I could here a hear Lumley moving, then trying to sneak into my sleeping bag. Sleepily, I helped her, pretending to still be asleep; I did not mind, it was a little chilly outside, my nose was cold. I got a wet nose in my face, “Time to wake up!”, so I opened one eye and smiled and smiled at the bundle of joy looking up at me. “So, are we going to see elephants today?” Lumley wagged her tail in excitement, as if she understood, and I proceeded to explain my plan for the day. “We’ll keep heading west, down river, towards the coast. We should see the elephants at some point in the river bed, unless, of course, they have trundled off into the dunes. That would be a sight, wouldn’t it?” A quick stretch and yawn, it was time to get up, the day was brightening quickly.
As I drove along, I kept a keen eye on the path ahead, I did not want to unnecessarily disturb the wildlife, especially not elephants. Not too worry, the brush was fairly low here, we should spot the elephants in good time. There was enough water in the river, it was flowing at a trickle, this was desert country after all. Enough to encourage birds, I did stop a few times to watch the nest building activities and listen to the chattering as nests were built and pulled apart, the way weaver birds do their thing. A few klipspringer antelope loitered on the rocky outcrops of the valley, I am always amazed at their agility and complete lack of fear in scrambling up the steep hillsides. One male kudu with its majestic horns, it loped away quickly. The twittering of birds, serene, peaceful.
On the muddy bank I saw some elephant tracks that looked fresh, they had not dried yet, so I got out to have a closer look. At least five, I thought, with a few young ones. Fortunately, there was enough water and food, the last few years had been tough with the drought. I decided to walk downriver, got a water bottle from the car and put Lumley on a leash; she had not seen elephant before, I did not want to take any chances. About two miles downstream I could see and hear the elephants. We moved away from the river up a small hill and found a rock that would allow us to watch to elephants at a safe distance, while not disturbing them. I poured some water into a bowl for Lumley and gave her a stick of dried meat to chew on; that would keep her busy for a while, she had not yet noticed the elephants.
At least ten elephants, I counted. An older matriarch and several females with youngsters of all ages. A calf had not yet quite got the hang of using its trunk while drinking, so was balancing on its front feet while trying to slurp water directly into its mouth. A few wobbles and it fell over, the mother rushing over to console the calf and help it back up. A few pushes and heaves, and the calf was back on its feet, trumpeting in triumph. To one side was a cantankerous “teenager”, trumpeting, ears flapping; it was pushing a younger elephant away from an appetisingly green tree. One of the older elephants bumped the “bully” until it calmed down and moved away. I did not notice any bull elephants, they would be roaming somewhere else until the mating season started.
Eventually I got up and we walked up the side the side of the hill so that we could bypass the elephants, hopefully without disturbing them. I wanted to see whether more elephants were downstream. Lumley was not too keen, she had been enjoying a snooze, it took a while to get her going. We walked along the crest of the hill until I could see further downstream. Another three adult elephants were browsing there, a few antelope were to one side. At last Lumley noticed the elephants, fortunately staying quiet, tail wagging furiously; I told her some stories about elephants, the ones I had seen before.
Such majestic animals, I am always in awe. Will future generations also have the opportunity to see them, I ask myself. Lumley feels my sadness, she cuddles up to me. We sit there, it’s a beautiful world we live in.