With festivities in full swing out in the bush, Samantha du Toit discovers what friendship is really about.
The sun’s first rays shone through the tent window signalling a new day. The birds had already been up and calling for an hour or so and I had heard the faint grunt of a lion in the distance. Throughout the night, baboon alarm calls had woken us up intermittently and hyaenas had been whooping near their den on the plains behind camp. A typical night of the sounds of the wild, with one exception. Seyia bounced into the tent with the news that she had heard the bells of Santa’s sleigh and he had obviously landed close by and filled up her stocking, and her brother’s stocking too! It was indeed Christmas day. With glee the children opened their stockings on the bed, gasping with delight at their contents. How clever Santa was to have found them in their tents, and in the middle of the bush, and how did he know they loved marshmallows?
The day proceeded with more presents from family, a camp table heaving with morning brunch, frolicking in the river followed by roasted marshmallows and goat around a huge campfire. In the depths of the darkness, the lions roared closer to camp and plans were hatched to go out for an early morning game drive to try to catch a glimpse of them. Exhausted children were hauled into the car at first light and we set off. All we found were fresh tracks. Returning to camp, we were told that two large lions had wandered into camp just after we had left, sniffed around at the store and walked out again.
A few days later the children and I headed up to visit the family who farm the land next to the airstrip. We wanted to pop by to say hello and arrange for a playdate in the coming month. The family have children of a similar age and they all enjoy spending time together, tending the farm and playing endlessly amongst the watermelons. We were greeted by a pile of watermelons being sorted by size and weight for sale to a buyer who was taking them to Nairobi. We knew that this crop was what the family had been waiting to sell for months to provide them with much-needed income for the months ahead.
Every night while the crop had been growing, the parents would take turns sleeping out on a small platform in the middle of the field to protect the crop from marauding animals, in particular elephants. The father, Baba Gloria as the children call him, came to greet us and immediately insisted we should cut one fruit open and all eat a juicy slice, while he placed another in our car for us to take home. As we stood around with sweet pink juice dripping down our hands, he told us that by very bad luck, a few days earlier, a herd of ten elephants had raided the farm and destroyed two thirds of the watermelons. He had tried to chase them off with his motorbike and faithful dog, but the damage had been done. What was in the pile next to us was all that was left.
Standing there in the shade at the entrance to the farm, the unfairness of the situation hit me. As my children had been dreaming of Santa coming to give them gifts, Baba Gloria had lost most of his hard-earned crop. Still, he did not think twice about giving us some of what little he had left. I discovered right there what generosity is really all about.
Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.