What a great week this was. We covered almost 5000km travelling from Cape Town to the Kruger National Park and back. Visiting the park is like escaping from real life - an average day (if you're lucky) includes close-up encounters with leopard, lion, buffalo, rhino and elephant. And that's just counting the Big Five - there are a host of other creatures, big and small, who make regular guest appearances.
We've been going there since I can remember and still, after all these years, there is nothing more magical than sitting next to a campfire, listening to a symphony of hundreds of little night creatures, each singing to his own tune.
One cannot deny the sense of sadness that comes over you on the last day when you drive through the big gates for the last time. Returning to a jungle of another kind - thank goodness for these havens of nature, as God intended it to be, that we are so privileged to still enjoy.
Here are some of the pictures I took - unfortunately most of these were taken from the car and I still have just a basic 18-55mm lens but nevertheless, I think the essence was captured. How I envied the massive lenses I saw peering out of some of the vehicles that we passed!! Some of the most spectacular sightings, such as the two young leopards frolicking in dense grass and a raptor eating a massive leguan high up in a tree was best enjoyed through the lens of my binoculars. One day though - that 70-200mm lens with built-in image stabilizer is going to find a home underneath my Christmas tree!
We headed home via the long and winding N1 highway than runs from north to south in our country. How sad it was to see how many of the small towns are looking sad and in need of a revamp of sorts. One such town is a sleepy little place called Richmond. Someone had the great idea to make this a book haven of sorts. In an otherwise very dreary looking, tired town, one finds a collection of bookstores, filled with the most magical collections of old Africana and gems you never dreamt you'd find again. If you've ever been in a shop filled with old books, you'll be familiar with the characteristic smell of such a place. Wonderful!
I always feel a tremendous sense of respect and expectancy when I'm in such a shop and this time was no different. I was on a mission to find some of Robert Carrier's old cookbooks. You can imagine my absolute delight when I found four of his books, all in reasonably good condition in the first shop I walked into!
My very best friend in the world and I have been friends since 1973. Her dad is one of the best cooks I have ever known and Robert Carrier was one of his favourite chefs. So many of his dishes were influenced by Carrier and for me, finding some of his recipe books in this manner was truly special. Already I've experimented with one of his recipes - last night I prepared some crayfish tails and I can attest to the fact that the sherry and butter sauce, flavoured with cayenne pepper and paprika that I found on page 106 of one of my four new gems is simply divine!
I managed to get my camera out to capture the finished product - trust me, a few seconds after I took this picture the dish was empty! Carrier - you're a star! Jamie, Gordon, Marco - sorry to say, my loyalties lies elsewhere from now on. Can't wait to try out the 'Sherried Mushroom Tartlets', the 'Vitello Tonnato' and the 'Chocolate Beer Cake'!
And finally - probably more precious than anything - the time we spent with my mother and father will be treasured forever. Hours in the car and around the fire. Laughing and remembering old times and great people who've shared our respective lives. Thanking God that they have been spared to enjoy their grandchildren and their first great grandchild - something they never thought they'd get to experience.
The sadness that comes over me when I see all the tablets that also came along in the suitcase, the quiet that floods my soul when I help my mother walk a few meters at a time, that I prefer not to write about.
Instead I prefer to say a silent thank you. Thank you for so many things. Thank you that we are indeed blessed. Blessed in more ways than we care to acknowledge at times.
This week I was blessed with a Camino of a different kind.
Indeed, I celebrate life today!