A bush break to enrich our souls … albeit without pillows

By Howard Feldman

Sibongile (Bongi to her friends), is worried about me. Yesterday she gave me a stern talking to … and in what was clearly an act of tough love, threatened to block me from calling Sanparks until I get back from next week’s trip.

“Your wife will be fine,” she said kindly. “You will be fine, “she said with some irritation. “And your marriage will survive this,” she said, maybe a bit unconvincingly.

I might not have created the best first impression when I asked her if the rondavels at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park have a turn-down service. Or when I enquired which line of complimentary luxury toiletries we as guest could look forward to enjoying for our bathing pleasure. “We use a green soap. And will leave it for you on your bed every night,” she answered.

For some reason she seemed unclear on the brand or if it was a hypoallergic product, but she did feel confident that it had not been tested on animals.

It seems further that I had misunderstood that “outside ablutions“ is not at all the same as the catalogues that picture an outdoor shower overlooking the savannah populated with an impressive array of wildlife. The man featured in the photo, is chiseled, is BMI appropriate and although we see him only from the chest up, it is clear that he is staring thoughtfully at a herd of elephant whilst lathering his ridiculously generous hair. He is the only human in the picture and the world is his to consider. 

An outside ablution is apparently quite different. And requires flip flops.   

“It’s not a problem,” says Bongi, and moves us to a rondavel with an indoor bathroom. The kitchen remains outside though, and she still is not prepared to offer me a turn-down service. If we want chocolates on our pillows, it means bringing them ourselves. Which makes sense considering we will be adding the actual pillow to our list. And down duvets, and bath sheets and toiletries and probably a blow heater.

I am reasonably confident that the rondavel will be unrecognisable by the time we have redecorated it.

It is that time of the year when many South Africans head to the bush. Some are animal lovers, while some of us are not.  Whereas my family can spend hours personifying and contemplating what a lioness might be feeling when busy with her cubs, I am much more interested in the types of people we will bump into at the coffee stand. While some can spend unrecoverable time driving in search of a sighting, I am more than happy to watch the empty landscape pass us by as I enjoy the space, the air and a reminder that there is more to life than Twitter.

This is why a break in the bush is so powerful. And important. It is an opportunity to connect with something that will enrich our souls and remove us from the sound of the generators: yet another question to ask Bongi when I call her back later. From someone else’s phone. As mine doesn’t seem to work.