Well what a contrast! Two days ago we were driving across an endless plain of scorched earth, Maasai with red robes and extreme amounts of goats, and the occasional giraffe and today I have just returned from a long walk with the dogs through the village which is crusted with snow and resembles the more sentimental type of Christmas card.
Everything is so different. I have got used to sleeping in a tent with thin canvas walls, and my home now feels like a cave: all thick stone walls and heavy oak doors. The night noises of the bush were a sonata of plinks, whirrs and sometimes a growl (yikes!) The night noises here are silence, the occasional fox and the very occasional car. In the Tanzanian bush my primal senses were on constant alert. I wasn’t scared of the hyenas, lions, hippos and buffalo that strolled through the camp, but I was extremely aware of them. Every instinct which has saved my ancestors for long enough to reproduce since the Stone Age and before was up and shouting every time something with heavy footfall and body odour issues ambled past the tent. I slept like a log last night in our stone cottage, and my primal senses slept with me.
We saw glories: the massing wildebeest and zebra plodding through the unbelievable distances of the Serengeti; sun rising above the Ngorogoro Crater (and thanks to my husband’s firm belief in early rising we were the first car into the crater and had the Forgotten World to ourselves for an hour or so); a languid leopardess stretched out along a branch while her spotted cubs played up and down the trunk below her; a nest of bat eared foxes gazing at us with faces straight out of Star Wars (Yoda). We were warm some of the time, bitten by a wide range of flies most of the time and entranced all of the time.
And yet, and yet … when we got home (extremely relieved that Heathrow had remembered how to land planes in snow) we got such a welcome from the animals. The dogs threw themselves at us and wound round our legs with pure joy. The hens squeezed out an egg in celebration, the first since October. Slip went lame now he knows I’m back to sponge his fevered brow, bring him treats and massage his neck. Slip is a complete flower about injuries and I don’t think he is that bad, but it’s strangely bonding to look after a horse who is feeling slightly under par. And Indie has grown into a proper little gentleman. It may wear off, but since our return he hasn’t bounced the cat, pulled Darcy’s ears or rushed off with a small but important item to leave in the garden.
Africa was great, but there’s no place like home.