I spent another very long hour in there, my bruises swelling, the pain in my throat enhancing and my guilt and shame quadrupling. Eventually Kirsty came out, still fuming with her boss, and we stormed out of the Anglo building and around to the car park compound.
I found it difficult to explain what had happened and even harder to say why I hadn’t found the police. She agreed it was probably fruitless. We drove out to the huge exhibition centre to the south west of the city, not far from the main motorway, the N1 and the famous South West Township, or Soweto. A huge computer fair was there. We ate a greasy hot dog and then looked around the stalls, but neither of our hearts was in it. We headed for home, stopping off at a shopping centre in the north of the town to buy me a new camera. Kirsty talked of her plans for me the next day, to visit the Pilansberg Park for the weekend. I really wanted to give South Africa another chance, so was happy to go with her. She retired early as she had want to do. I watched TV till late. La Cage aux Folles was on, and I watched and tried to laugh at it till the very end, but I had to lie carefully on the couch; my neck getting sorer every hour.
The next morning, we packed early and went to her local police station. The lack of interest in my case was self evident, so I just ensured that I had something official looking to give to my insurers when I got back to the UK. We drove down and headed towards Pretoria. Heading west out of the city we set off along a new stretch of motorway, heading towards Mafeking, and then when it ended headed through one of the many ridges that divided up the Wittwatersrand; the Magdalen Hills. We entered Hartebeestpoort and through the gap where the dam lies. Out on to the plain beyond, we passed through a Lutheran landscape of white steepled churches, picket fences and wide open plains. We passed many of the platinum mines that give the wealth to this area, and then on to a wide featureless plain for mile after mile.
Eventually we approached what used to be Bophutotswana, and small self built shacks replaced the affluent farmland. At the end of an extensive settlement, the great park entrance loomed. We paid our money and entered, and almost immediately, left the conflict behind, and entered something closer to the Africa I knew. Not quite, though, Pilansberg is very much a man made creation. A vast volcanic crater with curious microclimates populated with imported animals. All the big five are present and many others, but most have been brought in from other places.
It was already quite late when we entered the park, but we saw an elephant and several antelope at a hide, and giraffe looked up from many of the thorn bushes as we passed. But it was not till late in the day that we really saw much. Kirsty was disappointed on my behalf, but I was just happy to be with one who knew how to safari properly, and that I was away from that dangerous city. Wildlife I could deal with. They were predictable. It was humans that I had most problem with at the time.
I remember coming down to a small waterhole and watching some Waterbuck gently step down for an evening drink. They calmly walked up to the hole and lapped up the water, glistening in the setting sun. I breathed deeply, taking in the setting and finally unleashing some of the tension that I had within me.
We set up the tent and cooked a small brai on the campfire. We chatted as usual. Kirsty was used to doing this kind of trek. Her whole childhood had been full of these kinds of things. They would quickly pack up the back of the Buckie and head off to some deserted area and camp for the weekend, with a brai every night, and sleep under the stars with the sounds of elephants and lions in the distance. She compared herself to a friend who used to pack everything meticulously into her van. She would take absolutely everything with her, a full icebox, all the towels and changes of clothes, a whole load of kitchen gadgets, food for a month, and the entire latest camping goods. Kirsty could never be bothered with that and just flung everything in the back of the van. I must say I liked her philosophy; I’m never one to plan much for a day trip, just make sure the car is full of petrol and set off. Having said that I noticed how there were certain items in the van that Kirsty made sure were there; such as water, which you would not have given that much thought to on a day trip in the UK.
I was knackered so went to bed sharing the tent after inspecting the Milky Way. I slept deeply, the pain in my neck now lessening slightly, but still very much reminding me of the horror of the day before. Next morning, I awoke to find the bag next to me empty. I surfaced and looked around. Kirsty was still asleep in the back of her wagon. I asked her what the problem was.