'There is cellphone signal 5km up the road. I’ll catch up with the world then, tune in to see how Liverpool ended up on Sunday night..' Picture: UPSPLASH/TIM TRAD
'There is cellphone signal 5km up the road. I’ll catch up with the world then, tune in to see how Liverpool ended up on Sunday night..' Picture: UPSPLASH/TIM TRAD

It’s Sunday evening. I’m sitting with my wife in the back of a Land Rover trundling along a dirt track.

Cyril, the ranger, is taking us on a game drive on the reserve we are staying at in KwaZulu-Natal.

Cyril doesn’t talk much. There is no need. There were blesbok to the left of us, wildebeest to the right and, for a short moment, there were springbok stuck in the middle of the road with us, confused as to where they needed to be and how to get there.

Pretty much the Springboks of the past few years, actually. My iPhone buzzes. There is signal in this part of the reserve. There is none at our cottage. Nor is there TV. Sometimes you just need to get away from everything, to shut the world out and let go. But, it’s Sunday night. Liverpool are playing Manchester United. I check into the Guardian’s live updates on the match. Sadio Mane has scored for Liverpool. We’re all over United, the man on the updates says.

The signal fades as we drive on, down a lane that is marked by trees planted too neatly on either side. Cyril says that parts of the reserve used to be a tree plantation.

We cross a small river and it starts raining softly. More blesbok, more wildebeest. We cruise past the dam where they say the fishing is good. Cyril takes us past a plain that is teeming with just about every type of animal the reserve boasts. We rumble up the hill, startle a few waterbuck, drive along the rudimentary airstrip, past some big-bellied, farting zebra and a lonely ostrich.

And we get more signal. Dammit. United have equalised. Alisson the great saviour from the Napoli match has had a moment. We take pictures, have a few drinks. I wonder if it would be rude to ask Cyril if we could stay up here for the second half — but the missus wouldn’t go for that. We drive back to our cottage, to the quiet place we so badly needed after a week of fear and loathing.

We came to a place where we could leave the doors unlocked at night, where the only awkward sound was the grunt of a skittish impala. It’s been a good place to start the healing.

On Wednesday morning, just after midnight, after Liverpool had beaten Napoli on another magnificent Anfield evening, Laddie, our rescue dog, started barking at the window in the study at the back of the house.

It was a strange Laddie bark, very unlike him. Aggressive and constant. I switched on the lights, shone a torch around the garden, but could see nothing.

Must be just a cat.

A little later, sometime in the half hour before 2am, Laddie began barking again, standing at the patio doors. Something felt off. We stood at the window trying to see into the dark. Our garden is big and wild, a bit like a reserve in the Parks of Joburg.

We let Laddie out. My wife and I stood on the stoep. Laddie sniffed and searched and then stopped. And barked. He had found something. Three men stepped out from behind a bush three metres or so away from us. At least one of them was armed and pointing the firearm at us. I screamed to my wife to run inside. We locked the door. We hit panic buttons that did not work. We called panic numbers that seemed as though they did not work. But it did. Security and the police arrived. Radios crackled. They had spotted men running away close by. They caught one. He was in the police van outside.

Laddie, the rescue dog, had rescued us.

We did not sleep. The second-night fear after your house is violated is the worst.

Every sound is suspicious. You trust nothing and no one. You are naked and afraid. Our holiday had been planned and booked. So we decided to go ahead with it, leaving our house-sitter with a pile of biltong for Laddie to feast on.

We came to a place where we could leave the doors unlocked at night, where the only awkward sound was the grunt of a skittish impala. It’s been a good place to start the healing. As I write this, on Wednesday morning, we are packing and getting ready to leave. It’s been a week since we were visited by evil and fear.

There is cellphone signal 5km up the road. I’ll catch up with the world then, tune in to see how Liverpool ended up on Sunday night and see how Laddie is doing. It’s time to remember the small things that make us happy.

 

READ MORE BY KEVIN McCALLUM