Sand Rivers indaba


Writing about the wild

Far easier being in the wild than writing about having been in the wild. So I take my hat off to those talented enough to describe their experiences in a way that I can relate to. For me a combination of the ability to describe what is seen and place that in context is very important. Context could mean a number of things: history, people, the author’s emotional / psychological / intellectual response to the experience. Or it could simply be a cracker of an adventure. 

So who are we talking about? Among several, Harry Wolhuter’s Memories of a Game Ranger, A C White’s Call of the Bushveld, The Ivory Trail (the story of Bvekenya (Cecil Barnard)) as told by T V Bulpin, three from the great Peter MatthiessenThe Tree Where Man Was Born, The Snow Leopard and the eponymous Sand Rivers, Percy Fawcett’s Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z and Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands. If those books don’t evoke a response, I’ll write to the authors and complain.  

Here are three examples: 

  • From Call of the Bushveld: “If the camper be wise, he will drink the drink the lions drink, and at night wake up at intervals to listen in rapt attention to the voices of the bushveld.”
  • From Exploration Fawcett: “What have not changed are the silent rivers rolling on through the forests of the interior, for to them the passage of a millennium is but a day, and they still shroud behind their impenetrable veil the mysteries of which I write, and the curtain rolls back on scenes utterly removed from the everyday world. Come with me now, and see for yourself!”
  • From The Ivory Trail: “Where the Luvuvhu River twists its way through the wilderness to join the great Limpopo, there lies a forgotten corner of the Transvaal, left alone to brood in the solitude and silence of the bush. At the junction of the rivers this isolated wedge of land tapers off to a point: a bush-covered cape washed by the swirling waters, an old resting place of crocodiles, with a shady little beach where many an evil dream has been spun in the secret thoughts of those cruel reptiles.” 

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