On a Safari We Will Go

I thought Joseph said we should have breakfast at 6am and be ready to go by 6:30. Ron heard 7am and 7:30. Allowing him to be the fall-guy if we were were wrong, we slept in until 5:45am. Big whoop! Our day was going to include 8 hours of driving around the reserve, hunting for animals to shoot with our cameras. With that in mind, I thought it best to skip out on breakfast. It is not like you can pop out of the van just anywhere if a bathroom need arises.

I forgot to mention that our van has a pop top roof, so we can comfortably stand up in it and view animals without the hindrance of a window. From what we have seen, this is the most common, though we did notice two vans with window viewing only. Initially, knowing we would return to camp around 3:30 seemed like a waste of the rest of the day. What rocked me back to reality and to sleepyland were the roads once again. As comfortable as the van seats are, 8 hours of shaken, not stirred is quite enough. It is like being in a children’s bouncy house on steroids without any control over the motion. I would have fallen asleep, but was too paranoid about missing some fleeting animal while trying to adjust my eyes.

The animals were much more gracious with their time today. Within our first hour, we came across a single bull elephant just wandering across the road. He looked like he has seen better days. Joseph guessed he was quite old and ready to retire permanently. Shortly after the elephant was out of viewing range, we encountered some hyenas along the side of the road, posing for our camera. Not long after, we spotted two more hyenas feasting on a dead elephant. This was a bit unnerving after seeing the old bull elephant. As much as this is the cycle of the natural order, we were not witness to this much in past safaris.

Keeping it brief since I taxed my reader’s patience with yesterday’s post and numbed my fingers in the process, I will keep this to a minimum. What is difficult to grasp in how completely the scenery changes within the reserve. In one area, it may be littered with scrub brush and umbrella trees, while a few miles later, it is completely empty savannah wasteland. After making a turn on another dirt road, you may find a swamp filled with enough water to almost submerge a baby elephant. We drove for hours over a vacant dusty area with no vegetation in sight for miles. Joseph said that during the rainy season, this was a lake with so much water; a 4WD vehicle could not cross it. You could just about fit Rhode Island along with a touch of Delaware into what would be the lake. For the amount of time we drove, we could have been 1/2 way across the State of Pennsylvania.

For lunch, the camp packed us box lunches since we would miss out having it at the camp. We stopped at a look-out hill, where we had to climb over a hundred steps to reach the top. Not being normal steps, they were the kind that required two paces before reaching the next step to elevate you up the hill. Not being the energetic outdoorsy type, I had an inward groan loud enough to shake up the organs not yet in turmoil from the van ride. I did it; it was worth the effort, though besides carrying my body, I had our lunches. The bag must have weighed ten pounds.

The view was incredible, including another swamp area where two hippos were bathing, grazing, and then bathing once again. We were joined by magnificent birds with electric blue wings, but yellow and orange underbellies who wanted to share our lunch. This was certainly possible. They packed a box for each of us that could have supplied a small tribe. In addition to a sandwich, there was fried chicken, papaya cut and ready to eat, watermelon, a local fruit we have yet to identify, cookies, a fruit juice box, candy bar, a hardboiled egg, and more.

A number of guinea hens came to greet us knowing food was on offer. Between the hens and the blue birds we were able to make some new friends as long as our sharing held out. Although the wind was horrendous, we managed to stay up there for about forty-five minutes enjoying the splendor. Returning to the van, we had a two hour safari drive before heading back to camp. This made me realize yet again that a safari has such romantic connotations, but it really depends on luck. This is not Disney World where the animals are lined up ready for viewing doing cute things. They are doing what they are naturally inclined to do and if you happen to be at the right place at the right time, you will be lucky enough to witness it. Sometimes, you can go for hours without seeing a thing at all. Honestly, by 3:30, I was more than ready to return to the camp. We were worn out; I cannot fathom how Joseph does this repeatedly.

We dropped our things off at the tent and headed to the pool. As lovely as it is, it was not being utilized at all allowing to take charge and do what we wanted. Although the water was chilly at first, it felt good after a few minutes. Allowing enough time for our suits to dry, we went for a beer, before getting dinner. At 9pm each night, the staff has a show of local dance. Strangely, in the dark of night, they build a campfire, but most of them dress in black, causing them to barely be visible.

Tomorrow is a 6:30 departure with another long day.

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