The first sunrise, rain in Africa and the dead zebra.

The sky was lovely on our first morning drive. It was that early morning kind of lightness, which makes everything look surreally bright. The sky ahead of us was lavender-lilac as the hills dipped down, fading to a pale pink. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the light turned the grass and trees a rosy pink, which changed to a golden orange. Wisps of pale smoke twirled up into air from the site of the fire the night before and the air still carried a faint smoky smell. We sat with blankets heaped on top of us in the crisp morning breeze. 

We went to a neighbouring reserve that day. The owner must be pretty rich as he has wild dogs, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos – pretty much every African mammal you can think of apart from lions. Whilst there, we saw more rhino. FIVE RHINO. We are incredibly lucky on the rhino front, even if we haven’t yet seen a leopard!! Two of them stood protectively in front of the others for a few minutes. Their heavy front feet stamped into the ground, whirling up little eddies of dust which blew away in a soft gust of wind. After a while though, they lay down, watching us first with wary eyes then relaxing into the mud. Two others lounged in the background while one was set apart from the others, lying in the dappled shade next to an impala drinking from a trough. It was a serene, prolonged moment.
The next day, it rained. RAIN. In AFRICA. I was not terribly impressed. We drive around on an open top vehicle so there is no shelter from the pouring torrent which slaps your face a thousand times and makes you thoroughly soaked and miserable. Not the most fun day I’ve had here – I eventually wimped out and asked to go in the front, which was marginally better. On the bright side, we got a bag of free biltong (South African dry cured meat) as the reserve had caught some poachers stealing our cameras, so when we got them back we were given the biltong too. It’s a MARATHON to chew, but took my mind off the dreadful weather!!

The weather was better the next day – not warm, but not raining at least!! There was a nice view of Jozini dam as we drove to our sites for the day. There are abandoned buildings randomly dotted over the reserve. They are sad, lonely, empty things and we had lunch at one of these that day.

A week ago, we discovered a dead zebra on the hill behind our accommodation. It was a sorry sight, with the life faded from its button black eyes, but the stripes still as bold ebony as ever. We didn’t know the cause of death. Because it was lying in the middle of the road, we had to drag it to one side. It was incredibly heavy; literally a dead weight.
I’ve been running the last few days and I have to run past this zebra every day. It has been very informative about the decomposition process. A little too informative, perhaps. The first time, the eye had disappeared along with its bottom half. I tried to avert my eyes from the maggots and flies crawling all over its poor body. Something I cannot put into words is the smell. It gets worse day by day. My run several days ago was almost unbearable as I struggled to get my gag reflex under control. Someone or something had dragged it into the middle of the road again; it was awful. Yesterday’s drive revealed a mere pile of bones. The smell had not yet faded, unfortunately.


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