By Deirdre Mills
Sitting in the viewing platform, sipping gin and tonics, (some standards must not slip), some twenty different herds of elephant arrived, rolling joyously in the water, rumbling deeply and trumpeting. Big bulls in musth, tiny babies shielded by watchful mothers and youngsters mock-charging crocodiles that slid off rapidly from the side. The herds patiently waited their turn. It was a wonderful lesson; they had learned to share. We lost count at the one hundred mark but estimated over 350 elephants. For the second time in one holiday, Africa had never felt so special. The next night, joined by a busload of excited Zimbabwean children, the elephants did it all over again.
Hwange wasn’t finished. On the last day, we encountered two lions in the scrub next to the road. One, a sub-adult male, was trying to sleep. The other, a small cub no more than six months old, energetically pulled on his brother’s ear, standing on his face and chewing long pieces of grass. After taking many photographs I glanced into the back of the car. My teenage son was quietly trying to observe the action whilst our youngest was fidgeting and completely unable to keep still. Some things never change!
The road to Matopos was good, apart from an ‘airborne’ moment. We made smooth, quick and scenic progress to Bulawayo, where we were able to restock. Matopos’ magnificent rock formations enchanted us. Another miracle in the form of a booking error and accommodation upgrade resulted in an unfortunate incident with the bath tap… and large, comfortable beds, a lovely lounge, working kitchen and an electric kettle. Hurrah!
We visited Rhodes’ grave and the MOTH shrine. Our most special moment came after a rather tortuous 4×4 drive to Nswatugi cave, where a short, steep climb revealed an incredible frieze of bushman paintings of kudu, elephant, zebra and stick people in hunting poses. For the third time Africa had never felt so wonderful. An afternoon game drive revealed absolutely nothing, but by then we were done. It was time to go home.