It was the evening of our first Safari in the wilds of the Thornybush Game Reserve in the Northern part of South Africa and the drivers unexpectedly pulled our two modified troupe carriers over in an idyllic spot just as the sun was setting. They proceeded to fold out a small tables from the vehicles upon which they placed table cloths and a startling array of South African craft beers, local wines and assorted snacks. This was safari Tourica style and who were we to scoff at such brazen luxury? Three days into our musical expedition and the whole group seemed to be getting on remarkably well. We’d already spotted a whole heap of critters in the wild and so we all had to conclude life was good.
And of course it was inevitable after a few beers someone would need to relieve themselves. It was me actually. And so I grabbed Mark Hopper and asked if he was feeling the same call of the wild and would he care to accompany me a respectable distance from our merry group. We walked into the fast encroaching dusk for maybe forty metres and as we began the manly pursuit of ‘pissing in the wild’ I noticed something from the corner of my eye. It was a darkness, a sort of slow moving malevolent black shape about ten metres away. Although indistinct it was enormous and sort of threatening as it moved closer and closer. Hell – it was a black rhino!
And as it came toward us my life began to pass before me as I thought back a year to meeting Matt Collins from the Tourica tour company in the beer garden at the Yarra Hotel as he set out to convince me a musical tour of southern Africa could work. As the malevolent beast came closer and closer I thought back to the painstaking task of trying to find enough people to sign on to make the trip a reality. As we quickly interrupted our ablutions I relived the long haul flight from Perth and subsequent arrival at the luxury casino complex in Johannesberg and then as we scampered back to the party at the vehicles I began to project on all the fine experience mapped out for us in the weeks to come. Babbling excitedly I think perhaps there was a thought we were joking but when the tour guides realised just what was taking place their congeniality turned to alarm. Suddenly it was all go, go, go, get in the vehicles. They were not mucking around and this wasn’t some sort of show for gullible first time safari people. The biggest casualty on the night was a few spilt drinks but it was kind of sobering and in essence a great reminder that we were somewhere that was a long way from home. A long way from the well beaten paths we normally trod as performers.
It wasn’t to be the last time any of us would have this realisation in the weeks that followed. Playing to a wonderful mix of peoples on our last show at a backpackers in Zimbabwe, sitting in a bar people watching all night in Long Street Cape Town, watching herds of elephants, giraffes and hippos on the savanna in Botswana or playing on a boat in the Zambezi. By the time we’d finished the tour our heads were spinning. There’d been so much playing, so much sight seeing and so much trying to get our heads around a completely new and foreign place.
Three weeks after we’d come home we played an Anzac Day show at the Caulfield RSL and it was amazing to see a large representation of the Tourica Tours African Safari there. All still firm friends, all keen to relive the trip they’d all just been through. Black rhinos and all.