BEHIND THE SCENES
For her story about bushveld camps in the Kruger Park in go! #145, Esma Marnewick interviewed Christo Knox, manager of Shimuwini Bushveld Camp. Christo has since passed away.
Meeting new people is often the best part of being a travel writer and some of those people leave a lasting impression. You might allocate 15 minutes for a chat because you have 10 other things to do, but before you know it, hours have passed and you’re still talking. Christo Knox was one such person: friendly, enthusiastic and genuinely interested in others. He told me about growing up in the Kruger Park, the weddings and other functions hosted at Shimuwini and the elephants, lions and leopards the guests come to see. When I was back at the office in Cape Town, I sent Christo a few more questions via e-mail. He seemed like the kind of person who would respond immediately, so I was surprised when I still had not heard from him two weeks later. I sent another e-mail and still got no response. When I phoned, a colleague said he was ill. I assumed he had a cold or something similarly innocuous and asked when would be a good time to speak to him. A few days later, I got a call from an unknown number. It was Franci, Christo’s wife. She told me that Christo had stage-four lymphoma and was undergoing chemotherapy every third week. He was awake at that moment and would try to answer my questions. I couldn’t believe it. Christo was 47 years old. I’d spoken to him only two months before and he had been healthy. Franci and I kept in contact. She sent me messages every now and then to tell me how Christo was doing. On Friday 20 July, I got a WhatsApp from her: Christo had developed cerebral malaria. Together with the chemo, it was too much for his body. He had died the previous day. She asked if I could send her the photos I’d taken of him for the article. I did that, and I also sent her the voice recording I’d made of our interview in which Christo talks about Franci and their two sons, and how it was divine intervention that had brought them together. At moments like this, you realise yet again that you should treasure every moment with the people who cross your path. It may be the last time you see them. Thanks for the chat, Christo.