I’m not blasé, of course I’m not blasé, but at the same time, it’s not my dewy-eyed first time. I’ve been in the Luangwa Valley many times in the last quarter-century and my love of the place is about familiarity, not arrival-shock. I don’t go weak at the knees every time I see an elephant. Rather, it’s a joyous sense of reconnection.
I know that on every trip to the Valley there’ll be something I’ve never seen before: and I’ve touched on that already in this recent series of posts, with the swimming lion and the heron eating a snake as long as itself. These novelties are further reconfirmation of my enduring ever-growing love for the place.
But every now and then the Luangwa Valley will hit you on the back of the head with a sandbag.
This time it happened on perhaps my third or fourth day of walking. I was in my correct place at the back of the walk, and had picked out, to my own quiet pleasure, the fluty call of a black-headed oriole. And then – bam!
There was a male elephant; perhaps it mattered that I found him for myself: at the back you don’t get everything pointed out to you. Not far from him a male kudu: tall and handsome with spiralling horn that made two full triple twists. There were a few distant buffalo, for this was an open plain and even in this late part of the dry season, there was food to be had here. The light had gone all gentle, the way it does here in the last hour of the day, the noontime harshness all forgotten. The faint sound of my walking feet, the faint sense of trespass, the faint feeling of danger, the faint feeling of privilege. A sense of all Africa, all life, all time suspended in a single moment.
And for some reason it was all too much.
It was as if I was aware of the Valley’s beauty for the first time, as if I had never seen an elephant before, never realised they were so big, never noticed they had trunks or tusks or ears in the shape of Africa.
And you know, for a moment I was a little dewy-eyed.
· I was co-leading the Sacred Combe Safari with Chris Breen from www.wildlifeworldwide.com