At that Marius jumped out of our Landcruiser and spoke fast. “Mr Shah, hello, I’m Marius Coetzee. I’m a huge fan of your work. It’s an honour to meet you. I would be honoured to shake your hand.”
The Guru looked humble and stunned. “You know who I am?”
“Yes, yes. I have been inspired by your work.”
“Thank you. It is nice to meet you. What are you doing here?”
“I own a company called Oryx. We run worldwide photographic expeditions.” He moved back to our vehicle, pulled a card from his wallet and handed it to Anup reverently with both hands.”
I watched carefully. Anup made to drop the card in the storage space between the front seats. We waved goodbye. He did not drop the card. He held it up and studied both sides, as if composing a photograph. “Oh, Marius, my new book is out in September. You should keep an eye out for it.”
“Thank you. I’ll buy it and post it to you, if you don’t mind signing it? I’ll pay for postage.”
“Not at all. My pleasure.”
“Thank you. You don’t have any books on you now? I’ll buy them now and you could sign them?”
“Sorry, I don’t have any with me”
“No problem. Thank you. It has been an honour.”
We drove off. I was caught up in the carriage of this great photographer. Marius told me then he collects sign wildlife photography books. We were both excited.
We drove to the upstream crossing. The wildebeest moved down to the water, then away and downstream. Onesmus had warned us that it was a coy waiting game. We drove back and saw that Anup Shah had parked on the rocks of the main crossing. I thought we should stay with him. The wildebeest were moving and he has spent three months a year over the last twenty years following the migration. He should know. We debated, moved next to him and waited. We waved hello in acknowledgement. He raised his hand, and continued shelling peanuts, nonchalant and happy in his own world.
We saw cars moving upstream and we followed. An hour later we saw a crossing right in front of Anoop Shah. We were just too far, and the only thing we saw was the tails of wildebeest exiting in single file after they had crossed. We raced back to the crossing, and then followed another herd further downstream, to an area we had had breakfast on two occasions, overlooking two pods of playful hippo and numerous gigantic crocodile. We stood in our Landcruiser, cameras ready on sandbags at the viewing hatch. At that time, the Magical Memsahib, Ines, arrived in another vehicle with cold drinks and lunch. Martin edged his vehicle close to ours and we did a mid air transfer of cool boxes and passenger. As Ines settled, we saw two wildebeest swimming from our side to the main herd opposite us, against the impending crossing. The first made it. The second was overtaken by a crocodile swimming smoothly and with purpose. Just before the bank the wildebeest disappeared with the crocodile , surfaced once in a desperate bid for air and was dragged down. The waters settled. The herd moved back, upstream to the main crossing. Anup was gone when we arrived, and the vehicle numbers had thinned, so that when we broke for lunch in the bushes two hundred meters away from the river there was only one car left on the banks. As we finished lunch Onesmus sounded the crossing alarm and we raced back. The first wildebeest were swimming onto our shore and the herd was pushing into the bank opposite us. Ironically, we parked exactly where we were next to Anup Shah four hours earlier. Patience is indeed a virtue!