Thick and musty. It takes my breath away.
The air outside is hot - a thick blanket of heat that smothers anyone who dares walk in it. Not a breath of air. Not a sound. But they're around.
I can smell them!
We get out of the car to observe the view at a view point. The sun beats down and the horizon looks hazy. No movement. Not a sound.
But I can smell them.
We slowly turn a corner, our eyes scanning the veld - and there they are!
Mothers and babies - tiny babies! Toddlers and tweenies rolling in a huge, wet, mud bath! Sticky brown water spraying in the air! Little ones nursing and nuzzling against their big brown Mommies - the mud encrusted on their backs protecting them from the hot sun!
We watch for ages - oohing and aahing - a social gathering. Adults grumble quietly to each other. Little ones playing - smacking each other with their strong trunks - what a game!
And then ...
... it was time to go! Time for the herd to move off to the opposite side of the road and make way for another family to enjoy the coolness of the wet mud. Slipping, sliding, struggling to get their big bodies out of the muddy pit. Pushing, guiding, protecting, the bigger ones help the tinies, and soon they are on solid ground.
A trumpet here, and a grumble there, a low, low sound - sometimes difficult to hear - they get their message across, and gently, silently, they amble across the dusty road to the open bush on th other side.
As if in slippers, their big heavy bodies move without a sound until we cannot see them anymore!
I can still smell them!
Photographs taken by P and myself at the Addo Elephant National Park on our visit there on Sunday, 16th January 2011 with our girls, Cliff and Beryl (P's parents) and Allen and Nancy Contival, our new American family! We had a wonderful day!