My mum recently lent me Mahlangeni by Kobie Kruger, a book that was in turn a souvenir gift from her cousin Barry who lives in South Africa. The author is the wife of Kobus Kruger, former game ranger in the Mahlangeni region of the Kruger National Park, and she writes of her family’s experiences living in this wilderness.

This isn’t my typical reading matter, to be fair, but I gave it a go and greatly enjoyed it. I enjoy reading about unfamiliar cultures and lifestyles.

I certainly don’t envy Kobie, her husband and their three daughters: having to row a boat across a churning river to reach the nearest road; being attacked by territorial hippos whilst rowing said boat; waking up to find snakes slithering out of their toilet bowl; living in trepidation of the resident neighbourhood leopard.

She writes so evocatively, I can feel the claustrophobically stifling sun on my skin, smell the hammering rain of the monsoon season, hear the frogs ribbit and elephants trumpet, itch with maddening insect bites, feel her panic and frustration when her car breaks down along a remote mud track miles from home and with the utterly black (and wild animal-filled) African night rapidly descending.

Mahlangeni certainly makes me appreciate my life of uneventful urban civilisation. Elephants and leopards, it has to be said, are scarce in the West Midlands.


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