One of my favorite parts of traveling is the new friends we meet. Staying in small camps and lodges here in Africa we are spending lots of time doing game drives and eating with other guests. We have really lucked out so far and met so many nice people.
In the “it really is a small world category” we met a man night before last who had grown up in Chapel Hill and had gone to Durham Academy from sixth to eighth grade. He told us he went to boarding school because DA did not have a high school, that’s how long ago it was.
Our second small world encounter was Cynthia, a retired Coke exec who had worked with my college roommate Lauren and Pat, a friend of Russ’. She had brought her grown niece and nephew Julie and Jay here as belated graduation presents. I hope my sister Janet is taking a note of this.
Russ and I are usually on the same page about who we are drawn to and who we just assume steer clear of. For the most part we can tell within moments of that initial handshake and introduction if we want to invest any valuable holiday time getting to know someone. Russ also has a shorthand for sussing out interesting but yet shy people. I, of course, like most anyone who will listen to a story. I think I met my story telling match at Tanda Tula.
Yesterday after the morning game drive all the other guests departed and we were the only “old ones” left. We were sitting by the pool when new people arrived. You don’t get to choose who is in your safari vehicle and you stay with the same guide for your whole stay so we looked over the new people hoping to get a good match. Two new couples came out to the pool and we introduced ourselves. They were Joss and Jono, a young married couple who are living in South Africa while Joss is doing her research for her PhD and her parents, Stella and Robb. They are Brits, but had lived in South Africa for years, and are now back in the UK.
Being the Anglophiles that we are we hoped that they would be our safari partners and they were. Stella and Robb had come to visit Joss, their only daughter and she surprised them with this trip to Tanda Tula. The small world connection with them was that Joss has many UNC students in her public health program here in South Africa and Joss and Jono met at the University of Durham, just not our Durham.
As we went out on Safari and through dinner Robb regaled us with many stories about their years living here in Joberg and what life was like during apartheid and when Mandela was elected. The history here is so interesting and complicated. I think I had finally met my story telling match. As dessert was being served the staff came our blowing a kudu horn and singing happy birthday. Turned out it was Stella’s birthday and Joss had arranged the surprise for her.
One of the nicest things about our new friends was the sweet relationship between Joss and her parents and how well Jono fits in. I wish that Carter had been here to take good daughter lessons from Joss. Unfortunately as quickly as they came they had to leave after our morning game drive, bush breakfast and walk back to camp. Now we wait for the next new arrivals and what interesting people we will meet this afternoon.
Riding in Safari vehicles six hours a day is no real exercise. Add to that the issue of staying in a camp in the middle of the timbavati game preserve with no fences around camp and I just don’t get enough opportunity to walk any distance. Now I don’t have a scale so I have no idea the amount of damage I am possibly doing. Try as I may I am certainly not eating like I do at home.
One reason is the lack of High Protein Special K in South Africa. That being the case I am forced to eat the cooked breakfast provided me. Add to that I am eating three hours after I got up after being out on Safari in the cold searching for animals to photograph so I am hungry when breakfast comes.
At out current camp they serve breakfast at a bush camp down the dry river bed from the main camp. We arrived at breakfast this morning to a beautiful spread of fresh fruits and yogurt, cheeses, cereals and other cold items along with the hot foods cooked on the grill, eggs, sausages, baby marrow which is like zucchini, sweet potatoes and bread toasted over the flames. I was hungry and succumb to the enticing hot foods. There is nothing like wood smoked scrambled eggs and smokey toast with local honey.
After breakfast our guide, Foreman, offered to escort us with his loaded rifle for a walk down the river bed back to camp. At last a chance to walk! It was no power walk because Foreman took the opportunity to teach Russ and myself what all the tracks were as well as giving us a poop identification lesson. My too favorite tracks were the monkey tracks because they were not just foot prints, but a dragging tail line along with feet and the giant owls tracks where we saw where he landed, walked a few steps with giant talons and took off again.
After our return to camp and a good hot shower in out outdoor shower I joined Russ at the pool since the day had warmed up about 30 degrees. As I sat on a chaise lounge four warthogs came up on the grass by the pool to join us. I think I should have joined them in grazing on grass rather than going to lunch. This life is going to catch up with me, but at least I won’t know it until I get home.
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.
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.