Sacred Combe Safari III
It’s at this stage of the trip that I get all elegiac. Or if you prefer, soppy. It’s the last full day. In my little hut at Crocodile Camp I felt as if I would be staying in the heart of the Valley forever; now we were back at Tafika I could feel the hot breath of the jet engine on the back of my neck. Every beast I saw seemed ready to vanish.
It doesn’t help that this is the day we usually reserve for the Salt Pan: a dream-like area unlike anywhere else in the Valley, without trees, open, green and wet even now, late in the dry season. It feels as if reality, time and the march of the seasons had all been suspended. Breathing felt like an unnecessary intrusion.
Crowned cranes seem to be birds of dreams: more graceful than any creature of flesh and blood ever could be. Here on the marsh they stood in a group of 20 or so, bugling quietly to each other and, as, crowned cranes will, drifting away from our gaze with small and subtle steps.
Then a cry from the sky. My old friend Manny once explained to me that cranes preach the gospel of fear. In Nyanja they say Nimvela owa! Owa! Owa! Or, I’ve got the fear. Almost everything, humans included have something to fear out here.
As the English language spread across Zambia, Manny said, the cranes changed their song. They now sing “All one! All one!” All united by fear, yes, of course, but we’re also united by many other things, including a common ancestor – us humans, the cranes, the hippo sunk in the salt water of the pan, the wild dogs we hoped to see and didn’t, not that day anyway, the lions and the elephants: all one!
More cranes flew in, and then more: a series of squadrons, each a dozen or more strong, flying low to the ground, legs trailing, straight necks stuck out in front, little crowns on their heads. They touched down and formed a gathering of 70 individuals: loveliness multiplied.
getting sentimental –
raising my hat to giraffes