The warm colours splashed across the eastern sky warned us of the sun’s approach. With characteristic geocentricity, we waited for it to rise. Under the big thatched roof of the lodge, guests and rangers alike fought off the last shards of a sleep shattered far too early. For some, the anticipation of the day’s adventures came quickly to their aid, but for others coffee and a lot of blinking were necessary. The birds however, were as cheerful as ever, welcoming the dawn with their song. The air was still and the slight chill it held would soon be gone. It was another beautiful morning and I too looked forward to it. Dale wandered up to the lodge. Dale was a ranger. He came from a little farm far away in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. He was the most calm, steadfast kind of chap you could come across and he had a sense of humour that could take you completely by surprise. Dale got on with everyone. He ambled over and we said our good mornings. His guests were not going on the drive that morning, so the time was his own. He asked if he could come along with me and my guests. “Sure.” I said, I had space. Irrationally however, having another ranger along on game drive was something I still found a little bit frightening. The training process that we went through was so hyper-critical that even after I had qualified, it still felt like I was being watched. And I was. Rangers – descent ones at least – are critical of one another, in a constructive professional sort of way. We work together as a team and that is the only way in which the whole team can improve itself. You get used to it and it should never be personal. If it’s not, you build up a great respect for one another and an appreciation for good advice. I was happy to take Dale though. He was easy going and good company. After everyone had been introduced and our coffee cups had been emptied, we made for the Landrover. The guests decided that they would really like to see a rhino. While they got comfortable on the vehicle, I talked to my tracker, whose name was Jonas, and we decided to head west. West was the best place for rhino. Jonas climbed onto the seat at the front of the vehicle. Dale slammed the passenger door shut, I climbed in, having no door to slam, and started the engine. It rumbled easily to life and another game drive had begun. As the sun twinkled through the trees and then rose above them, the air began to heat up subtly. It would be warm but not a scorching day. Little birds flitted across the road and in the trees next to it. We stopped to look at some of them. We also stopped to look at a few trees and I explained some interesting facts and theories about them. At one point we stopped for a snail in the road. It was one of the really big snails that are often seen during inclement or moist weather. We got out to have a closer look. It was a giant snail, well over ten centimetres long. These sort of snails look like they belong in the ocean and that may be the reason guests were often surprised at the sight of them. Not surprisingly, they are called Giant Land Snails. On closer inspection, we could see that the snail was not entirely happy. It is quite difficult to tell when a snail is unhappy, but this one had an insect attached to it that we assumed it did not want. It was a dark insect of medium size and it looked as though it was protected by a row of overlapping plates stuck to its back. I recognised it as a member of the glow worm and firefly family. It was a larva – probably of a glow worm because of its relatively big size and it was feeding on the living snail. Snails just happen to be the favourite food of glow worm and firefly larva, snails are eaten every day by them, but for all of us, it was the first time we had witnessed such a spectacle. The snail could do little about its attacker and we left the beetle larva to eat its fill. We climbed back into the vehicle and continued west. The road descended towards a small dry streambed or drainage line. We drove down towards it. On the other side of the streambed, a massive Jackalberry tree spread its ancient branches over the road and over the drainage line. A little higher up the slope, a brown ivory tree with its almost spherical crown grew on an old termite mound. Evergreen Magic guarri bushes dotted the slopes that ran down into the drainage line and gave the area an atmosphere of lushness with their green wavy leaves. As we approached the sandy streambed, Jonas’s hand shot up and he signalled for me to stop. I stopped and I could see why – there were big footprints in the sand ahead. “Rhino tracks.” I told the guests. I climbed out and had a look at the big three-toed depressions. Jonas inspected them briefly and decided they were fresh enough to follow. I said I’d like to go with him for the first bit. He nodded and I went to the vehicle to collect the rifle and hand-held radio. I explained to the guests that I was going to help Jonas but I would only be gone a short while. They were to stay in the vehicle while we were away. If the tracks continued far, Jonas would take the radio and continue following on his own. I asked Dale and he said he’d join us. We set off cautiously – first of all, the tracks were fresh and if the tracks were very fresh, it may have heard us and be on the alert. Secondly, rhino often lie up in streambeds in the early morning and it may have been lying up close by where it would be hard to spot through the dense overhanging vegetation of the drainage line. Jonas carefully but confidently took the lead. I followed with the rifle and Dale was close behind. We ducked beneath a tangle of drooping branches and made our way along the streambed. At first the rhino tracks followed the coarse sand upstream. Easy tracking. Our boots crunched on the hard granules but we tried our best to minimize the noise while straining to see ahead. We continued through a couple of bends in the drainage line. We had not gone all that far when, all of a sudden, Jonas made his way up the bank. I had been watching the tracks ahead and could see they were still going up the dry sand of the streambed. Nevertheless, I followed him up the steep path he had taken and as I did so, I saw more bits of rhino track beneath my feet. The tracks in the riverbed were from another rhino. They were older tracks and I doubted whether Jonas had even given them a second glance. He knew what he was doing. I changed my grip on the rifle, pointing it upwards and holding it with both hands. That way, the barrel would not scrape the ground of the bank or get caught in the tangle of branches on either side of the pathway, but it was still at the ready. I marvelled at the rhino’s ability to move through these cluttered spaces. I knew they simply displaced the bushes around them and that was why they often had speed-stripe scrape marks along their sides. Still, if a rhino’s shoulder could be 1.8 metres high, that was fractionally shorter than me and I was having to duck and weave beneath and between branches! We quickly reached the top of the bank and followed the tracks as they led along a game trail towards another bend in the drainage line and then up a gradual incline towards more open ground. I started to relax more as the bush opened up around us. Magic guarri’s dotted the lower slopes and higher up the gentle incline I could see the sparse branches and pale bark of flaky thorns. Jonas stopped ahead of us to inspect something. Dale and I caught up and had a look: how odd! Jonas was studying what looked like a pile of bubble bath foam on the ground. That is what it looked like to me, it was about half a metre wide, thick and bubbly. We stared at it in amazement. I started to imagine creatures with bizarre Foam Nest Frog-like adaptations for keeping their eggs moist. Dale was also clearly at a loss. The white foam looked completely out of place amongst the dry and bent grass stems that surrounded it. Dale and I looked at Jonas. Our quizzical expressions must have been obvious because he grinned. It would have been foolish to talk when there could be a rhinoceros behind the next bush. Silence was crucial. Jonas however, knew how to deal with the situation. He stuck his fist between his legs, his index finger pointing forward and downward. Then he made swaying motions with his hips and very softly went, “Pshshshshsh.” It was a perfect imitation of a little boy relieving himself, only it was coming from a forty-something year old man on the trail of a two ton rhino bull. Dale and I looked at one another, our quizzical frowns instantly converted to bewildered gapes. It was all I could do to suppress a chuckle. That was easily the most eloquent and amusing explanation of a rhino having a pee that I have witnessed. Jonas, having dealt with our question turned and continued to track the rhino. It was much more difficult here, the ground was hard and much of the groundcover was dry and bent. Jonas was doing fine but I was struggling behind him to make out the bent stems and scrapes in the soil. We didn’t go much further when Jonas, quite suddenly, flung both hands in the air. He did it so violently that he arched his whole back at the same time. Although I worked with him daily, his manner often took me by surprise. I stopped at his signal and trying not to walk into him, I smiled again. I looked over his shoulder in the direction he was looking and there, behind a Magic guarri we were approaching, was a rather big-looking rhino bull. Dale came and stood close to us and we watched the big greyness of the rhino just metres away behind the guarri. The rhino was facing our way – he had obviously sensed our presence, perhaps he had heard a footfall or the rustle of a bush. He knew something was there but his ears were still moving from side to side, searching for more information. He moved a little to the side and we could see clearly the bulge of the hump on his shoulders above the leaves of the guarri. It was exhilarating to watch him so close, knowing that he did not know exactly how near we were, or perhaps even what we were. We were ghosts in his perception and he was, behaving like a giant grey bundle of uncertainty. We were nearer than he thought, watching him with very still curiosity. Jonas decided (wisely of course) that we were close enough and probably did not want his efforts wasted by clumsy rangers. He signalled for us to back away. If a whiff of our scent had reached the huge pachyderm or if he had heard the crack of a branch, he could have scuttled away and we would never have been able to find him with the vehicle. When we were far enough away, Jonas volunteered to wait and direct the vehicle in with the radio while he kept an eye on the rhino. I thanked him and Dale and I made our way back along the drainage line. We were both still thinking of Jonas’s tutoring and chuckling to ourselves.