We’re going on a bear hunt.
No bears in Africa. (Unless you count Ant Bears.)
Everybody knows that.
Or Tigers. (That’s a common misconception, lions and tigers don’t share jungle space).
Off on a Bush Whack.
Not a sedate amble along the dam, ‘Shall we head north or south?’
Neither, Husband says. Up the Hill, he says. For the view.
Because the flora and fauna change with the Rains, he says.
(Wish I hadn’t put my Birkenstocks on – not ideal hiking footwear).
So we walk. Swiping at thick scrub with sticks to cut a path through. The dogs are ecstatic, quickly getting high on a gamut of alien scents. The canine equivalent of the perfumery at Harrods.
The flora a constant distraction. (Come on, you two! urges Husband).
Look at this mum, look at this, Hat enthuses, look at my pretty leaf. The veil of crisp new green that veils the hill side is a million merging colour swatches. Did you know Africa came in that many shades? Dissect it and you’ll see: bottle green, olive green, lime green, dark green, light green, aquarium green, soft sage-green filigree leaves.
And all of it sprigged with surprising splashes of colour: brightly lit yellow chandelier blossom hangs from acacias;
appropriately festive red berries (“Are they edible?’ I wonder Husband tries one and spits it out, ‘bitter’, he announces. I watch him carefully for the next half hour lest he exhibit signs of poisoning);
Tiny violet flowers tucked shyly amongst rocks, nutty castanet seed pods which rattle cheerfully when I touch them.
The bush is resonant with sounds. Guinea fowl bossily organize one another for the night; mongoose talk too much; distant cow bells clang in that mellow dusty way that they do in Africa; Husband urges, again, ‘Come on you too’ and whistles for the dogs. I hear them long before I see them. They barrel, panting, through the undergrowth. ‘Careful of snakes’, I keep reminding Hat. She is too kind to say Stop Nagging.
So we climb and as we near the top I hear Hat above me, ‘Don’t turn round Mum, wait until you’re up here, the view is Splendid’.
And it was.
And we admired only briefly, clouds and sinking day sapping the light, and we slipped and slid our way back down and I cursed my Birkenstocks. Again.
And the light collapsed and the dogs began to lag.
And we got back on the faintest chink of pink sky. As if the heavens were watching our progress and kindly keeping a finger beneath the curtain of black.
They let it drop then.