How lucky! For almost four weeks we were house sitters at Limpopo Horse Riding Safaris at Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana. We cared for thirty-eight well-trained, bush wise horses, a greyhound named Cleo and the property together with few of the employees, who were assigned to stay over the Christmas holidays.
With us stayed an English girl, Lucy, who helped to care for the horses. The camp lies on the banks of the Limpopo River at the border to South Africa. The landscape was initially dry and dusty as there had been little rain in springtime. Characteristic red koptjies (Afrikaans for a rocky hill in the bushveld) signalized that we were in the Tuli Block of Botswana.
Early mornings at half past five, before and after lunch and at five o’clock in the afternoon we fetched the workers in their nearby village with the bakkie (Afrikaans for a farmers truck). We brought the horses in from the fields, where they spend the night and most of the daytime. After feeding the horses in the stables, we brushed and controlled them for injuries and treated them. We trained some horses or walked them in the school and sometimes outside in the game reserve. That was my favourite, as we saw elephants, hyenas and warthogs among others from horseback. Cleo the dog was at first reserved and stayed most of the time in the house. She seemed to miss her family, who were on holiday. But soon she knew that I always had a treat for her and greeted me every morning highly excited. If possible she would sneak into the tent and jump with her long legs on our bed. She enjoyed every ride out and even more, when she was allowed to run beside the bakkie. She reaches an extraordinary 65 kilometres per hour! She is a very kind and sensitive dog. I will miss her.
George as non-rider helped out with the building activities and maintenance. In Two Mashatus, the stationary luxury tented camp with swimming pool in the middle of the bush, a roof had to be redone with Lalapalm and wooden poles had to be attached to stabilize the walls of the horse stables. As Two Mashatus is half an hour drive from the main camp through the game park George had plenty sightings of wildlife during his drives. Several times George went with the roofer to his village about an hours drive away up north, where the roofer’s wife had cut the Lalapalm. It was most interesting to see the life in a rural village with an insider and to work together with the locals was an extraordinary experience though not always easy as lots of patience is needed.
In the second half of our time in Botswana it started to rain occasionally. Thunderstorms around and in the game reserve awakened the trees and grass, so that even yellow flowers started to appear at the acacia trees and at the plains. The Limpopo, the Mujale and the Shashe Rivers, which had been dry as a bone when we came, started to fill up. With the water came all kind of insects so also the flying termites, which would fly in the night in hordes against the light and manage to get trough the tiniest gaps between the sliding windows into the house. Just a short natural phenomena as in the morning only their wings marked their presents the previous night.
During a game drive with a guide of Mashatu, we saw a Cheetah mother with four babies at a kill of an Impala. As we arrived they were chased away by a hyena. Luckily the Cheetah’s were already satisfied and their bellies thick. A jackal was fast enough during the rage that he got his share, too. We followed the playful Cheetah cubs, which tried to climb trees and teased each other and their mother gently. The bush is alive unlike any other kind of nature environment. It is wonderful to wake up in the night by a hyenas “whooohoop” or in the morning with a myriad of birds singing. It’s worth to bare the summer heat of sometimes up to 36° Celsius as you get rewarded by the close tough of the wild. Hopefully we will be able to return to this magic place.