truck. He gets in and slams the door again. Mark is manning the spotlight over to where he just came from. Jamie’s breathing hard from getting up close with the beast, “There’s more than one. Small though. Not a leopard. Maybe wild dog or hyena.”
Mark is panning right, right, around where Jamie was freaked, “Ahhh here we go.” Yep there is more than one. Cat or dog eyes. Shadowy forms on four legs stalking us from the camp periphery. “Actually dude, there’s some over by the water too.” “Oh yeah, look at that. Look like hyenas, right?” “Yeah, I think so. Similar in shape to the striped ones at the reserve.” “Aren’t they supposed to have this creepy laugh sound or something.” “Well these ones are quiet as fuck… and I’d say we’re surrounded.” “I guess the good news is… if they’re around, something worse probably isn’t. Right?” Peter’s nodding, “I can get behind that logic.”
We wait it out a bit and our fear level subsides quickly. It’s just hyenas. “They don’t attack, do they?” “Maybe if they’re desperate for food or there’s easy prey? Not sure.” “We’ve got a machete. I think we can take them.” “Plus the need for more drinks is strong.” “Agreed.”
And soon we’re back stoking the fire, listening to ambient house tunes again, and having a scotch and soda. Only problem now is that the same bird has been going off like a metronome for hours. 120 bpms. Repeat. For hours. Same note. I dislike this bird.
We start getting deeper into the sauce and then Peter, out of nowhere, enlightens us with this tidbit:
“Has anyone ever farted into another person’s ass?” We all start laughing and scoffing and laughing and mostly “Pffffft dude. What the fuck?” “Well not you guys. Just generally.” “Seriously man, why are you thinking about that?” “Are we talking, like, through the jeans? Or naked, butt to butt…” “Ohh… ya, in my head there were pants on.” “Oooookay. I’m gonna stop thinking about this immediately.” “Call Mackay, he probably knows.” Hahahahaha
The other camp seems to have settled down now too. “They probably went through exactly what we did.” “Oh yeah. That’s right. Probably did.” “Let’s go over there!” “Yeah! Meet the neighbors. See what happened.”
So we all get a roadie and a weapon of some sort. Machete, kitchen knife, tire iron, pocket knife. And we start making our way. This looks like a bad episode of Elder, Stranger Things, us walking off into the dark between camps.
Once we get out of the range of our camp fire light our pace slows down as the fear collectively sets in. We’re whispering for some reason. “Oh shit! You see that.” “Yep. No thanks.” “What?” What was it.” “Something massive just came out of the water over there.” There is a large shadowy creature emerging from the water. Hippo, buffalo, or elephant most likely. And just off to the right… hyena eyes. Probably. “I’m out. Let’s go back.” “Yep.”
We get back and put the rest of the wood on the fire. Peter grabs the camera and takes a look at the pic he set up. It’s a beauty.
Mark and Jamie dip out and Peter and I stick around for another scotch and soda night cap. That metronome bird is still tic-tocking it up.
Peter’s looking up at the stars, shaking his head and thinking about what just happened. “Well, that was a hell of a day.” “Yep. Crossed a bunch of sketchy bridges. Saw a bunch of cool animals. Almost got stomped by an elephant. Caught a rad sunset. Got freaked out by… hyenas I guess.” “Yep, now it’s time to just gaze at the giant clit in the sky and have yourself a bush wank.” “HAhahahAHa you are on one tonight, man. What the hell?” “Ya, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, honestly.” “Been on the road for a month and getting loopy.” “Yaaaaa. It’s fun as fuck though. “It is. Really is.”
We call it a night after our drinks, clean up camp a tad so the animals don’t mess with our stuff, and shut the truck down. I climb up the ladder to the attic and Mark stirs as I crack the zipper open. And right on queue a lion roars from somewhere off in the distance. “Yep. There’s that.” “Africa is crazy.” “Hopefully Chobe will be nuts.” “Ya, looking forward to that.”
I’m in and out of sleep. I trade time being fixated on the fucking metronome bird. At one point I wake up and, oh shit, it finally stopped. The heightened senses hear footprints from some animal in the grass outside the truck…