With thanks to Adventure World for this tailor-made holiday.
Bushman’s Kloof is a wellness retreat as well as a game reserve, so you could of course sleep in and then prostrate yourself before the masseuse – but when there are animals out there? What a waste. So we set off in the LandCruiser, bundled up against the cold on a bright morning, to see what we could see. Zebra, red hartebeest, dainty springbok, bontebok, birds – and beetles, in this case dung beetles industriously rolling balls of dung to a suitable place to bury for laying eggs in.
The main focus of the morning game drives is the cave art they have here, red ochre paintings of people and animals thousands of years old, and handprints a bit more recent. Many of them were surprisingly delicate and beautiful, and fitted in well with Nature’s artwork of stripes of red, orange and black on the weathered sandstone.
I saw more of that on my Mountain Trail walk from the lodge in the middle of the day (what with rusks and coffee on the game drive and then a full breakfast back on the terrace at the lodge, lunch was dispensable). Though the lack of big game here may seem like a disadvantage, it does mean that it’s possible to go walking on your own in complete safety, so you can get up close with the surroundings and make a real connection of a sort that’s not possible when you’re confined to the buildings and the vehicle. In Africa, this is a real novelty.
So I followed the trail of stone cairns and got up close with the amazing rock formations, the many wild flowers blooming here at the moment, the butterflies, lizards and beetles. The only animals out at that time of day was a colony of rock hyraxes, or dassies: cute and bouncy, keeping watch from high points and scuttling for cover as I approached.
The evening game drive took us further into the reserve’s 7,500 hectares, with the reward of lots of zebra, a herd of bulky eland, some skittish rehbok and a blended family of ostriches with several dozen babies. There was also an Amarula sundowner with a view across a valley to some pretty striking mountains that got the Norwegian geologist in our group frothing with (non-catching) excitement. I preferred to look the other way to watch the sun drop and the sepia sky begin to prick with stars.
The tables at the lodge are all set for two, which seems a bit solitary after the sociability of Rovos Rail. It would have been nice to share our enjoyment of the day, and the delicious food, with others – or, alternatively, grab the best table, the one in front of the roaring log fire. But though I got there early on purpose, that one had been bagsed already, with coats left on the chairs. I eavesdropped on that couple later. They were German.