“Happy Birthday dear Brettski. Happy Birthday to you!!!”
Brett blew out the candles on the cake and looked around at the small circle of faces around him. Noshing on birthday cake and sipping champagne was a great way to celebrate any birthday, but situated in the middle of Matopos National Park was quite another way to celebrate one’s twenty fifth birthday. Laughter and cheers rang out into the African sky as we raised our glasses in toast.
Throwing a birthday party in the middle of a game park can be a bit of a challenge though. We had left Masvingo and dear Oliver behind. Oliver had been travelling with us since we left Durban way back in February. It seemed like a lifetime ago, but in actuality it had just been one month. We had also left the safe confines of Clovelly Lodge, as we headed West towards new adventures. Brett had requested game viewing as his birthday gift, and we were more than willing to acquiesce. Accoutrements for a party were not to be found under an acacia tree though, so Miki and I had our work cut out for us, to plan a surprise party for three.
When we arrived in Matopos, Miki and I went on a recon mission intent on surprising our recently recovered travelling companion. We mustered up birthday candles and a card to surprise him with, as well as a small cake and a bottle of champagne. All of these items we smuggled in amongst the general supplies, before we headed out to the park and set up camp. We were excited to be in a game park again and couldn’t wait to hit the game park roads.
Early the next morning, with the sun not quite risen, Brett shook Miki and I awake to fulfill his birthday wish. I groaned, but yawned out a mumbled “Happy Birthday”, before slipping into my clothes. Brett was treated to wonderful birthday visions that morning. We spied warthogs and impalas, but the feast for our eyes was spying the elusive rhino. Not just one either; we saw six of them! By the time we headed back to camp for a belated breakfast we were wide awake and ready to face the day. With coffee into us, we headed over to check out The Rhodes Memorial that claimed it was the “View of the World”. And yes, it was a pretty nice view. Unfortunately, it was clouded by the knowledge that Cecil Rhodes was a racist tyrant, but his place in the history of South Africa and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia back in his day) could not be denied.
We left the memorial and headed back to camp. In discrete moments, Miki and I tried to figure out how we would pull off the surprise that we were planning with Brett around. To our delight, he announced that he was going to go for a walk. We thrilled at the opportunity to set the table with all our goodies, but tried to mask our outward enthusiasm. I suspect he knew what was going on though, as he stalled and putzed, and finally drove us nuts by heading into the tent where we had the cake hidden, with the claim that he wanted to fix his bed. In the middle of the day? Yeah, right. Eventually he left though, and Miki and I jumped into action. We set everything in place, then sat back to relax before the festivities began.
Brett returned from his walk and we yelled Surprise! to his not so shocked looking face. No matter, he was thrilled with our efforts and the cork on the champagne was popped. The biggest surprise, that neither Miki nor I was aware of, came sauntering into our campsite at just that moment. Oliver, adamant that he had to spend Brett’s birthday with him, walked into our glen like he was stepping off the bus. We were a party of four again and it was the best darn 25th surprise party that anyone had ever planned in the back countries of Zimbabwe.