Back at the vehicle after days of drifting through the bush is like being six years old again in front of the sweets counter in the corner café – remnants of wine and snacks, a chair, a table (the food box lid), a warm shower (if you want), clean clothes (washed and sunned by the camp attendants), even different clothes for sleeping in, tweezers! (for finally pulling that irksome thorn).
Yes, a gentle repose, and later, when the sweets lust had been sated and the essential body maintenance done and the fire had calmed to a glow of coals with just the occasional lazy flame, then a slow reach for tomorrow, perhaps.
Here’s a short passage from The Wanderers about arriving back in camp. This was a more permanent camp on the Zambezi, which we had borrowed from a safari operator working in the area.
We were finally back in the main camp on the Zambezi. It almost felt like some sort of destination.
There was something extravagantly luxurious about being surrounded by such a profusion of conveniences after living at “ground zero” for so long. We had a slow warm shower with enormous quantities of water that Nelson had warmed on his cooking fire to just the right temperature, letting the water soak into the thorn cuts and the cracked skin. Then that clean towel, and the crisp feel of a clean shirt and shorts – my clothes had become stiff and shiny from accumulated dirt and sweat, and they were so tattered from the ravages of the African thorn veldt that I simply discarded them – to the delight of Lost Soul, who happened to be closest to my hut when I undressed.
We took up position (in chairs) at the fire, each with a (reasonably cool) beer we felt we were justified in pinching from Stephan’s precious stock, to watch the sun die in vast crimson and orange and purple over the upstream reaches of the Zambezi. Nelson didn’t even bother to call us to the table. He simply brought us a tray each (just a crude plank) at the fire with our food – a buffalo stew with some vegetables that he had miraculously brought to reasonable palpability.
Afterwards we sat quietly in the pale light of the half moon, listening to the African night, and reflecting back on those stark moments over the past days that, although commonly experienced, burned differently in each of our minds. Tomorrow we would have to start packing and thinking of the real world, but tonight we could still drift along in the dream.
We lingered late, watching the stars slowly shift across the blue-tinged black, reminiscing about our many wanderings together, and the people that had shared bits of it with us.