December 21, 2008

South Africa Travelogue Part 5

Saturday, Dec. 6: 5:00 a.m. and someone comes and knocks on our door and calls, "Ladies, time to get up." Cool wake up call, very home-y, don't you think? But very early. How can you not want to get up, tho, to go on a game drive? It's not as if I can do that in Chicago.
After coffee/tea/hot chocolate and some biscuits that could break your teeth we went out on the morning game drive with Robin, Liz, Sondra and Daniel. We saw white-backed vultures,
impala, wildebeest, mongoose, warthog...and then we went around a curve in the road and there was a lion asleep on the road. A LION.
It was the most amazing sight. He was about five feet from us. Eugene, our guide, said he was old, about 14, but he was magnificent. He'd wash himself a little, then sleep, then look around, then lick his genitals,
then sleep. Just like my cat, Kobe, only bigger. Then he finally got up and walked away.
THEN...we saw a mama cheetah and three cubs. Oh, they were fabulous. Eugene followed them into the bush, knocking down trees with the land rover (something that's done a lot on game drives but never ceased to amaze me) and when we found them she'd just killed an impala and they were having breakfast. Incredible.
After the morning game drive we went back to the lodge for a huge breakfast and then we were free until a late lunch at 3:00 and then the afternoon game drive. This was our routine for the next few days.

Caroline and Luc from Paris arrived in the afternoon and were a great addition to the group. We had such lively conversations, lots of laughs, no one was obnoxious, no assholes (there's almost always at least one in every group), just lots of fun.
After Saturday night's game drive we had seen four of the Big Five (the Big Five are lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo but we hadn't seen elephants yet) so on Sunday morning Eugene was determined to find elephants. We drove way down to the southern part of the reserve and lo and behold, there were elephants, about five of them chowing down on a tree.
After lunch Robin and Liz left and so did Sondra and Daniel. We were so sorry to see them go. They were all delightful.
Two Indian couples (from Dubai) arrived in time for the afternoon drive. We were still grieving over the departure of our friends but sucked it up and welcomed Ravi, Bindhu,Kartik and Veena and found them all to be charming. Still no assholes - imagine!
Highlights of the evening game drive: 1. The mother cheetah with her three cubs. She looked around and ran off across the bush and the cubs stayed put and waited.
It was as if she'd said, "Ok, stay here. I'll give you a signal when I want you to follow me."
So they sat and looked around (ignoring us) and made little squeaking sounds, like little birds. And Mama must have given a signal because all of a sudden they got up and trotted across the bush to go to her. She must have gone after something but when we got to them she didn't have a kill.
Highlight 2. The dung beetle (this is a stock photo of a dung beetle - my camera just couldn't capture the little guy). I love this creature! Eugene told us that the males form these balls of dung (any old dung will do) and then they take them to the female by rolling them (the dung balls are sometimes 2.5 times their weight) and the one with the biggest dung ball wins the female. Kartik said, "Oh, kind of like the guy with the most money." Hah! Then the female lays her eggs in the dung ball. Amazing.
Highlight 3. The red-crested korhaan. He was just wandering around. Eugene said, "Watch this," and he gunned the engine until the bird started its mating call (what is it about the sound of an engine that sends a bird into a mating call?), then it started running, took off, flew up, and about 30 feet in the air he did a spin and then free-fell for 25 ft. and then finally opened his wings just before hitting the ground, and landed. It was the most incredible sight. We were all stunned, ooh'ing and aah'ing. Kartik caught some of it on video so if he sends it to me I'll post it. It's very funny.
This lovely routine continued (eat, game drive, eat, sleep, eat, game drive, eat..., oh, and drinking was in there as well) until Monday evening when we had to say goodbye to our new friends.

Tuesday a.m. we were leaving early to drive to our next game reserve in Sabi Sands.
Stay tuned...more to come.

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