We’ve just been invited away for a weekend in the bush by friends and I’m desperately trying to think of an excuse not to go. It’s not that I don’t love the bush. Who doesn’t? Or, more precisely, who would be brave enough to admit it? No, it’s just that I’ve seen it all over the years and can’t think of a single reason why I would want to spend yet another weekend bouncing around in a vehicle that doesn’t seem to have been fitted with springs in search of elusive animals for four hours at a time. Not when there are perfectly good DVD’s and TV programmes which bring the whole experience (sans the smells) into the comfort of your living room.
Let’s look at this practically. You spend at least six hours driving to a swanky game lodge with the last hour spent traversing perilously dodgy roads. You arrive at the lodge and the first thing they ask you is whether you would like to go on the game drive at four o’clock. That’s just after they’ve given you a glass of fruit punch and a wet flannel. What you really need after the long journey and the dreadful dirt road is at least one large gin and tonic. Not wanting to offend you say, yes, you would love to go on the game drive with a whole bunch of foreigners who’ve never ever seen an impala. What you really want to say is that you’re knackered after the journey and you’re paying a king’s ransom for the room so you want to get full value for money. Forget the night drive…..would it be possible for the lodge staff to shoo some of the more photogenic animals across the horizon just as the sun is going down? I have tried this and the suggestion was met with such looks of disbelief that it made it all worthwhile.
So, unless you have a sick note from your Mum there’s no getting out of the game drive. If you’ve done this before you know the routine. The ranger will be wearing impossibly tight shorts just in case there are any single women present and he’ll give you a quick talk about safety before he drives off and revs the vehicle in front of an angry buffalo. For the first hour you’ll bounce around in great discomfort looking at the rear ends of various types of buck. The ranger, meanwhile, will have assured you there was a leopard kill at this very spot last night just to keep your interest up. After another hour of the rear end of buck he will stop suddenly and get out to break up a pile of dung and sniff it. If you listen carefully you will hear the earpiece crackling in his ear telling him there are elephant half a kilometre away.
Sure enough, you discover elephant in the next ten minutes and the foreign tourists click away with their cameras. Then it’s drinks at the waterhole and a chilly, uneventful ride back to the lodge for dinner. Be honest….wouldn’t you rather watch an hour of the Discovery channel instead and spare yourself all those insect bites?