When I brought the binoculars to my face and the elephants swam into near view, I imagined I could hear the sounds of slaking a thirst, a firehose gush, a filling of bucket-empty-bellies.  The smaller of the herd – and half were young – marked the depth of the dam; they waded out and used their trunks as snorkels, disappearing clean beneath the surface.

But when I lowered the glasses to my lap, the sound was silenced as the view filled my vision.

The valley spills away beneath me, tips towards the savannah which is scorched by drought; I can see the ribbon trails of the tread of game. Sometimes they fray with dust behind the weary walk of a herd of zebra, a trio of eland who hang their heads and whose haunches are growing sharp. 

The blur of hills that cup this valley, like a hand to an ear, funnel the sounds, an amphitheatre cast to amplify acoustics. I hear birds and the boil of cicadas whose buzz simmers through the bush.

Later, when the day tips to evening in the galloping way it does in Africa so that you must locate a torch earlier than you think for you’ll need it; when that curtain drops, there is just a blackness punctuated by moth-holes of brightness punctured by a trillion stars. If only cloud would extinguish their light, you think. If only there could be rain.

The near grunt of a lion makes me jump. Later it will be joined in argument by the the rest of the pride so that I know they are fighting over the best place at a kill. Soon stereo sound is all around and will roar into my sleep and prey on my dreams and I will wake thankful that my tent is firmly secured and not flapping open to the black (and big cats) as I dozed.

And in the morning, in the valley, where the water is a looking glass to the sky, there will be a fresh litter of bones picked bright white and clean. The lions are done with whatever remains of a buffalo. And the vultures almost are.

And as we drive home, threading our way through the bush on ochre-roads whose edges are laced with thorn frilled in bridal white I think that in this secret, still place, where the shrill sound of the ether can’t penetrate, I think that in that brief silence I could collect thoughts?

One Response to “Mkomazi”

  1. solwhere Says:

    Beautiful photos! And your words are perfect – I can almost imagine myself there

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