My Many Miles To Mabuasahube
Plus many hours practicing MA-BU-A-SA-HU-BE and for successfully playing the sympathy card. But first we rendezvous at Melton Wold in the Karoo.
Planning a trip on short notice is very exciting. From the moment we decided, (during one of our long boozy lunches) that we needed a quick getaway it was all systems go to get organized. Firstly, finding a reservation in Botswana was difficult. Butch tried unsuccessfully. It was then that we called people in the know. We were advised to call the booking office at not a second later than 8h30. We have saved the two telephone numbers for the future.
With notepaper, pencil and a hopeful attitude we both had our fingers on the call button at exactly 29mins past 8. Success. The booking agents answered our calls.
Butch was online with someone in Tsabong and I had the other number, he was somewhere in cyberspace. No in Gaborone actually. A very nice and helpful young man.
I did employ every trick in the book and all my powers of persuasion but, soon realised I’d have to use my last resource. I did. The sympathy card. I mentioned, in passing, that my husband was ailing, that packing up and moving campsites every day would be tiring and very stressful. That did the trick and I could literally hear fingers flying across the pages in the large ledger as he flicked this way and that. Ten days it would be madam!
Under normal circumstances we might have preferred different campsites but beggars can’t be choosers. We did have a foot in the door. Three nights at the entrance gate and 7 nights at Bosobogolo.
Planning began immediately. Winter woolies, menus, groceries and extra blankets, duvets, winter sheets and my new electric hot water bottle. Sue and I shared meals and would be “on duty” every other evening and the following day we’d have the left overs for brunch. Coffee and rusks would do at first light. Then the cook would be off for two meals. This arrangement worked very well and I thoroughly enjoyed knowing I didn’t have to be in the kitchen at all for almost two full days.
Botswana has always had very strict rules governing goods crossing their borders which they enforce. No use trying to hide meat and vegetables in obscure places the officials know all the tricks in the book. Pre-cooked or processed products are fine. Strangely, wood is also allowed as no wood may be collected in the parks and none is sold in the villages we stopped at. We had to buy bundles in South Africa.
For the sake of convenience I decided to prepare many of my meals which I froze and would just finish them off when my turn came around. Suited me. Beef is of course one of Botswana’s prize exports and butcheries in towns close to the park will supply ones needs if orders are placed. We did place orders for steaks, boerewors and chilli bites.
For the first time in many years I started counting sleeps. The Honey Badger was in tip-top condition as we eagerly awaited the return of the custom made rims which had been returned to the manufacturer for X-rays and a guarantee that they wouldn’t leak air and cause us any hassles. Warnings were issued about the African roads (always a dicey business) and in the nick of time we had our wheels back.
Packed and ready to roll we were a day ahead of schedule. Butch offered to sleep in the truck but I put my foot down. No. If anyone was going to sleep in the truck it would be me. So the day dawned and we left our beautiful green valley to sally forth over the Hex River Mountains into the dry Karoo and North to the red sands of the Kalahari.
An ordinary journey turns into an adventure only when something unforeseen happens. Our trips are always an adventure. This time our road trip would be via Melton Wold, a hunting farm, near Victoria West.
Butch attends, as a co-host, one hunt in the Karoo annually. Clients, friends and colleagues are invited to join and it’s a male only outing. They even have a WhatsApp group going which is set up months in advance and as the weeks go the excitement is palpable.
I know it’s time when cupboards are flung open and the back pack, khaki bush gear is ripped from shelves and beanies, his moms hand knitted woollen socks are searched for. The old scarf, shoved into the back of a drawer is retrieved, ironed out and carefully placed on the “hunting” pile. He even goes off to the shops to buy a selection of sweets, nibbles and snacks for the day in the veld when he and a partner have to wait for the antelope to arrive.
With a goody bag chock-a-block filled with snacks and sweeties we were off. This time I would be breaking tradition by gate crashing this auspicious occasion. My nerves were shot. I was entering the Holy Grail of maleness. The place where men bond, tell lewd jokes, smear their faces with blood and eat the hot, fresh organs of the animal in celebration of the hunt. Barbaric. That’s the image I have. They’re so secretive one’s mind can do somersaults.
We set off just before the sun peeped golden over the Hex River Mountains and stopped for our traditional coffee at the first Wimpy in Beaufort West. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Everyone knows there’s a roadblock just before Beaufort West so it came as no surprise when we were flagged down. No problems we are always ready for this inconvenience. I resumed my crochet work and only looked up when the young traffic officer took a second glance at our license disc. He stepped back and returned to Butch with an announcement. Our license was due to expire at the end of the month. We were travelling in our grace period and would be required to display our new license soon. Did we have one? Nope we did not. Oops.
Our new springs had to be tightened too so we had a couple of errands to attend to. While the springs were being tightened, Butch made frantic calls to have a new license disc issued. Fortunately Percy and Sue, with the help of ladies at Butch's office, were able to attend to that. There was no way we could leave South Africa and enter Botswana without valid licenses. We praised the traffic officer all the way to the border, his ears must have been burning for days.
We caught up with the rest of the hunting party for lunch. Beef Fillet “hamburgers” are a tradition. Lunch would be at the top of a gravel pass with a clear view of the Karoo landscape below. Beautiful. A thicket of birch trees had lost all its leaves allowing for a thin warmth to penetrate and warm our faces as the crisp Karoo breeze tickled our noses, but, perfect for Hendrik who did a recce with his new drone.
On this one I’ll let the cat out of the bag. Working like a well-oiled machine the men set up a table in a jiffy and had all the ingredients neatly laid out. There was a lunch crew who had things nicely sewn up while the rest of the party stood around amiably sipping drinks, chatting and relaxing. The hamburgers were delicious. Perfectly grilled meat, crispy lettuce and tomato served with all the right condiments. The mop up crew swiftly packed everything away and rolls of kitchen towel, daily cloths were used to give every utensil, condiment bottle and the table a thorough wipe down. I was impressed. 10/10
A trip on a corrigated gravel road would not be extra ordinary if all went well, and sure enough, just before Loxton one of the vehicles got themselves a flat tyre. Praise be, this time it wasn't Butch's vehicle. He is jinxed when it comes to gravel, tyres and holes. I did an air punch and shouted YES forgetting how quickly the worm turns.
Melton Wold has a rich history dating back to 1838 when the first farmers acquired title to the land. Today the farm belongs to Willem and Ronel Vorster and in addition to being a game farm, Dorper and Meatmaster farming is done. While the hunt was on I had an opportunity to brave the inclement weather and venture out to visit the local school, tannery and almost made it to the diamond mine, but, lost courage as my eyes were smarting and I was feeling the cold.
Although the Manor house is very impressive, the outbuildings ooze character and the tree lined avenues suggest a time of oppulence and grandeur much of the charm has faded. My friend Tonkie who taught at the school and reminisced nostalgically about the wonderful years she'd spent on Melton Wold might be a little saddened now. But then it is winter and the Karoo never hides it's feelings.
At last the hunters returned, all smiles as they’d reached their targets and the shoot was a success. After freshening up we all met around the fire pit where tall tales were told, a prize giving was held and the mickey taken out of the young guns.
I have always wanted to be a fly on the proverbial wall and at last I had my chance. I loved it. The laughter, camaraderie, fun and games and easy banter was delightful. Heartfelt speeches were made commemorating the event, the fun times and bidding those whose swansong this was and would not return next year farewell. Fortunately these were hunters and not girls so the moment only lasted a fraction of time and I’m happy to report the men behaved beautifully ladies. Later we all enjoyed a traditional Karoo hunting meal together. Butch and I quietly slipped away after supper so that the men could enjoy their evening without having to consider me, the outsider. I didn't want to be the fly in the ointment.
On Saturday morning we all enjoyed a hearty breakfast together before setting off, ever North, but, not before I'd got a group photograph. We’d spend the night en-route and the next night we’d meet Percy and Sue who’d spent two glorious days with friends on Kanon Eiland on the Orange River.
We were almost there. At night the mercury dropped, but, I could switch on my new hot water bottle, bundle up in my flannel PJ’s, don my bed socks and wrap myself up in my down duvet and new crochet blanket. I had my Vankids all around me I was as happy as Larry. While sipping our mugs of hot, milky Milo Butch and I agreed “this is the life” before drifting off to sleep.
The “adventure” was only starting.