21 October 2010 by Julienne du Toit

Yanks in the bush

He was Jack, she was Grace. They were from New York. He was a high-powered lawyer, she a socialite and fundraiser.

On impulse, at an auction fundraiser for the Metropolitan Opera House, they’d bid on a safari trip to South Africa. Much to their surprise they’d won. And now we were with them on their first game drive.

Fresh from urban sophistication, a business class flight and then a Cessna bush landing, they were little disoriented and time-lagged.

Jack’s eyes crinkled, though, when he took a good look at my husband. Chris seldom shaves in the bush, and he was wearing a beanie against the winter chill.

“I know you,” grinned Jack. “Didn’t we last meet in Central Park? Do you still have my wallet?”

We liked them immediately. It was a thrill being with these New York sophisticates as they saw wild animals for the first time, felt and smelled the bushveld they had only seen on television.

At the waterhole, we found a herd of elephant playfully jostling one another, youngsters testing their strength. Jack and Grace were transfixed. They could have watched for hours.

Every animal was a revelation. How could we be so casual about impala, they wondered. Look at how delicate they were, how elegant.

In the mopane woodland, we found a pearl-spotted owl swivelling its head, apparently through 360 degrees, an effect accentuated by the false eyes on the back of the owl’s little head.

“Puts me in mind of the Exorcist,” said Jack, trying to photograph it with a newly bought Canon 400 mm lens.

We spent days with them, and were sad to part. After exchanging cards, they urged us to visit them if ever in New York.

“We’ll take you to see the Lion King.”

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