« Where It Happened | Main | Chapter Six »

U3A Writing: Mabula

…As the flames slowly died away and night fell, a solitary porcupine wandered up to the stoep, looking enquiringly for morsels… Stella Leonard tells of a family gathering in the African bush.

A mild sun rose gently in the blue winter sky. It was another day in Bush Village, a sprawling encampment in the heart of Mabula. I was spending a few days with my family in the comfortable lodge, surrounded by bush, scrub, tall ochre grasses and winding trails leading into the game reserve.

The younger members, Kate and Dirk had just returned from an early morning game drive. Huddled in thick woolen jackets they enthused about rhino, elephant and gemsbock. Impervious to predawn cold and chilly winds, they had shared a Land Rover with other hardy souls, and experienced the thrill of nature coming alive to a new day.

We lesser mortals rose at leisure. Already the Ha de Daas, weavers, and hornbills were swooping and foraging for scraps as they gathered around the fig tree.

Appetizing aromas wafted from the kitchen. Breakfast appeared as if by magic, when Joanne, having prepared bacon, eggs and sausage, ushered us to the large oval table, where Kate was setting crockery. There were six of us, including my son-in-law Chris, and his father Norman. Dirk was my granddaughter Kate’s friend, and Joanne my daughter, looked after all our needs, while comforting herself with the occasional brandy.

These are the moments I look back on and treasure. Being part of a family again. Enjoying conversation around the table, and humorous banter between family members who have shared so many memories across the years.

Later we embarked on a short trip into Warmbaths where a rural type village market has been established just outside of town. Set on an embankment next to a meandering stream, the attractive wooden shops entice one to linger and look. Colourful beadwork, hand painted tablecloths, and crafts of all kinds are set out to tempt the eye. Behind the embankment, but still part of the village, ungainly ostriches wander over green verdant lawns. Overhanging trees cast shade in the well-tended park, which enchants like a small oasis of beauty in this bustling country town.

We had lunch in O’Hagan’s pub also situated near the stream, and relaxed in the tranquil surroundings.

Our few days together were full of simple pleasures. Norman introduced us to solo whist one afternoon, and we all lost our money to Chris. There was an enjoyable movie in the evening, and before retiring we relaxed with sundowners on the stoep. I also experienced the magic of modern technology, as Joanne contacted her daughter Niki by cellphone. Niki was traveling in Europe, and we received daily reports of life in Rome, Switzerland and London. Truly a modern miracle!

On our last day we rose early to take a two kilometre hike through the winding trail to Mabula Hotel. Autumn coloured leaves of russet and gold crackled under our feet. Birds flew lazily overhead as we scrambled over rocks and branches. I looked eagerly for wild animals but was disappointed. Suddenly Chris shouted “Look over there.’’ I followed his gaze looking down on the narrow trail. A large dung beetle ambled slowly across the path, unaware of our existence. It was the only highlight of our walk. At the end of the trail a wooden notice board informed us we were taking these adventures at our own risk. I shuddered, grateful that the oversized beetle had not attacked us.

That evening as shadows fell across the stoep, and a jackal cried in the wilderness, we savoured our last brai together. As the flames slowly died away and night fell, a solitary porcupine wandered up to the stoep, looking enquiringly for morsels. He was followed later by three bush pigs who squealed indignantly on discovering they were too late.

My wild animal sightings were disappointing, but then I never did go on a game drive. However, my real reason for being there – sharing time with the family – was fulfilling and satisfying. And having some one cook for me, well that was something else again!


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.