Perhaps because of the dense bush on either side of the road, we were dealt a break by our feline target as the tracks remained in the road for kilometer after kilometer, only deviating for small periods to negotiate the lingering puddles from the previous week’s rain. Each time we lost the tracks, we dismounted and conducted a thorough search of the area until we found where she rejoined the road. The tracks were fresh no doubt: no insect or bird tracks were atop of the prints and the wind had not yet caused them to lose their ‘shine’. As we rounded each corner, we all craned our necks as one, hoping to find our elusive goal striding confidently down the road; but alas, corner after corner yielded nothing more than more tracks.
In order not to scare her, we approached slowly, stopping every 10 meters of so to snap a few pictures in case she dismounted and melted into the dense undergrowth. The enigma resolved as we closed the gap and we were delighted to see that this was the same leopard that had graced us with our closest encounter during our trip in October last year. Her unmistakable eyes watched us coolly as we approached. 4 months ago I was no more than 30 centimeters from those eyes as the same female boldly strode towards the vehicle and examined its occupants and I will never forget them. Her eyes were like ice. A pale blue colour like the clear waters of the ice worlds, her eyes looked as though they should be cold and lifeless, but somehow, thanks to the infinite wonder of nature, those eyes did not instill fear, just wonder.