We came upon it unexpectedly, as the sun was touching the treetops; just a slight depression and in it this pool of sweet water, generously pushed up from far below along secret little fissures and porous beds.
We checked carefully all round the hoof-muddied edge, but no sign of crocodiles dragging themselves out onto the banks to bask. The surface was as smooth as a sheet of glass, with just the occasional bubble that popped and sent out the faintest ripples, almost like a whisper too soft to hear.
Kgalamathe chopped off a young sapling with his machete and tied a piece of fish line to it and we were rewarded with a few small fish to go with the maize meal porridge and and, if we had any left, something or another from a tin. And, there was a special treat to come – washing off caked sweat and dust of the day’s walk.
I am dropping a short extract from Paths of the Tracker. you can check it out under Books. It is a typical scene at the end of the day’s walk.
They kept up the same hard pace through the afternoon with their hourly breaks. When the sun began to touch the tips of the tallest trees Henry mercifully pointed at a leafy clump of bush with “How about there for an overnight stop, Craig? I think if we dig in the right place in the little ravine we just crossed we might even find some water for a shower.”
Craig merely nodded eagerly. As long as they could rest, almost any place would have been fine for him. And they hadn’t eaten since their ten o’clock breakfast; hunger was like a monster in him. How the hell did people cope with that for days on end? From tomorrow he would keep some of the trail snacks in his small bag to nibble on. He wondered what Henry’s reaction would be if he offered him some. He smiled at the thought.
He was about to drop with his back against a tree trunk when Henry said: “Craig, I think those guys need some help with dragging up wood for the night and with bringing us some grass cut with the pangas to lay down on the ground to walk and sit on so we won’t get dirty after our shower.” Craig slunk off guiltily, realising that at previous rests he had unthinkingly left all the chores to the others.
Old Fernando and his askari was sent to go and dig for water. Henry set out the food ration for the evening with Vasco. Craig had to fill and set up their shower and sling their hammocks between suitably spaced trees. Henry did not string the warning fish line. There were enough people to stand guard through the night, he said, and he had Craig work out a roster.
By the time they had finished showering, the heat had evaporated a bit and a delicious coolness began to settle in. With the caked dust and sweat salt washed from his body, Craig felt refreshed, and he joined Henry on the grass carpet. They sat with their backs eased against the trunk of a huge tree – pushed over by elephant, Henry had said, pointing at the chewed-off roots.
Henry was silent and contemplative. Craig felt content just sipping his wine from the stainless steel goblet and watching the night slowly dim the flaming western sky to grey. Then the shapes of trees began to blend into formless unity, finally becoming intricately patterned black silhouettes against the starry glow. An even simmer of night sounds, occasionally lit by the brief glow of a night bird’s call or a jackal or hyenas’ howl began to fill the vastness beyond the black wall of trees.