SANDI CAGANOFF, the Pakistani mother, and the picky eater …
When Mhondoro in the Welgevonden game reserve offered me a free weekend, I said “yes” immediately. I invited my friend The Picky Eater, and after fighting over directions and driving for five hours instead of three, we checked into our (very) stylish Presidential Suite.
I knew game viewing would not be a priority when the huge day beds, fireplaces, bubbling Jacuzzi, outdoor shower and complimentary bottle of Moet & Chandon, beckoned. The problem with ‘an invitation’ is that one is expected to participate. And so, in the mid afternoon, we emerged from the Jacuzzi, gulped the last of the champagne, and headed off to High Tea, where we made friends with English and Pakistani tourists, and a newly engaged South African couple.
We clambered into our safari vehicle with the promise of the African bush and wild animals but 30 minutes into the drive, we’d seen nothing. An hour later … still nothing. Our game ranger, Sylvester, told us about an elephant that killed an American woman, by picking her up and tossing her against a tree. To make sure she didn’t get up, the elephant crushed her with a boulder. The Pakistani mother got quieter, not so much out of sympathy for the American women, but because she had a 14-month-old baby back at the lodge.
Heading back in the dark after acknowledging that our game drive hadn’t been the most successful, we bumped into a large breeding herd of elephants blocking the road. There were elephants in front, behind and on either side of us. Trees were uprooted, dust flew, tusks clashed.
I like elephants but I prefer them in the daytime when they’re calm. The Pakistani mother did not like them at all. She crept into her husband’s arms and announced loudly that she hated night safaris, that her baby needed her, and that she wasn’t ready to die. The betrothed couple huddled closer. Picky Eater and I argued over our escape routes.
We waited them out. Sylvester still wanted to find us lion and leopard, but out of sympathy for the hyperventilating Pakistani mother, we decided to head back to the safety of our five star lodge, where animals could be found in the form of sculptures, prints and paintings.
We gathered around the huge fire in the boma, all calmer in our comfort zone. The moon was full, the stars shone and hyena giggled in the distance. Pure Africa.
The next morning, I chose to laze in the comfort of our suite, rather than join Picky Eater on the game drive. The Pakistani mother joined me for coffee and we exchanged stories, laughing when fresh orange juice was delivered with napkins folded into swan shapes. We smiled at the antelope-shaped light on the wall.
When Picky Eater returned from her drive, with tales of leopard and lion fighting over an impala, we yawned. We’d had freshly baked bread in the shape of a crocodile. Who needs real animals?
- Things I loved about Mhondoro:
The day beds, an open kitchen, a Schaerer coffee machine, wi-fi internet, which we didn’t use, our ranger Sylvester, the amazing masseur, Dominique, the waterhole right outside our suite, endless champagne, absolute peace and quiet.
- Things the Picky Eater Loved About Mhondoro:
The light omelettes, smoked salmon roulade with a fabulous coleslaw – too bad the sirloin was overcooked – home-made cookies, Sinah’s melktert and Charlotte Rhys toiletries.