The big five in Africa are the lion, leopard, elephant, water buffalo and rhino. These are the animals everyone wants to see. We were awoken this morning at 5:45 to go on our morning game drive with same gang as yesterday. Right away we saw a pair of zebra and antelope and then we had a while between sightings.
Suddenly our guide Hugo pulled off the road and drove through the bush over trees and scrub and stopped suddenly beside a lion pride of three females and a young male. The lazy group were relatively uninterested in us as we photographed them.
Then bang bang bang we saw a troop of baboons, and elephant with very large tusks, a pair of leopards with a randy female and a disinterested male, many kudu, a waterbuck, giraffe, alligator, monitor lizard and birds galore. With the water buffalo from last night we have seen four of the big five in two drives, but alas not rhino for us yet.
At dinner last night we had the pleasure of eating with a guy who just said his name was Jack. He had his sweet dog Jewels with him who flew in with him on his helicopter. Turns out Jack has more than a little interest in Leopard Hills and what happens in Kruger.
The discussion turned to the problem of rhino poaching. According to Jack, if I am remembering the numbers right, there are only 2,000 Rhino left in the world and a thousand of them are in Kruger. The Vietnamese and Chinese believe that the horn of a rhino has great healing powers and a horn is valued at $1,000,000 on the black market. Of course there is no white market for rhino horns and with that much money at stake it puts all rhino at terrible risk. The South African Government is trying to combat poaching, but there is hardly enough money that any private/public effort can throw at it to combat the crimes committed against the rhino. Thanks to ancient old wives tales the Asians think rhino horn can cure cancer and are willing to pay crazy amounts to save a loved one from death.
As the discussion at the dinner table went on about how to solve this problem my mind went immediately to a crazy answer. Create a new wives tale that Rhino dung is a weight loss aid. The only thing bigger than a cure for cancer is a cure for fatness. If the world could start thinking that a rhino only byproduct could make them skinny then a huge amount of money could be raised from the sale of rhino poop. It could single handedly stop rhino poachers if they could get more money from collecting rhino poop than from killing a rhino and taking it’s single horn. Rhino have the potential to live for years, imagine the amount of poop they could produce.
So I throw this idea out to the scientific and animal loving communities together. Save the rhino and cure human kind’s obesity at the same time. The Chinese have started getting fat, they need this cure and could change their rhino horn loving ways. I hope we get to see a Rhino this afternoon while some still exist. I’m not sure I can get any dung, but if I come home any skinnier I’ll give credit to the rhino just to get this rumor started.
After flying to Kruger we were met by Simon our driver to bring us the last three hours to finally get to our destination. The land leading up to Hazyview, a town along the route, was lush with farms. Macadamia nut trees, banana palms, lemons, avocado. Forests of trees that grow tall and straight were planted in lines awaiting their futures as telephone poles. My mother would be in paradise to buy a huge bag of the green globes of avocados on the side of the well paved road for not much money.
Once we passed Hazyview the topography changed and there were no lush farms. The trees were more scrubby,small houses made of cinder block with groups of people sitting out front. We turned off the paved road onto one of sand at Belfast. Simon showed us the house he grew up I as we drove through the hamlet. I thought that even with cheep avocados my mother would not like this drive.
Eventually we turned off the dirt road onto a dirt driveway leading us to the gate of Sabi Sands. Two days of traveling and we have almost reached Leopard Hills our first home for this trip. After being let into the reserve we saw two elephants, then a number of Kudu. At last animals.
We pulled into The portico of the lodge and were greeted by four or five staff who welcomed us warmly with drinks and cool wet towels. They asked if we had eaten lunch and offered to feed us, but we said we could wait the hour until tea before our first game drive. Instead they took us to our room. Our room is really our house, with a thatched roof, and big deck with a plunge pool and and an outdoor shower and a bathroom that belongs in architectural digest. Richmond, our valet explained that elephants liked to drink from our plunge pool. As we lay on the chaise lounges Russ heard and elephant trumpet and we could hear him strolling nearby, but it was just a walk by and he did not come and have a drink with us. Instead two bucks of some kind came up and visited.
Then it was time for tea and our game drive. Our guide’s name is Hugo and our tracker Abraham. We were joined by one other couple from Kent, UK. They had been here for a few days. Hugo asked if there was something we wanted to see and I requested leopards since I did not see any last time I was in Kruger. Donna from Kent said they still had not seen giraffes so off we went.
This certainly is not Disney world, but amazingly Hugo found us a mother leopard with one cub who we followed for a good 20 minutes (photos will have to wait until I get home since they are on my big girl camera). Then he came upon a grouping of seven giraffe which is unusual since they do not stay in packs or travel with the same crowd all the time. We went to a watering hole for a sundowner and visit with the hippos hanging there.
Back to the lodge to have dinner in the boma – safari for fancy outdoor meal with bonfire protected from the animals surround by a wall made of sticks. Eating here is way too good. At dinner they served us a yummy soup and a smoked fish before we got to go to the buffet and pick out things for our own stir frys, plus beer chicken, beef stew, kudu kabob, and about five other vegetables. Thank god I don’t drink because when Abraham set up the bar at the watering hole and asked if I wanted a gin & tonic, wine, beer or any other civilized proper British drink I had to ask for water, yet he still poured it into a real glass.
We are not allowed to walk anywhere alone after dark. We have to have an escort because the animals live here and we are just visiting. The good news is that Russ and I have the house that is farthest from the main area so I am getting at least 300 more steps than the people at the closest house. Somehow I know that is not going to be enough to counteract this good living.
We’ve got to go back to our house now to sleep because we are being woken up at 5:30 for our morning drive. Just a few more animals to see.
I don’t know what kind of cosmic energy was happening for us, but our Delta flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg was practically delightful. We ate our lunch in Atlanta at One Flew South in the E terminal and it was worthy of being a destination not an airport eatery. After Sushi and an arugula and Brussels sprout salad we boarded our plane.
Thanks to tailwinds our fifteen hour flight was cut down to fourteen hours. Being such a long overnight flight most everyone stayed up watching movies and enjoyed the first of three meal services and then almost in unison our whole cabin went to sleep. No one talked, no one snored, no babies cried, no flight personnel woke us up. I slept through the second meal which was a godsend. After getting about seven hours sleep I woke up to watch two movies, needlepoint and eat a chicken salad and fruit. It was practically like being at home.
Russ and I waltzed through passport control and across the terminal to our hotel for the night. Since it was only five o’clock and at least I had slept, (Russ’ lack of airplane sleep is no different than his lack of sleep any where) we decided to go to Nelson Mandela Square for dinner to see something different.
We showered and got a nice driver named Franz who drove us the 20 minutes to Sandton, a good area on the north side of Joberg. We walked around the shopping and restaurant area and settled on an Indian Restaurant. From Ottawa to London to Bali it never fails that we eat Indian when we are abroad. Somehow it always makes us feel like we are home. We also knew that we were going to be eating South African all week in our camps so it was out last chance for a change of pace. We had a lovely waiter who asked us if we followed soccer. We told him we were sorry that South Africa did not make the cut. He generously assured us that the Americans were going to win. We tried to correct him, but he would hear none of it.
As we walked through the shopping area looking at the beautiful Ardmore pottery of tea pots with leopards or jugs adorned with elephants I started to get really excited about going to Kruger tomorrow to start our week of Safaris to see real animals. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a display of Yankee Candles in a store window. Oh God, I thought. I just spent 24 hours going half way around the world to come face to face with what I try and avoid in America. No worries. We will be leaving all this in the AM when we fly into the bush.
Last night after trying to check-in online three times for our flights from RDU thru Atlanta to Johannesburg I finally had to call Delta to see what the trouble was. “No problem, Mrs. Lange, you just need to check in at the airport three hours before your first flight.”
What the #%€*? We already had a big cushion between our flights just to make sure we did not miss our Joberg connection, but now the airline wanted us at the airport early in case they wanted to put us on an earlier flight and change our three hour layover to a five hour layover.
Since we are not flying on someone else’s dime and are going cattle class we complied with the requirements and got to RDU three hours ahead of time and are going on our original flight, as long as it is going. So Russ and I have had an idyllic few hours in the Delta lounge. I am sure this is the highlight of our traveling day.
One thing about this trip is that we only are allowed to bring 33 lbs of luggage which includes our hand luggage because of the smallest plane we will fly on into Zambia. When you start with my camera equipment and add warm clothing since it is winter there it starts to get difficult. This means wearing one pair of shoes and bringing another, that’s it! I had to forgo a sweater to make room for the many drugs I needed to bring. I probably will want to burn the few clothes I am taking after this trip is over.
One drugs is our malaria medication which we had to start today. Since we need to take it with food and we were in the Delta lounge already Russ and I made lunch of the peppers, carrots and hummus which have to be a good stomach coating before downing our pills. Of course I already dripped oil from a pepper onto my shirt which I am going to be wearing for the next 24 hours. I am not one of those travelers who can emerge from the coach cabin of a long haul flight and look like I just walked out of the salon. No I usually look like I was dragged behind a stage coach through the Mohave Dessert. So dripping oil on one of my few shirts at the start of the journey is just typical.
I have never been so ready to get on a seventeen and a half hour flight in my life. I think a little tylenol PM will help me sleep through many hours of flying. Hopefully my bra will be comfortable enough to sleep in since I could really horrify a full flight of folks and take it off in my sleep somewhere over the Atlantic. I purposely will not take Ambien because I am sure I would be one of those people who sleep eats while on it.
I am going to try and blog while in Africa so my next post will be from there.
Consider this an update to today’s earlier blog. I went to my last board meeting and Haywood Holderness broke into the meeting and read this proclamation from Mayor Bill Bell in Durham declaring today Dana Lange Day. Shoot, I missed most of my day. If only I had known I could have ridden around town sitting on the back of a convertible with a sparkly sash on, waving at everyone. Instead Russ and I are celebrating at the Carolina Theatre seeing Art Garfunkel. We are the youngest people here.
Honestly, it was a very nice honor. What means even more to me is that the volunteer room at the Durham Branch was named for me. So now I have a place to go in my old age and sort sweet potatoes.
Today is my final Food Bank board meeting as chair. It is hard to believe that two years has gone so quickly. Of course it feels so much longer since I have been involved with the Food Bank for thirteen or fourteen years. And today is not the end, I move out of the chair seat and into the past chair stool. They can’t get rid of me that easily.
I have had the great privilege of working with an outstanding CEO, Peter Werbicki and his talented Executive Management Team as well as the highly qualified board. I am sure that I would never be selected to be on this board today based on the superiority of the people who have joined in the last few years. But that was all by design. When I was the chair of board development my goal was to recruit people much brighter than myself and that has happened and been the case ever since.
I am proud of all the people who work and volunteer for the Food Bank. We are the emergency food provider for 34 counties and more and more our job has changed to help the chronically poor and hungry. Every year we have miraculously increased the amount of food we are able to deliver, and our year does not end until June 30, but I can predict we will have another record year.
That is not good news. The fact that there are more and more working poor who need help is a sad situation in our community. Food insecurity is a hidden problem that so many people do not fully understand.
As a person who loves food as much as I do I am still dedicated to ensuring that our neighbors have something to eat. Not just anything, but healthy, nutritious food. The dollar menu at fast food is no way for a nation to survive.
I leave my seat proud of all that the Food Bank has done, but knowing there is still much work ahead of us. I would have been the most successful if I had been able to put the Food Bank out of business because of a lack of hungry people. Sadly, I am not sure I will live long enough to see that, but it will remain my goal.
Thank you to all of you blog readers who have been supporters of the Food Bank and the work we are doing. To share with your neighbors is the true sign of your humanity. I am proud to be a member of this community and I look forward to continuing the fight to end hunger.
Carter is at camp and we are leaving for Africa so I wrote a few letters to Carter that my friend Christy is going to mail every couple of days so that Carter does not go forever without and real mail at camp. Writing letters to camp is hard enough when not that much is going on at home, but writing in advance is next to impossible. Maybe I could have predicted what might go on in the world, but I decided that was just too weird, even for me, a person who writes something weird everyday.
Instead I decided to pull out the book I made for Carter with all the great quotes she said when she was two and three. I guess I was smart enough then to write the wonderful things she said down to share with Russ, who was on the road a lot. I’m glad I did because as far as I’m concerned two and three are when kids say the best stuff.
Apparently hot dogs played a major role in Carter’s life as is evident in these two little stories:
In November our Ukrainian babysitter said, “I gave Carter two sausages for lunch.” Carter interjected, “you mean hot dogs.”
“In my country they are called sausages.”
Carter replies, “God says, in our country they are called hot dogs.”
Following along the same theme:
A babysitter says to Carter, “I have a little tummy ache.”
Carter says, “O.K., I am a doctor. What did you eat for lunch?”
“A hot dog and fries.”
“Well, a hot dog is O.K., but you need to ask your Mommy before you eat French fries. That will be $500 please.”
Based on the obvious large hot dog consumption in our house back then Carter said the following to me one day:
“My heart takes good care of me. And I say, ‘Good Luck!’”
Good luck indeed. Thank goodness we hardly ever have a hot dog around anymore.
One of my very favorite things Carter ever said was a month before her third birthday:
“It is so great in my world, when the sun is up or the sun is down.”
I hope it is great in your world. Don’t eat too many hot dogs and if you want fries, please save yourself $500 and ask your Mommy first.