It was easy to fall into the routine at Kirkman's, our respite from our RV, on the private game reserve. Every morning we were awakened by a 5:30 call. At 6 we had a small cup of coffee - small to prevent potty stops in the bush later on in the morning. Then we went on a game drive for about three hours. Our young guide drove cross country over routes so rough, I was left with the belief that he could have driven straight up a tree if he had had to. However, the real work was done by the spotter, who sat in the rear seat. He sat up high and could direct the driver on the best route through the woods, but more importantly, he was experienced in tracking. At the beginning of the drive we would pull over regularly and he would study the paw prints in the sandy road and plan the route based on what he could observe. The animals like to use the road because it is easier than working their way through the brush, but on a hot day, a lion likes to find some shade and the elephant's route is determined by the yummiest looking plants. We tracked a mama leopard and her cub for over an hour until the tracks left the road. Somehow our spotter could determine where this cat had decided to go in the brush. We wove around in the woods amidst giant boulders, came to a clearing and there she and her cub were. I think she was as surprised to see us as we were to see her. Along the way we would happen upon other animals, who happened to be on the road. Two groups of rhino and a kudu surprised us in this way. Probably the tracker was not surprised at all.
After the morning drive we would return for a substantial cooked breakfast and then we were on our own until a substantial cooked lunch. I enjoyed the pool on a hillside overlooking the bush. As we swam we were joined by a warthog family who appeared to be assisting the Kirkman staff with mowing the lawn. They meticulously worked their way around every edge of the pool crunching the green blades.
After mid afternoon tea we went on another game drive which lasted until well after dark. Since our guide knew we were most interested in lions, he located a family of four, sleeping in the tall grass. They were so well camouflaged, we almost drove right on top of their bodies. They were so fast asleep they didn't even raise their heads. We waited and watched them for a while, but not even a tail flicked, so we left to look for more, planning to return when they were more active. The next time we saw them it was nearly dark and they were sprawled in the middle of the road. Again we could have driven right over them. Occasionally a sleepy eye would open, but the show was not ready to begin. The third time we ran into them they were padding through a field, apparently intent on hunting a waterbuck. All four tour jeeps followed them at a respectful distance, but we didn't always know exactly where they were in the dark. At times I looked down next to our jeep and a lion was strolling along ten feet away from me. When the waterbuck kill didn't pan out, the lions laid down to rest yet again. We left somewhat sorry that we had not had a chance to witness a kill; and with new insights into the behavior of our cat at home who sleeps about 23 hours a day. All the lion groups we saw at Kirkman's were mellow and relaxed. They were only moved by their hunger.
Eventually so were we and we returned to the lodge for yet another sumptuous meal. Since dinner was not served until 9pm, those of us who had not indulged in afternoon naps, were in danger of falling asleep in our food. Dessert was enough motivation to keep my eyes open...