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Kian Barker
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Kian Barker

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Leopard and Toothpick Rats

Greetings and Salutations,

Like the days of the week our night safaris happen. Although we never have an hour of traffic or road rage. I have yet to struggle past a herd of buffalo or elephant with gesticulations that would make any Italian proud. It is so easy, once we leave the sleepy hamlet of St. Lucia, the cover of darkness guides us to the Cape Vidal gate. A smiling face greets at the gate and soon we are welcomed into this amazing wilderness. It is right on the doorstep of our village. No lengthy drive or waiting for a whole series of gates to be opened and closed. You start and arrive!

And as we started last night we arrived. At the cattle crossing we had two rhino and in a case like this my only apt comment was that we go from the 'sublime to the ridiculous". But since my guests all spoke very fluent French and had a poor understanding of English, all I could say was how lucky we were. As we had just befriended a chameleon and now two and a half tons of brawn and a little brain. Not far off was a herd of buffalo. It was one of those trips when you get a certain feeling from a series of events that you realize or want to believe that it can only get better. If buffalo and rhino had constituted Monday morning traffic, then I would have suffered road rage, they where close, we almost had to shoo them out of the way and this is what Shakabarker night safari is all about.

Motivated by our great success, we ambled past a whole series of frog ponds, kudu, busloads of bushbuck and more. We flushed nightjars and button quails out of the grass and gazed at Scorpius and Orion. A splendid evening by all standards. The night was alive and a safari is definitely better at night than in the day. Especially after the late summer heat has dissipated into a cool African evening. After loading all this into a couple of hours we arrived at one of our hot chocolate spots. Steaming cups of hot chocolate did the rounds. As the first rusk was about to be dipped into our fresh hot chocolate, we were rudely disturbed by the sound a leopard that might have been suffering from a severe case of road rage. It was too close for comfort and as hot chocolate splashed to the ground, the french were all aboard before I could say Camembert! Apparently it is rude to depart before your cup has cooled. There was not a single cool cup. It was a messy 'tea party' and nothing political either.

In no time the Unimog had completed 180 degrees and we were sound tracking a leopard with possible case of road rage. After 400m we came across a very relaxed kudu, nope .. This animal indicated that there was no leopard in the immediate area. Our next attempt delivered good results. A little paved track through some dense forest that led us to the mPhazana pans. Half way down this track was a porcupine and a leopard. Both locked in mortal battle. The leopard looking for the best attack strategy and porcupine looking for the best defense strategy. I have always said to my guests, eating a porcupine is like, eating a box of toothpicks. The trick is to separate the picks from the pine to get your teeth into the meat. Luckily for the porcupine, our arrival distracted the leopard to such a point that the porcupine managed to high-tail it into the bush - doing a very effective Bin Laden manoeuvre and giving it the upper hand. I still have the vision of this leopard and porcupine etched into my mind. Bright in the spotlight. The porcupines' spines raised doing his "come closer, so I can spike you dance" and the leopard tiptoeing around it's supper, trying to out manuoevre this large toothpick infested rat.

And at the end of our night out, one of my twin daughters asked me was I not scared and I said not really, although I did race to have the tea party packed away and I was the last person standing outside the vehicle, while everyone was safely onboard and it was dark and there was a leopard coughing, barely 50m from our location. Maybe in retrospect, a little. But just between you and me.

Hasta la vista,

The slightly nervous Knait Wrhydah

Posted by Kian Barker

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