After a spell doing land management in England, housemates Johnny and Will have invited their ‘serious’ girlfriends back home for a Kenyan holiday, the highlight of which will be a camping safari in the Masai Mara organised jointly by their parents.
Johnny’s girlfriend is Lara, a blonde haired PA who works in the Square Mile and Will is with Annabel who is studying History of Art at St Andrews. The girls face their trip to Africa with some trepidation. Their boyfriends are vague when asked whether there will be flush loos while on safari or a power point in which to plug their hairdryers.
Gillian, Johnny’s mother, welcomes the boys who have been friends since they were babies with a fond embrace and an indulgent smile. She then looks the girls up and down appraisingly and wonders why on earth the boys can’t find nice, suitable Kenyan girlfriends (for instance the Davies’ daughter, Acacia, who is now gainfully employed counting Rhinos in Lewa Downs). The girlfriends are preoccupied with trying to wipe clods of red mud gathered from the driveway off their designer shoes. Lara has a swathe of mud across the back of her white jeans that appeared after she clambered down from the antique four wheel drive that transported them from the airport.
The first evening is a jolly affair beginning with rather strong gin and tonics on the veranda at 5pm, rolling late into the night with numerous bottles of red wine consumed by candlelight and a fabulous dinner that appears as if by magic. The Robinsons come over and Will’s dad both delights and terrifies the girls with ‘true’ tales from the African bush.
The following morning Gillian is in business mode from 6am, barking instructions to staff who are frantically packing cool boxes as she works her way through various lists. The girls emerge from their bedroom late in Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses. Will and Johnny who are keeping a low profile mutter; ‘is that what you girls are wearing today?’ and Gillian yells into the dining room, ‘we are leaving in half an hour, prompt,’ which causes the girls to choke on their cereal that is mixed with slightly weird tasting local milk.
After seven hours riding in convoy with the Robinsons in a rattling old land cruiser, the girls are felling shaken, headachy and coated in dust. Stepping out into a scorching barren grove of thorn trees, Lara realises she has brought no suitable shoes. Johnny and Will say that it is family tradition to camp in this same spot every year. Standing uselessly to one side, the girls watch as tents go up and wonder how exactly they will be protected from marauding lions during the night. Lara then steps on a scorpion in her gladiator sandals, is stung and screams in petrified agony. Gillian passes her a bottle of vinegar and tells her that it is not too bad and the pain will pass after twelve hours. At 10pm Annabel is struck down by griping stomach pains. The single loo comprises a thunder box set over a deep hole that Shadrack dug earlier in the afternoon. Necessarily, she makes numerous visits back and forth throughout the night with only the help of a tiny torch, surrounded by the terrifying munching sounds of grazing wild animals, screeching bush babies and the odd cough of lion. Lara moans about the excruciating pain in her foot and neither girl sleeps a wink.
When the girls fail to appear for breakfast which is served on trestle tables under the trees, both Gillian and Mrs Robinson sink Bloody Marys and laugh indiscreetly about ‘useless city girls’. Will and Johnny have evidently lost interest in their escorts and decided to disappear together at dawn on an early morning game drive. ‘Perhaps the boys will have learned their lesson’, Gillian and Mrs Robinson agree. The girls meanwhile, still faced with three more nights in the bush are plotting their escape. Perhaps Shadrack could help?