We all met downstairs at the appropriate time to check out of the hotel and catch the bus back out to the airport for our overnight flight to Johannesburg in South Africa. I had a great sleep all day and had made a nice salad in my bathroom sink for dinner, so I was feeling great. I was pleased to see that Yuki wasn't on the crew, and there was a new bunch of cabin crew with what looked like a couple of likely lasses for the 4 day stay in Johannesburg. Dave Hewitt was, sadly, still the first officer and Dan the Man was still the second officer.
The traffic wasn't as bad as expected at that time of night, so we arrived at the airport early and carried out all the preflight duties in plenty of time. The flight time to Johannesburg would be 9 hours, so not too bad for an overnight flight. Since we were heading east, we expected the sun to come up around the halfway point.
With about 15 minutes to go before departure, the chief purser, Raymond, came up and said that one of the passengers appeared to be drunk and was already loud and obnoxious. He sounded like a good bloke to me from the description. Still, experience has taught me that starting off a flight with someone like this onboard seems to generally work out badly. The number of times we've had to restrain drunk or drugged people in flight are too many to count. So I told Raymond, "Just get him off."
"Ok, Skipper. Will do", he replied.
Then, Pedro, the airport manager, came up and tried to talk me into taking the passenger. "He's promised to behave, and if we take him off, we'll have to find his bag."
"Get him off, please, Pedro."
"But there are no more flights to Johannesburg for another three days."
"Decision still stands, Pedro. Better start searching for his bag, or we'll be further delayed."
Now we had to wait till we found his bag, so an announcement had to be made to the passengers.
"Ladies and Gentlemen. Some worthless fucker has turned up pissed, and out of control, so we've kicked his ugly fat drunken arse off the aircraft and are looking for his bag now. When we've found it, we'll set fire to it and then we'll be off like a rat up a drainpipe. Thanks for your patience, and let this be a lesson to all of you, not to turn up pissed to a flight." (Or something like that anyway.)
It was all taken care of pretty soon, and we were off like a rat up a drainpipe. The act of committing aviation is all about energy management. Pilots are first and foremost energy management specialists, and secondly, risk management specialists. On the energy front, you start with a huge tank or tanks filled with fuel, which is chemical potential energy. You set fire to this inside the engines creating heat which makes the engines work and gives the aircraft kinetic (movement) energy. A large enough pile of kinetic energy will allow an airliner to get airborne and climb to an altitude. When the aircraft is in the cruise at cruise speed, all its forces are balanced, so things go along swimmingly provided the engines keep turning. At this point, you have a shit ton of kinetic energy and a big pile of gravitational potential energy or GPE. In layman's terms, GPE is the ability to glide a long way because you are bloody high. A large jet can glide around 250 kilometres with just idle thrust from 39,000 feet. At the end of this glide, you land and have to reduce the kinetic energy to zero before you run off the far end of the runway. Failure to do this will result in the rest of the aircraft catching fire. To stop the aircraft, you use some reverse thrust, but mainly brakes. This turns the kinetic energy to heat energy. Are you still with me?
As far as risk management is concerned, it's all about knowing what could go wrong, how to stop that from happening, and what to do about it if it still happens. So as you can see, we Captains should be paid more. There's no other logical conclusion.
Before we knew it, we were in the cruise to the east of Sao Paulo, and I was sitting there with Hewitt with not much in common and not much to say. But then I remembered he'd been to a pony play festival, so I asked him about it. Apparently, 'Pony Play' is a subculture within BDSM. A typical pony play outfit combines leather fetish gear with modified horse tack. Some pony players are content to simply dress up and receive grooming from their 'handlers'. Others like to compete in events like real horses do, such as racing, jumping and dressage. It's apparently very transformative. "Once you chomp down on that bit, you can be anything you want," Dave told me. Not being overly competitive, he wasn't so much into competing, but he liked to pull a two-wheeled cart around while the rider whipped him. He'd had a great time and met up with a huge woman who'd been happy to be towed around all day.
"You should give it a go," said Dave.
Me: "Naah. I'm all good, Dave. Probably not my thing."
Dave: "Don't knock it until you have tried it."
Me: "Sure, but, Just a guess, It's not my thing."
Dave: "You're the loser then, Flash."
Me: "You're a dog, Dave."
Dave: "Technically incorrect Flash. I'm a pony."
And there it was again. I'd called someone a dog. Why is it that guys like to call each other dogs as a putdown? I have three friends with nicknames of 'dog' or 'the dog' and 'two dogs'. And why is having dog breath such a bad thing? Exactly how crook are you when you are 'as crook as a dog'?All of a sudden, I started contemplating dogs. Bear with me. It's a long contemplation, and I want you to know that I don't mind dogs at all. But questions should be and need to be asked.
What is it with dogs? They are supposed to be man's best friend, but if your kids had friends with all the characteristics of dogs, you would be less than impressed, and you'd be hoping they would find some new ones. I refer here to the more obvious habits of sniffing each other's butts, shitting on your lawn, licking their nuts or burying the bone in public and fighting with anyone who isn't their close mate.
If we all love dogs so much, why is it that one of the best political putdowns I have ever heard refers negatively towards dogs? It comes from the Australian political system, which is world-leading in its sledging and name-calling. In this particular exchange, one politician described the other as having all the characteristics of a dog, except loyalty. This pretty much says it all. If you run through all the characteristics, loyalty is the only one worthy of note, apart from enthusiasm.
As a traveller, I get to see the best and the worst of dogs, and sometimes it isn't pretty. It pays to have a good idea of what the dog means to the local people when you are travelling. Is the dog treated almost like a God as in Chile (that's not dyslexia, either), or is a dog something that is likely to appear on a menu as in certain Asian countries, or are you in a country where the dog would like to put you on the menu? Are you likely to die a painful death from rabies if a dog bites you, or is a dog bite considered good luck, like a bird shitting on your head? So you need to be aware of and avail yourself of knowledge of the risks of visiting any particular country. Of course, you could argue that you would have to be pretty unlucky to be bitten by a dog with rabies. Still, you'd also be unlucky to be born in Pakistan, too, and that happened to over 180 million people.
You will see some pretty strange shit to do with dogs when you travel too. In some countries, they have become fashion accessories and are toted around in Paris Hilton's handbag. Of course, they get to share a bed with her as well. Being in her handbag doesn't appeal to me, but the rest of the gig would be interesting, I suppose. I have even seen a dog being pushed in a pram in Los Angeles.
My relationships with dogs have been varied over the years. I used to go for a jog down a trail every day when I was visiting Sydney. At one point on the trail, there lived a giant dog who hated everybody(I think he was a Greater Dane from Chernobyl). He would come bounding out, threatening to eat me and generally cause an instantaneous tightening in my sphincter. On one occasion, he came out and had abused me in foul language for a bit, but then momentarily turned his back on me and exposed the largest set of nuts ever seen on a dog. I made one of those split-second decisions that can be life-changing or ending, and kicked this evil dog as hard as I could in the nuts…. and nearly broke my foot. Unable to run away, I waited to see the result.
The dog hardly moved except to turn around and look at me side-on. Shit had just got real again. I'm about to die, I thought. The dog still did nothing while time seemed to stand still, and the whole of my life flashed before my eyes. But then I noticed the look on the dog's face and realised it was in shock. I'm not sure if dogs make tears, but I swear I could see some. It looked like it had been recently bereaved and had simultaneously suffered a significant loss on the stock market. (Not likely, though, because the market had been rising of late) It seemed to be struggling to take in a breath. As I limped away, so did the dog in the other direction. From then on, that dog never gave me trouble. It would see me, and watch and say nothing. I reckon we actually got to nodding our heads in respect each time after a while. If dogs could give a wave, it might have even done that.
Unlike cats, dogs are good at showing their emotions with their facial features. They are good at showing their delight in seeing you, and they are equally good at showing you if they think you are food. My favourite dog expression is the one they wear when they are caught taking a dump on your lawn. This is a cross between shame and ecstasy. Learn to read these facial expressions well, and you will be just fine.
Dogs can be beneficial for things like guiding blind people and catching smugglers at airports. They are good pickup aids with the opposite sex too, but they can also be very annoying. My mate Rodney's dog tried to eat my heart rate monitor one time. I think the dog's name was Fukya because every instruction Rodney gave it after that ended with Fukya. Straight after the heart rate monitor mauling, Rodney's rather strange initial reaction was to try and show the dog how to wear the monitor rather than chew it. I had to tell him it wouldn't work around the dog's neck and certainly didn't need to be that tight. Besides, everyone knows that a dog doesn't have a heart. Its tail pumps the blood around.
Some people use dogs for the weirdest things. My training manager Matt uses his dog to help him practise his aircraft emergency evacuation commands. These are the commands that cabin crew and pilots would use to get your sorry arses off a plane if your life is in danger. Our crew have to practise these so that we are ready for it if crunch time ever arises. Matt's dog has to sit on a seat at attention. Then Matt will start yelling at it in a 'loud and authoritative manor', "Evacuate, Evacuate, Evacuate. Unfasten seatbelts high heels off. Come this way, jump and sit, hurry. "At this point, he throws a stick out the back door and out the dog goes. The dog thinking this is all a hell of a lark, brings the stick back for another go. The dog may be rewarded each time with a dog biscuit, but not if it forgets to remove its high heels or if it brings a bone with it to the door. Bringing cabin baggage with you in an evacuation is a no-no!
Dogs like to eat. They will pretty much give anything a go once, including my legs. Apparently, they aren't supposed to eat chocolate. I'm not sure if this is because it's bad for them, or their owner just doesn't love the dog enough to share. One of my friends brings his dog every time he visits. The dog's name is Monty which is short for Lord Montgomery Mont Blanc Montague the Turd. When you are eating, he sits in direct view of you and very close, looking sad and expectant with his head slightly on one side, waiting to be fed from the table. Sometimes he drools a bit. He never gives up. When there is a cheese board on a coffee table, he circulates like a shark. He occasionally almost gets his nose in the creamy blue before getting yelled at. I find this all very annoying and usually recommend he gets sent to a Korean Restaurant.
Dogs are very territorial, and when they are not pissing everywhere to mark their territory, they love a fight. I watched a typical case of this at Wiesbaden railway station in Germany once, where a guy near me had a dog. Another dog came in through a door on the other side of the platform and immediately started barking its head off at 'our' dog. I don't know what was said because they were barking in German. It obviously wasn't complimentary, and there were some swear words in there for sure, including the 'C' word.
I have another friend who has four dogs. Two of them are Leonbergers which are dogs, but they look like lions, only bigger. From what I can see, the only use for a dog of this size is to give you an excuse to buy new furniture every few weeks after they chew up the stuff you have. They are also good at turning your lawn into a minefield, drooling everywhere and making the place smell very 'doggy.' Oh and frightening off both friends and burglars. My friend is known as the mad dog lady, but she is happy. I worry that one day when I visit, she won't be there except as part of the minefield on the lawn.
Dogs can also be cute…when they are puppies, but remember, one day, you will stand in their shit, or they will stick their wet snout in your female guest's crotch because they sense a cat in there. And cute is only temporary. Osama Bin Laden would have been cute when he was three, even with a beard.
I have always had a somewhat fractious relationship with dogs. They are always trying to eat me, lick my face, poo where I will walk or do other even less sociable things. One of my mate's dogs used to always sit on my foot when I was visiting. This happened with another dog at a crowded triathlon where this random dog sat on my foot twice in an hour in a crowd of 500 people. It's got me beat. Maybe it's the way I wriggle my toes?
In the end, dogs are all part of the incredible thrill of travel. Dogs are ubiquitous. I'm still on the fence as to whether I'd prefer a dog or a cat. Cats are arseholes, but at least they hide their shit.
By the time I'd finished contemplating dogs, Dan had returned from his time off, and I was off on mine. I'd been sleeping all day, though, so I wasn't tired enough to sleep and decided to watch a movie instead. A couple of hours and one movie later, I was back on duty just in time to traverse a row of thunderstorms that were on our track.
We used the weather radar to skirt around the sides of them. It's good practice to leave at least 10 kilometres between you and a thunderstorm, especially the massive ones that extend up to 50,000 feet. At night the lightning in these storms is quite spectacular. It can jump out of storms and hit aircraft. Generally, aircraft are ok with being struck by lightning. Usually, there's a loud thump that sounds like someones trying to get in from the outside with a sledgehammer, and that's about it. A decent strike can leave a small hole in the skin of an aircraft. The real downside is that after the next landing, the whole aircraft has to go through a full lightning strike check by engineers that can delay its next departure for a few hours.
We'd suffered a bit of turbulence while going around the thunderstorms. After we were clear of them, a couple of the flight attendants had come up to chat about Johannesburg plans. One of them mentioned the 'air pockets' we had been through. Dan informed her that air pockets don't exist. "It's just updrafts and down drafts'" he said. I'm not sure she was convinced.
Some of the guys and girls were keen to rent a van in Johannesburg and go for a night at Horseback Africa then a couple of nights on Safari at Entabini. Both places give a considerable discount to the crew, which made their plan way more attractive. That would be fun. The three of us were keen, so we suggested they organise it, and we'd be in.
A few hours out of Johannesburg, the planet Venus came up over the horizon. This means that the sun is due anytime because the two hang out together, relatively. Sure enough, reliable as ever, the sun came up right in our tired eyes. This is a particularly crappy time for pilots when they really should be in bed. We ordered some coffees and breakfast, which made us feel better, and we planned for the arrival into Johannesburg.
Johannesburg airport sits at 5,558 feet above sea level. This complicates things for pilots because the air is thinner, and performance capability is reduced. Because the air is thinner, the approach ground speed needs to be higher to get the same number of air particles over the wing. Because the approach speed is higher, so is the rate of descent when you are landing. The end result is that the visual picture this paints for the pilot is somewhat more scary than usual. It's not unusual to hear a collective sucking of teeth from all the pilots just as we enter the flare to land.
Hewitt was flying the sector, and I have to say he did a pretty good job of the landing even though he wasn't wearing a harness.
We taxied up to the gate at Johannesburg airport, parked, shut down, and headed into the terminal. The arrival experience was just as shonky as ever, with no one checking our I/d cards or passports and very little interest being shown in security. The time before when I had arrived, a friend of mine came to pick me up, and he'd made it through customs to the baggage claim and waited for me there.
Anyway, we all survived that and jumped on a bus to the hotel for a well-earned zizz.
After a few hours of sleep, we all met downstairs. One of the cabin crew blokes called Frank, who had his 15-year-old son with him on this trip, had organised and picked up our van, and we were ready to go. There was us three guys, Frank and his son Peter, Raymond the chief purser and the three girls, Grace, Sarah and Ruby.
Horseback Africa is about an hours drive north of Joburg at Cullinan near Pretoria. It's a stunningly beautiful wildlife area with horse riding safaris and animal interaction tours. You can go walking with young lions and interact with the really young cubs. The accommodation and food are excellent and the owners very helpful and friendly.
We arrived just in time for a play with a couple of very young lion cubs but too late for a horse ride, so that would have to wait for the following morning. In the meantime, we settled in with some very nice drinks and waited for dinner. It wasn't long before Grace moved in for a conversation.
Grace: "So, Terry. What's your story?"
Me: "Single, happy, not much else to say. I've learnt that giving is better than receiving. Spend a lot of my home time helping find homes for orphan kittens. Some of my friends call me Volun-Terry."
Grace: "Oh, nice. I love kittens. That must be so much fun."
Me: "When I retire, I hope to become a mad cat man."
Grace: "Can you ride horses?"
Me: "Can I? The Lone Ranger's got nothing on me."
Grace: "Oh, great. You can gallop with me tomorrow."
Oops. Me and my big mouth, I thought.
Soon an excellent dinner was served, followed by us sitting around a fire with a few drinks with the roar of the adult lions in the background. Grace seemed very keen and was staying close. I figured I'd slow play this one as she lived near me back home, which could lead to complications. We were also staying in bunk rooms. The boys were in one with the girls in another, so any action would have to wait until Entabini anyway. It's not like you can just sneak off into the bushes in Africa, either. The food chain is more complicated than at home.
The next morning after a few coffees and a good meaty breakfast, we all gathered near the stables to be assigned horses for the ride. I'd done a bit of riding before. Still, I certainly wasn't the Lone Ranger, so when I heard Grace asking for two fast horses for myself and her, I suddenly had a feeling of impending doom. To this day, I don't really understand why people love riding horses. In my experience, they are stubborn, ornery and mean. They don't know how to follow instructions, come with no steering wheel, are damn uncomfortable, and seem bone lazy at these hire places. But when I leapt on my nag, I do have to admit to being mildly surprised that it actually showed some interest in getting out and on the ride.
We all headed out with the guide in the lead and the rest of us in single file. It was a pleasant ride to start with up onto a plateau. The pace was sedate, and I was happy. The scenery was quite magnificent. Apart from the caged lions, there are no animals in the area, apart from snakes, that would want to eat you. We saw giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, impala and a few other species.
We never did get up to any sort of speed on the horses because, at only 1hp, they were a bit underpowered, but while I was heading down a particularly steep section just in front of Grace, my nag sped up, and when it got near the bottom it stopped dead. I went straight over the front and landed flat on my back in a cloud of dust. In the process, I hit my head so hard that I suddenly remembered where I'd left the keys to the tool shed a few years earlier. It was quite a fall, and at first, I was winded. Then I started feeling for any obvious injuries. There didn't seem to be any, so I slowly stood up, trying hard to control an urge to punch the horse in the mouth as it stood there grinning at me.
"Are you ok? said Grace.
"Yeah, fine thanks," I said
"Lone ranger, eh? It looks like your riding skills are only elemen-Terry."
"Haha. Very funny."
I remounted the nag and proceeded to walk back as if nothing had happened, but all my bones ached, as did my pride.
And that was it for Horseback Africa. All in all, it's totally worth a visit but steer clear of a mean, grey nag called Warwick.
At about 11am, we all piled in the van and headed towards Entabini. It's about a two-hour drive north of Pretoria, and as we went, the roads got progressively worse. You would think that building good roads would be the easy part in a country with millions of unemployed people. But the reality is that corruption tends to gradually make things go downhill. This was obvious when we used to fly into Zimbabwe in the 80s. At first, things worked reasonably well, but as time went on and things broke, nothing got fixed. A lot of the money that should have been used for infrastructure was instead channelled into Swiss bank accounts. Now Zimbabwe is a basket case with hyperinflation. South Africa seems to be heading that way as well. Past president, Jacob Zuma, has been accused of corruption costing South Africa around USD $40Billion.
Meanwhile, power cuts are a part of everyday life in South Africa. There is a push by interested countries (China and Russia) to build nuclear power stations to fix this at a considerable expense. Decisions on this are most likely going to be made based on backhanders rather than commonsense. It's a bit tragic.
What's not tragic, though, is the Entabini game reserve. Entabini is situated in Limpopo. It's set within a tranquil, natural setting, boasting changing vistas, diverse ecosystems and a breathtaking mountainous backdrop. It's basically the integration of a 22,000 hectare Big 5 game reserve and luxurious lodges.
There's the main lodge and two others nearby with different outlooks. Then there's a tented camp called 'Wildside' with a separate dining area and bar. The beauty of all the lodges is that the animals are free to wander in when they like, so you have to be a bit wary. You never know when an elephant might sneak in and hide in your refrigerator.
The 'Big 5' game animals are the Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant and Cape Buffalo. The term 'Big 5' was coined by big games hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. The term is now widely used by safari tour operators as well. The African Big 5 is pretty impressive on the animal impressiveness scale. Australians who can't stand to be outdone by anybody, particularly South Africans, will claim that their big 5 are more impressive. They are the kangaroo, quokka, echidna, Tasmanian devil and the koala. I'm sorry, and I don't know about you, but I'm leaning towards awarding the gold medal to South Africa. Even more pathetic than Australia is New Zealand. Their Big 5 are the sheep, possum, rabbit, deer and the 'doidy rat'. But here's the thing. New Zealanders don't give a shit because giving a shit is way too hard and because their sheep are the best looking and sexy animals in the world. And their national bird, the kiwi, is far more impressive, albeit not as prolific as Australia's national bird, the fly.
We arrived at the main Entabini lodge and checked in just in time for afternoon tea. Then it was time for a nap before the dusk safari. From what I can see there are two reasons you go to Entabini, safaris and the luxury accommodation and food. They do both very well.
We all met at around 4pm and were loaded onto the special purpose Toyotas for the safari. There was also a bin full of drinks that we could help ourselves to onboard. I was seated up the back with Grace on my left and Franks young son Peter on my right. Frank was on Peter's right. The rest of the mob were lower down at the front with a couple of extras as well.
We headed off with frequent stops for our guide to point out some of the animals on the upper escarpment, then we wound our way down a steep trail to the plains some 1,200 feet lower where there was a greater range of wildlife. The guides tend to know where most of the leading animal groups hang out. Since other vehicles are driving around looking, radio communications between vehicles help locate animals of interest.
The African savanna ecosystem is a tropical grassland with warm temperatures year-round. It's characterised by grasses and small or dispersed trees that don't form a closed canopy, allowing sunlight to reach the ground. The Entabini reserve contains savanna, rocky outcrops, watering holes and some more dense bush in patches as well, so it's all pretty impressive.
Pretty soon, we located a pride of lions in the middle of the track and stopped to watch. There followed an 'interesting' sequence of events. First, a young male started sniffing around the main female. Then the older male got the shits, and the two males had a brawl right in front of us. The younger male got his arse handed to him on a plate and slunk off into the bushes. The 'victorious' lion then 'had his way' straight away with the main female, who seemed totally uninterested but quite receptive. When he had finished, the victorious male rolled over and went to sleep. This all took about 90 seconds and happened right next to us. Young Peter was stunned, so I leaned over and said, "Pete. That's your sex education, and life education completed right there in 90 seconds. That's all you need to know." Frank had a big smirk on his face.
Grace looked at me with disgust.
"What?" I said.
"No, it's not. It's real life."
"Do you find that entertaining?" she asked.
"Not really. But very interesting," I said.
Until now, Grace had been showing some considerable interest and had been sticking close, so I was hoping to get lucky later. This was a minor setback, though, and I'd have to be on my game from now on. I was wondering whether this sudden lack of a sense of humour was a warning sign. But It didn't take long for an opportunity to impress Grace to come along again, which I grasped with both hands. About ten minutes after the first lion episode, we came across another few lions feeding on the carcass of what looked like an antelope. I leaned over to Pete and said, "That's why it's futile being a vegan because even the animals eat each other. When they stop doing it, so will I."
And Grace said, "I'm a vegan, you know."
And do you know what, I should have known by now. I just wasn't observant enough, and now I'd blown it. Oh well. Back to the drawing board and no great loss. Who wants a relationship with someone who doesn't like being served a 2kg slab of filet mignon anyway?
The rest of the safari was quiet by comparison. We saw the Big 3, lion, elephant and rhino, but no leopard or buffalo. Then we headed back up the track to the lodge for dinner and drinks. By this time, I was thirsty, as were Dave and Dan, so we launched pretty hard into a couple of beer and then some fine South African red wine. Grace and the two old boilers, Sarah and Ruby, were doing the same at their own table, and every now and then, I'd catch Grace's eye, and she'd glare. I was pleased I'd dodged that bullet. She seemed quite bitter about something. Meanwhile, Frank and Peter enjoyed a beer and a chat by themselves, and Raymond was chatting up some bloke at the bar.
Just when it looked like all was well with the world, in walked another couple. He looked older, wealthy and quite overweight. She was a lot younger and quite hot. I watched them for a while, and it was obvious she was his trophy, and although she liked the wealth, she looked bored. I caught her eye after a time, and we started smiling at each other and generally upping the ante. This went on for an hour or so, and the alcohol was also kicking in handsomely. Then she got up to go to the toilet, so I waited 20 seconds then followed her. I waited till she came out into the hallway. She seemed surprised to see me at first, then she gave me a slightly tipsy but sexy smile, and she said, "Hi. I'm Virginia."
"Hi. I'm Terry."
We quickly did introductions. They were American, and as I thought, he was the CEO of some big conglomerate. After a couple of minutes, she said, "I'd better get back. Don will be wondering where I am." And she gave me a peck on the cheek and went back into the bar. I waited for a minute or so then returned myself.
Dan, who was onto me, accused me of being a 'dog' and gave me a wink. Eventually, dinner was served, and everyone had to sit around a large rectangular table. I waited to see where Don and Virginia would sit, and I sat opposite Virginia. As luck would have it, Grace sat on the other side of Don. If she had known how helpful she was being to me, distracting Don, she would have been mortified because it wasn't long before I felt Virginia's foot touch mine under the table. Then a game of foot touch ensued right next to Don, who was all but dribbling over Grace.
More wine was drunk, and the food was great South African fare. The mood and noise level was rising. Virginia again got up to use the loo between main and dessert, so I followed her out again. This time we kissed passionately and I had a bit of a grope and then she said, "What's your room number? Dons a heavy sleeper. I'll sneak down and see you in your room about an hour after we go to bed."
"Room 204," I said, and then this time, I returned to the table first.
Now I couldn't wait for dinner to end and everyone to go to bed, but it was like waiting for a pot to boil. Every time it looked like it was about to happen, Don would order another expensive bottle of wine, no doubt imagining the threesome he was about to get with Grace and Virginia. Eventually, it was Grace who came to the rescue again; God Bless her. When Don leaned over and propositioned her quietly in her ear, she suddenly jumped up, said, "You dirty old pervert. Fuck off." And she stormed out.
Well, that certainly killed the atmosphere, and it wasn't long before 'time' was called and then lights out. About half an hour later, I heard a knock on my door. I opened it, and there was Virginia wearing a long nightshirt and in bare feet. I pulled her in the door and closed it. We embraced passionately. I was naked and soon found that she was as well underneath the nightshirt. This was going to be outstanding. I could feel that she was well-groomed and well ready. But then all hell broke loose outside, and the lights went on, and we could hear raised voices.
"Fuck. It's Don." She said.
I peeped out the door, and there was quite the commotion. Don was yelling, "My wife is missing. Find her before she gets taken by an animal." One manager was waving his arms and pointing and shouting. There were more local people running around in circles and grabbing torches.
"You've got to get out of here," I said to Virginia. Go out the back window and walk through the bushes and come back along the entry drive. When you meet, the searchers say you were just getting some fresh air." "Will I be safe?" she asked.
"Safer than staying here and Don finding you here."
So out the window, she went with me, helping and copping a closeup of the gem I'd just missed out on when she lifted her leg to get out.
That didn't help my mental state at all, and I knew I'd have to sort myself out shortly. My mother had always told me that I'd go blind doing that, but I was due for a prescription update for my specs shortly anyway, so what the heck?
The next morning everyone was a bit quiet and sad from the excess of wine the night before, and there was no sign of Virginia and Don. I sucked back a few coffees and had a greasy hangover breakfast. Dan asked me if I had had anything to do with the previous night's commotion, and I told him I hadn't heard a thing and had slept through it. There were discussions about what was on that day. We were all going to be staying down at Wildside Lodge that evening, but what to do in the meantime. The girls were keen on horse riding, as were Frank and Peter. Dan and Dave were going quad biking. I decided that you only live once and that I'd be keen to try the extreme 19th hole at the Legends Golf course, which was nearby. Raymond was eager for this as well.
The extreme 19th is the highest and longest par 3 golf hole in the world. It's located at the Legends Golf and Safari Resort in the Entabini Safari Conservatory. The tee, situated at the top of Hanglip Mountain, is accessed only by helicopter. Because of its height, a tee shot takes almost 20 seconds to land. A spotter is given a rough direction via radio to look for the ball. The green has been shaped to resemble the continent of Africa and is surrounded by a large wide bunker. The hole has a vertical height of 430 meters and a horizontal distance from the foot of the mountain to the back of the green of 400 meters. If four people share the experience, the cost is around USD $300, and for that, you get six shots and a helicopter ride. If you get a hole in one, they say the resort will pay you USD$ 1 million. So far, no one has, although quite a few have got a birdie on the hole.
I met Raymond in the lobby for our ride over to the Legends Resort, and who should be there waiting as well? None other than Don. "Where's your wife?" I asked.
"She's not my wife, and she's spending a large lump of my money on a beauty spa treatment. At least that keeps her out of my hair."
"What happens at the spa?"
"Expensive creams with gold in them, $100 worth of mud on your face, hot rocks, oil massage, probably a waxing of the bits."
She won't be needing that, I thought, still sweating a bit at the memory of the 'view' from last night.
On the ride over, I had a good conversation with Don. He was quite a nice guy, and if I wasn't such a bastard, I'd probably have felt guilty about the previous night. But I was, and I didn't. It turned out that they were also going down to the high side that night which would undoubtedly add to the interest for me anyway.
At Legends, we jumped in the helicopter and had a fantastic ride up to the tee off. Hitting from the tee is not as easy as you would think. It's right on the edge of a seriously high cliff, and there is nothing to stop you from falling over it to your death. Even standing there lining up the shot, I was getting vertigo and leaning way back from the cliff. There was an awful feeling that by taking the shot, you'd follow the ball off the cliff. This doesn't make any sense, really, because you don't fall over after a typical golf shot unless it's the 17th hole of a 'tequila shot a hole' tournament. But telling your head this is impossible.
I 'topped' my first shot, and it dribbled over the edge. The second went 100 meters and right. The third was similar. The fourth was straight and high. Quite why height was required, I don't know, and Don asked this question of me as well. I told him to fuck off and wait for his turn. Shot five was the best and looked to be somewhere near the fairway, and by that time, my nerves were shattered, and I declined the sixth. Raymond had similar luck. Don was quite impressive for a fat fuck and drove to just short of the green. I was hoping he'd fall over the edge so I could console Virginia and help her spend his fortune, but sadly he didn't. Then we took the helicopter down to the bottom and hacked around for a while until we sunk the ball in 8 for me, 6 for Raymond and 4 for Don. Bastard.
Later in the afternoon, the whole crew was transferred down to the Wildside lodge. Then everyone went out on safari again. After the safari, we all hit the bar at Wildside for cocktails. There were a few extras down there as well, so it was a reasonable party. After another good dinner, we resumed the serious drinking, and eventually, Virginia said she was going to bed. Don was on a role hitting on another new chick from a different group, so Virginia swung by and suggested I wait five minutes, then sneak into her room.
At Wildside, because there are lions, etc., wandering around, you aren't supposed to go to your rooms without an armed escort. Virginia had organised one and disappeared. The party was really going off, so I figured I could risk disappearing too. So five minutes later, I slipped out the door and walked by myself across the clearing and through the trees to Virginia and Don's room. Once inside, we embraced again, and she started to rip my clothes off. We were both in a frenzy when suddenly we heard steps on the porch and Don thanking his escort. I nearly shat myself. There was no other way out than the front door, so I quickly moved into the shower cubicle with my clothes in my arms and pulled the shower curtain across. I could hear Don come in. I'm surprised he couldn't hear my heart beating. I could, and it sounded like a bass drum in a brass band. Don said to Virginia, "I've just come back to get my phone to show some people the photos and video of our golf shots at the 19th and then I'll be back in five to hit the sack."
After Don had left, I quickly got dressed, pecked Virginia on the cheek and slipped out the door. But where to from here? I didn't have an escort and wasn't quite sure where my room was, so I headed in the general direction, except that I didn't because it wasn't long before I had no idea where I was, couldn't see any lights and was obviously quite lost. And then I heard it, a rustling in the bushes. By this time, I was running out of shit to shit myself, but I found some more shit somewhere because I managed it yet again. The rustling sounded loud, and it was being caused by a large animal. It was possibly a lion, and it was tracking me for sure. What a way to go, shitting myself and being eaten then becoming shit in the great circle of poo.
I moved around a bit more, thinking the lion might give up, but it just kept following me and seemed to be getting closer. Then I could see a pair of eyes looking at me through the dark, and I knew it wouldn't be long now. I was starting to whimper a bit and had a prickly feeling all over my body. My whole life was flashing before my eyes. I was beginning to wonder who would get my coffee machine and wondering what my ex-wives would say on their Facebook page. The eyes were slowly moving closer as I backed up through the bushes. I hoped it would be quick, perhaps a bite through the jugular and a quick bleed out before he started to eat me. Then suddenly, I felt something tap me on my shoulder. Holy shit, there was another one behind me. I slowly turned around, and a man was standing there holding a rifle. "Hello, Sir. What are you doing out here? It's not safe. Come with me. What is your room number?"
Boy, I needed a drink, so I got the escort to deliver me back to the bar. There were still a few there, so I ended up chatting with the old boilers, Sarah and Ruby. Another bottle of wine later, Sarah had gone, and it was just Ruby and me, and then the bar closed.
"I have a bottle of wine in my room," said Ruby
Well, she seemed harmless enough. She weighed more than me, was about 65 and had bright red permed hair. I was drunk enough to think that another bottle of wine was a great idea, so we went to her room. The next morning I woke at daybreak with a throbbing head and wearing only my underwear. I opened one eye and reached out for my phone to see the time. It was then that I realised that I was still in Ruby's room, and we were in bed together. Then she opened one eye and said, "Oh fuck. Not again. Did we?"
"I'm not sure. Fuck”
"Me either. Fuck”
"Farrrrk." We both said at once.
And then she said, "Well, if we did, thank you. I'm sure it was great, and it's been a while. The last time was when the circus came to town."
"Oh really?" I said.
"Yes. He was less than three feet tall. I think his nickname was 'Pork Sword'. Didn't have much to say."
"Go, Ruby," I said. I hoped she was joking, but I suspected she wasn't, and I scarpered out of her room, hoping no one would see me.
My Psychiatrist Phil reckoned that I must be bloody tough to endure the trifecta shocks of thinking I would be eaten by a lion, wondering if I'd had sex with Ruby and missing out on sex with Virginia. He harped on and on about Virginia for 30 minutes wanting ALL the details, and asked if I had photos.
Later that day, we all headed back to Johannesburg to rest up for the flight to Sydney later that evening. It had been a big few days, and I was mentally wiped out. I could use a good sleep, but first, I was hungry, and I needed to sort that, so I went for a walk along the corridor on my floor and found some room service trays that had been left out. There were still bread rolls and jams on one, and another had a half-eaten steak and some fries. That would do just fine. With a full belly, I slept well until the phone rang.
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