The last evening game drive was upon us and we had "the man" in charge. The mission was to find a leopard. Ra Bashi was his name, a seasoned guide from Mashatu. He lived up to his name a million%. With Albert as his spotter, sitting with West and Tsaone on the back seat, we were on the case. Well, did we have an exciting drive? We went up and down incredibly steep banks, into and along deep, sandy dry river beds, across seemingly impossible rocky outcrops and over seemingly impassable sand banks. Occasionally we got stuck at one point balancing precipitously on an edge by a pool which was ready to engulf us if we failed. Bashi was master of the Toyota, and with a calm, "don't worry," we succeeded. Even the guides in the back gave the odd exclamation and muttered encouragement in Botswanan, despite having total faith in Bashi’s ability as a driver. We renamed him “Bundu Bashi!”
At one point, whilst driving up a dry river bed we happened upon a small herd of elephants happily drinking at holes they had dug in the sand. Now, on a horse we would have approached with extreme caution and at the slightest flick of an ear, retreated quietly. Not in a vehicle with Bashi at the helm. He was able to read those elephants so well. He kept on driving until we were right there, amongst them. One young female was obviously on guard duty and marched very purposely up behind the Toyota, (causing a few quiet protests from the guides, who were in the direct firing line if she had decided to get tricky.) Bashi was totally unfazed; he said there was nothing to be concerned about. The elephant placed herself between us and the herd, so close she could have touched us with her trunk. She made occasional protests with ears and body to tell us to back off, trumpeting for good measure. She even picked up a stone, ready to chuck it at us if she saw fit. Every time she got a bit uppity Bashi started his engine and talked to her..." Now you behave yourself, no need to get cross...” She duly backed off and just watched us. Once the elephant/vehicle status quo had been established we spent a marvellous 10 mins watching the herd and its tiny babies going about their business, playing, drinking, and hanging out. Well done Bashi. Always trust your guide.
This is a good area for leopard but although we tried really hard to find a leopard it was not to be. As dusk drew in we drove up a very steep incline to the very backbone of a hill, from where we could barely see more than two lights glittering in the far distance from the 360 degrees lookout point. What an utterly gorgeous place, perfect for the team G and T. This could become a habit. Then down an even steeper incline and home we went for dinner, searching with a light for that illusive leopard all the way home. It was certainly a most exciting and memorable evening.
To add icing to the cake, we were serenaded before dinner by all the staff, dancing and singing for us, wishing us a happy journey back home and come back to Africa soon. The harmonies and rhythm are such a natural part of the African psyche; it always brings joy to my heart and tears to my eyes to be a part of it.