Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Living the Dream

Living the Dream

Everyone has dreams. There are sleep dreams and day dreams, hopes, desires and nonsense all wrapped together. No matter how unusual they may be everyone has them. On grey English winters mine has been visiting the beautiful country of South Africa. The wildlife of this country has always fascinated me, but one creature in particular captured my imagination more than any other. Watching documentaries it always seemed to me that the Cheetah had the most uncanny ability to disappear from view as quickly as it appeared slinking silently back into the undergrowth , only for it to come into view minutes later, at a full speed assault on some unwary victim. This time the antelope got away, and the Cheetah melted back into cover, leaving no evidence it was ever there just like a ghost. It was these elusive cats I continued to dream about as I nodded sleepily in my seat during the long flight to Johannesburg Airport.
On arriving in the African bush the point that you aren’t in every day normality any more is hammered home by wondering Impala Wildebeest while walking around every corner comes with the real possibility of starting some bewildered looking Warthogs seeking easy sources of food and sanctuary from the more nervy predators unwilling to follow the herbivores through the gap in the fence and come into contact with these strange two legged animals no matter how tempting the plump pigs are. Despite the best efforts to protect camp food, the cheeky Vervet monkeys will always find an open door to the food store. So with giraffes next door on the opposite side of the fence and Vervets in the trees we settled into our home for the next month. And by teatime it was quite apparent that falling under the magical spell of Africa was as natural as breathing, sleeping … and dreaming.
Anywhere else in the world a half past five start would frankly be unpleasant , however when the alarm went off and we leave for another days’ of survey work there is not a single complaint.
Over the course of the month the cold, still journeys to the early morning survey filled with sightings giraffe, elephant, rhino ( black and white), wild dog and lion to name just a few highlights. I always felt hugely grateful and privileged to see all these animals,t here was slight disappointment at no cheetah sightings.
Lie-ins were not regular, and by lie in we still were up by seven at the latest keen to take advantage of the amazing sights around us. It was on one such morning that the rest our larger group came back into camp restricted by unforeseen bad weather but surprisingly cheery for a group of people who had just experienced the not so fun elements of nature.I.  “We’ve seen cheetahs” we were told excitedly, “two brothers patrolling the reserve fence line”. Honestly I was delighted for the group , however secretly I was desperately envious of the guys lucky enough to see them . I knew my own mini group were scheduled back out into the bush in the next couple of days along that exact route my spirits lifted once more.
Back out into the bush and this particular morning there was something different in the air hard to explain. Maybe it was the light taking just that little bit longer to break through the darkness of night, still offering cover for animals of all sizes. A kudu a huge antelope, went almost unspotted by the side of the road camouflaged in its stillness, only movement brought the silhouette of the magnificent animal to us . Birds called, monkeys chattered it was another beautiful morning that could not fail to put a smile on faces, as a group of startled impala darted for cover. 
As we drove on towards our destination suddenly, silently a shape slunk about 50 meters from the car out of the cover of vegetation.  Strolling purposefully towards us my heart jumped as the stunning Cheetah came closer ever closer.  Its spots dappled in the early morning light, it appeared more than happy to put up with these excited strange observers. Better still the brother appeared again silently again majestically their agile bodies showing just how graceful they are, but also how vulnerable they are.

The cats continued to sit confidently in full view of us as we admired everything about them.  Every detail of their bodies I tried to take it, fascinated in their ability to have appeared without a sound almost ghostly. Their boldness was startling coming very close to the car so confident were they we were of no threat, despite this few words in the car were spoken, not through fear but through shear awe of the beautiful animals in front of us. Finally they decided we had seen enough and again slinked away soundlessly maybe it was time to hunt, maybe they were just bored of us. We were lucky enough to see the brothers on two more occasions but the thought I had when I first saw them will always stay with me, dreams are not for dreaming they are for living.
Take it easy
George. 









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