Sacred Combe Safari IV
Day 5, Part 2
At the end of the walk we sat on the banks of the Mwaleshi River in North Luangwa national Park. The idea was sundowners, but the sun was already as down as it was going to get; we had been delayed by kudu, three fine males with full triple-twisting horns.
But we sat and had the drinks anyway, even though it was now more or less dark. And it was – well, cool. Cool as in not hot. October in the Valley is supposed to be roasting: but this strange year it was almost gentle. There was even a little humidity: you could feel the sweat on your face, it didn’t burn off in a single instant. And was there or was there not a rumble in the distance?
Brent Harrison, our guide, has a taste for the more contemplative ways of enjoying the wild life of the bush. So as we sat with drinks in hand, just about able to make each other out, he suggested that we sit for a while in silence.
Rumble again, no doubt about it that time. Then the night-birds started up: I head the voice of the fiery-necked nightjar: Good Lord – delver us! Not a bird you usually hear in the Valley, so a small treat. The more usual Mozambique (or square-tailed) nightjar then struck up, churring a little like the European species.
Rumble. Rumble again, rumble and boom. Here was the sound of the thunder: and it came in two voices. The first was the kind of thunder that means lightning: the second, the kind that means lions. The thunder roared and the lions rumbled: a deep bass chorus that shook the earth and warned everything that lived to have a care and to be very careful.
I could distinguish two different kinds of nightjar and two different kinds of thunder: and in the darkness, as my companions slowly disappeared, I was lost in the sounds of the night. Then a scribble across the sky: and a flashbulb moment that revealed us all sitting, sipping listening. Then darkness again.
No one spoke. No one except the lions, and their friend the thunder. Heaven and earth, life and death, all seemed suspended in that thunderous moment. And then a damp gust bringing rain.