Honey Badgers Don't Hibernate
I stopped laughing. My one redeeming attribute is that I enjoy a good laugh, some start deep in my belly, others I try to suppress as they tickle my spirit, but, on the whole Butch and I enjoy a good old fashioned chortle. When did merriment leave us? Sometime, I can’t pinpoint, probably during this crazy year. It went so surreptitiously that I didn’t even notice how disconsolate we’d become.
Of course, we can boil it down to stress, anxiety, uncertainty and unease AND the solstice. I think it’s because we’re like wild animals that have been fenced in. Elephant, wildebeest and zebra have migratory routes, they go where there's grazing and water. They might be territorial for a while, but the world is literally their oyster. Until we fence them off. I can’t say I blame them for jumping, stomping or bulldozing their way through these blockades.
For many weeks we stuck to every letter of the Covid19 law. It wasn’t easy. At 70, Butch had to spend every waking hour with one woman and all her eccentricities and routines. He saw me naked and unmasked. We pirouetted around each other mindful of personal space, navigating unchartered waters often silently. There were outbursts. Like wounded animals, we’d lick our wounds, become quieter, and submerge ourselves in our own thoughts. Our soft underbellies too vulnerable to open the can of worms.
One day he blurted out; “we need to get into the bush.” Of course, but it’s impossible. Fortunately, the thought was out there floating on a cloud. On the 10th May, a telepathic message floated by a friend. He plucked at it from the airwaves and mulled it over.
When the whiskey ran out and the weeks of isolation mounted and increased Butch rendezvoused with the Honey Badger (our Isuzu truck) to raid the booze cupboard. There it was, our beautiful Overlander truck, gathering dust and also chained. It looked so forlorn he reported.
One morning, while still dozing a friends’ mantra came back to me “I only have 17 good summers left” he’d say stomping his feet and clapping his hands. He pledged to live those years fulfilling their bucket list dreams. Prophetically that’s precisely what they had left. Martha passed away just before lock-down. She certainly had not lived her dreams. Our summers are on a countdown too. We must live them magnificently.
Out of the blue Butch received the invitation to drive the Honey Badger out to our friend’s farm to camp in a kloof on the sandy beach of a large dam. We’d still be isolating and not far from home, should we be questioned. Without a second's hesitation, we accepted.
Every weekend for five weeks Butch and I would count the hours before we set off on our secret weekend getaway. B L I S S. The hours were spent luxuriating in our freedom to enjoy nature, the changing seasons and the champagne days we have in the Boland.
A pair of African black ducks were our constant companions as they inquisitively paddled ever nearer to inspect us. With our binoculars on, we’d watch Verreaux’s eagles catching up draughts in the thermals as they went in search of dassies, klipspringers and duikers. Last weekend we spotted the beautiful orange-breasted Cape Rock-Thrush with his distinctive slate-blue upper body feathers. The Cape spur-fowl never became accustomed to us. They would screech and fly off every time we came trundling along. The pesky Egyptian geese are sure to take over the tranquil waters one day. We enjoyed daily visits from the Cape robin chat, Cape sparrow, Cape wagtail and familiar chat.
Our daily walks took us further afield into the Kloof, and we ventured down in search of rock art. I climbed a koppie to get a better perspective, to enjoy the quiet and to just for a few moments get away from it all.
We luxuriated in the freedom to explore, identifying leopard and baboon spoor. Sadly the elusive leopard never showed himself although he’d been spotted on the farm in broad daylight last week. A big, handsome creature he is too. The baboons took to the hills and kept their distance although I’m sure they had us firmly in their sights. On two occasions, I spotted Klipspringers and last week I was able to photograph three as they posed for my camera. I picked small tussi-mussies of fragrant indigenous flowers and leaves which I’d arrange in an empty olive tin for our table.
A few times, we treated ourselves to a box of locally produced products, seasonal vegetables and fruits, meat and bread from our talented local cooks and market producers coordinated by Tharina the inspiration behind Groenstoor. I poached guavas for pudding and dribbled blueberry sauce over yoghurt for breakfast. We tucked into decadent Almond croissants, crunchy Macarons with sticky fillings and my all-time favourite Pasteis de Nata with a perfectly spiralled, crisp, flaky pastry. I baked an easy three-ingredient Fruit Cake (recipe included).
As the days became shorter and colder, we’d cook up an Oxtail or make lasagna on the fire. We slowed down and took it easy. On only one occasion did we bring out the Rummikub and play a game.
We’d always have music in the background, causing me to shimmy to the rhythms. After supper, we’d curl up in our snug bed, read or watch a movie listening to the night sounds of nature and mountain water rushing down the furrow into the dam.
The sunsets were spectacular, and I couldn’t wait to get up early to see the mists rise and the sun break through the clouds rising over the Hex River mountains. The Glen Heatley mountain never disappointed. The changing light would make dappled shadows which went from sombre grey to golden russet in the late afternoon and blue in the morning. I was reminded that nature does not allow second chances. It’s unpredictable and ever-changing. We must make use of our opportunities when they present themselves. They’re not repeated.
Winter is upon us now. Our mountains were covered in a light dusting of snow last week, and we enjoyed our first winter rains. I’ve noticed Butch isn’t showering outside anymore when we camp. Vineyards are a spectacular kaleidoscope of oranges, yellows, maroon and red corduroy the land. Farmers have started maintenance work in the vineyards, and pruning has begun. Citrus orchards are covered in gold polka dots of ripening fruit. We’ve returned the Honey Badger to its den and hope we’ll be able to do a Namaqua meander in August when the spring flowers bloom.
On Saturday afternoon, with our sundowners and snacks laid out, and a huge bonfire blazing Butch sat down next to me and said something really, really, ridiculously funny, and I laughed and snorted. He joined in, and we hooted until my throat burned. For a while, all the melancholy left me. It was delightful.
P.S. I’ve just watched a short video of a lioness and her cubs passing through “our” campsite in Mabuasahube and, honestly, I could fall on my garden fork with envy.
THREE INGREDIENT FRUITCAKE (Perfect for camping)