John is seated at a breakfast table for two when a clacking sound across the terrace heralds the arrival of Betty, resplendent in smart floral dress, fourinch heels and matching handbag. She looks more ready for a church service than a bush breakfast. Everybody turns to look.
“Bit dressy for breakfast darling?” murmurs John, nervously.
“Well these honeymoon outfits need an outing, even if it’s not quite the setting I had in mind,” she says, waving a hand across the vista of a waterhole, replete with picturesque plains game taking a drink.
“By the way…I waited ages for a golf cart to come and collect me from our tent, so I gave up and walked in the end. And I can tell you, that path was murder in these heels. And so far!”
John thinks of the multiple suitcases filling their honeymoon tent and sighs. His idea of the perfect holiday with his new wife was to get back to nature, hike and have an adventure. It turns out that her concept was quite different. He glances around neighbouring tables peopled with bland, khaki-clad tourists wearing technical trousers and ventilated safari shirts. He can’t deny that Betty looks gorgeous, so squeezes her hand and she smiles.
“No morning game drive today?” asks the waiter as he brings coffee to the table.
“Not this time,” says Betty. “It’s our honeymoon. We need time to relax.”
“We are getting up early tomorrow though aren’t we?” asks John, mindful of the surprise dawn balloon ride he has up his sleeve.
“Depends how much sleep we get tonight,” says Betty. The waiter drips the coffee as he pours, perhaps perceiving some innuendo, but the truth is that they spent the night frightened out of their wits as a hippo grazed right up against the canvas of their tent. John and Betty had clung to one another as the huffs and grunts went on. Then a hyena howled in the distance.
“What was that?” Betty had asked. “You did do up all the tent zips properly?”
“Yes, yes, nothing can get in here,” John assured her, not entirely convinced.
That afternoon, John and Betty decide to go on a bush walk. When a grazing zebra takes sudden flight, John suspects that Betty’s oversized red sunhat is the culprit. For the remainder of the walk they hardly spot much more than a dung beetle. Betty checks her Instagram feed as the ranger explains which plants have medicinal properties and John attempts to look interested for the both of them. After about half an hour in the hot sun, the ranger radioes a vehicle to come and pick them up.
“I’ve booked a massage at three,” says Betty. “I can’t be late.”
John is close to despairing of the honeymoon but the next morning, the pair dutifully get up at 5 am to be transferred to the balloon site.
“It seems a bit early for a game drive John,” queries Betty, half asleep. “It’s still dark. We won’t see a thing.”
John fetches Betty a cup of sweet tea from the dining room then tucks her into an open sided vehicle under a Maasai blanket with a hot water bottle. Her head bounces gently on his shoulder as they head out from the camp across the shrub to high ground.
Finally they round a corner to be met with the vision of a giant, striped balloon midway through being inflated by an impressive flame. The sky behind has turned a vivid orange with the dawn. Betty sits up, eyes wide and lets out a shriek.
“A balloon ride! I’ve never done anything like this!”
John grins, gallantly handing Betty a glass of champagne.
“Only the best for my wife,” he says before she plants a huge kiss on his lips.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she says. “This is the best honeymoon ever!”
Frances Woodhams is author of the blog: www.africaexpatwivesclub.com