“Did you know that… it is home to the unique flightless dung beetle?”
I think the brochure for the Addo Elephant National Park is trying a little too hard. The unique flightless dung beetle? Really?
Me, Craig and David head out on Saturday afternoon for an overnighter at Addo. Originally it had been just Craig and I but as it turns out, even though David is South African he has never visited the elephant park. A phone call confirms that we can have a third, just as long as we understand that the cottage contains only two twin beds. “We’ll make it work,” Craig says, his voice full of pillow fights and noogies.
We head out after the visit to Mdantsane. David’s hella hung over and sleeps most of the way. Addo is on the highway that becomes the Garden Route, so I get a taste of it here. It’s a superb driving road, all full of surprises and interesting pit stops.
We arrive at around 5:30pm and get the keys to our cottage. Craig is the first one in and his howls of amusement can be heard up the walkway. I enter the room.
In deference to lessons learned last weekend, Craig decides he will serve as braai-master. “You two go out in the car while I braai – and don’t come back until you see an elephant!”
So David and I set out in the African dusk. This is the first time he and I have been alone, and it’s a quietly pleasant visit. The first thing we see is a fine specimen of the famous flightless dung beetle, and now I can see what the hullabaloo is about. The thing is behemothic.
Next we run into a stand of “scary trees”. Something about the undersized fingers at the top of these has always frightened David – so naturally I have him stop the car in the falling darkness so I can take a photo.
As darkness spreads across the veldt, the full moon rises.
We are driving with the headlights out. About 100 metres down this road we encounter one of Africa’s deadliest snakes – the puff adder. Lucky for us, it appears to have just eaten an entire meerkat and it’s moving slowly.
I hang out the car window in flagrant disregard for the Craig’s tutorial on this snake, renowned for it rapid striking capabilities, and point and laugh as it struggles to retire to the grass. Glutton. The creepiest thing is that it’s not slithering to and fro, but moving forward very slowly without twisting or bending, like stop-animation of a Christmas cracker trying to hide in the tall grass. Eventurally it gets tired of the derisive cackling and lifts its head to look at me. I roll up the window.
By now night has arrived, abruptly and with a finality I am becoming accustomed to. There is no bargaining with African nightfall; our evening safari is over. My appetite for DANGER is not sated, however, so I decide that despite the topsy-turvy vehicle, now is the time for me to drive – in Africa!
Despite my best efforts, we make it back for dinner. After a balanced meal of braaied chicken wings, sausage, and chicken wrapped in bacon, we call it an early night. We have elephants to see in the morning.