The weekend (already ambitious – it was just the one night), found my family camping at Hippo Pools. There was some grumbling on the part of my husband … “mutter, mutter, who had the bright idea to go camping in the middle of winter? Rhubarb, rhubarnmnbkfferitsgbv@$!&*!! … But we were pretty much swept away with the kids’ excitement.
We all squished into grandpa’s car. Grandpa passed his license back in the day when licenses were licenses and they couldn’t be purchased for cash, and grandpa has his vehicle serviced every 5 minutes by a genius. Anyway granny and grandpa happily in the front seat, mom, dad and 2 squirming kids in the back. Oh happy day.
Did I mention that grandpa does not make potty stops, not for man nor beast nor 5 year olds? The need to go to the loo made itself known around Bally Vaughan somewhere – not even half way to Hippo Pools. Luckily, after turning onto the dirt road, grandpa pulled over to study the map and we all dived out of the car with alacrity. The boys and the kids went, us older girls prudently waited for the ox cart and passengers to pass by. The spot was not chosen for its seclusion, it appeared to be just round the corner from the local bus stop and unfortunately we seemed to be a bit of a novelty, so the oxen were not motivated to put foot. Equally unfortunately, grandpa was. So into the car again, this time on a corrugated dirt road, bouncing happy child on my lap (read: bladder), face pressed to the window in the hopes of spotting an elephant, for another hour and a half, at least. I gave the passing buffalo (with baby) less attention than they deserved it must be said. Short shrift was made of the National Parks Officer who wanted to chat at the boom gate on arrival. I led the charge for the bathroom with undignified haste (and I may have elbowed one or two elderly folk out the way), only greeting the staff on my way back – the nature of my urgency was no secret.
The rest of the day was spectacular apart from the fact that the fish weren’t biting (“too cold” I told the kids sagely, like I’m the expert).
And then it was time to go to bed.
I was sharing a tent with my daughter, and the boys were right next door. Bad mistake, in the middle of the night every sound was amplified – I won’t elaborate. Before I could succumb to sleep however, I was viciously attacked by my sleeping bag and we did wrestle for some time before I beat it into submission by opening the zip. All the way. At which point everyone was awake, sleeping bags make that swishing noise when you move, it’s that plastic-like fabric on the outside, so loud … Then my feet were cold, as my makeshift mattress (garden chair cushion, I kid you not, which I was reluctant to pack I might add – my sum experience of camping as an adult consisting of the beaches of Mozambique …) didn’t quite make it that far. So the spare blanket went into keeping my toes off the freezing floor. Then pain, such pain, my hip bones drilling into the ground – it was impossible to sleep, so I tossed and turned and had short hopeful conversations with everyone I woke up … until Graham got up at 4:30.
I heard him stop and hold his breath, then the hippo moved off, he exhaled, and I asked him to put the kettle on (and he wondered whether I loved him at all).
When everyone was up, we all took turns fitting our feet into the hippo’s footprint left on the muddy bank.
‘Twas quite a beast.