Upon arriving at the Hanglip Mountain Lodge I am greeted by a giraffe, well actually the bum of a giraffe who is sipping from a small pond, it’s long legs splayed awkwardly, neck craned at an impossible angle. Immediately, I decide that the giraffe will be my friend, scratch that, best friend. I unimaginatively name said giraffe Giraffo. Giraffo does not take kindly to our intrusion to his pond drinking enjoyment and straightens his lean legs trotting off into the sunset leaving me heartbroken and eating his dust (literally). Never mind him, he’ll warm up to me. Giraffo should have given me an indication that this was going to be a weekend quite literally in the wild.
Giraffo returned later that afternoon to munch on some of the higher branches of the trees shading the pool and upon seeing him I had the most inexplicable urge to hug him. He of course, still playing hard to get, fixed me with a stare that turned my legs wooden and reminded me that he was a wild animal and not an unusually large stuffed toy. We would spend the rest of the afternoon sipping wine on our balcony, watching the mountains steal the last light of the day. Nearby, wildebeest lazed about and upon the sunset, they rose in unison, barely thinking to dust themselves of the sand they had laid in and began to walk off to an unknown destination. The positioning of the lodge could not have been better thought through. Double doors to our thatched room opened to an impressive yet almost petite mountain range, preceded by two dams that served as watering holes, drawing in animals throughout the day. At breakfast, we would find hippos and warthogs and at lunch the elephants would come to visit. Before I went to bed that first night I left out some chips for Giraffo as a peace offering and a blatant attempt at bribery. The next morning, I found my chips gone and in its place settled the renewed hope for a giraffe-human friendship.
One of the great things about this bush weekend getaway is the solitude. Husband is emboldened by the wine and decides that he shall make friends with the couple we met upon arrival. He is convinced they are Portuguese and this seems to bring further proof that a friendship has been written in the stars. We are a giggly twosome, arms linked around one another when we arrive at dinner and before we sit down the waitress reminds us that we shall need an escort walking back to our room in the dark. That’s a bit dramatic, I hiccup to myself, I haven’t had that much wine. But it is not the wine they seek to protect us from, it is the predators lurking around looking for a juicy, fattened city person to sink their teeth into. “There are no fences here at Hanglip” the waitress reminds me, cutting short the stupid remark I was about to make about lions needing to eat dinner too. I nod gravely showing her that I get the point before the German Doctor man at the table next to us starts up a conversation. German Doctor man, as you may have guessed, is a doctor and he hails from Germany. He is one part of the family of four that are the only guests apart from us at the lodge. And just like that, Husband’s dream of making a Portuguese friend is dashed and to make matters worse, German Doctor man is infinitely boring, talking at length about his son’s school and later when he knows us better, his fluffy white dog. His wife does little apart from glare at him from time to time, her disdain palpable and his children are zombie like with their phones so close to their faces they seem to be inhaling them. Poor German Doctor man looks as though he needs a friend but Husband is far too self-absorbed to notice so he cuts him off and proclaims that we are off to bed.
The next day tough choices are to be made; stay in and be lazy or go for a game drive. No one said life was going to be easy. We are wooed by the game ranger over lunch and when he asks if he should pack us a bottle of wine to have at sunset I am sold (and I can’t help but wonder if I drink too much wine). I’ve never really liked game drives, a dislike born on the night we spent four long, uncomfortable hours at the Kruger National Park only to see a hyena that accidentally stumbled upon our path and a few bunnies. But, I was willing to give this one a go (bottle of wine notwithstanding). The name of our ranger escapes me but I wish I could recall it, because he deserves more than an honourable mention. He had such a passion and desire to show us all the animals he could, he tracked the lions all through the game reserve, managing to find them even when we had given up and all in all made that one of the best game drives I’ve ever experienced. I guess spotting both cheetah and lion cubs, a rhino with a calf, a herd of elephants and various buck as well zebra will do that to a person.