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Friday, March 29, 2019

Showering With the Elephants

Elusive Wild African Dog
Wednesday February 20th

Today, is another travel day: our third and last.  We’re getting into a routine now.  Today we’re heading to Xakanaxa Lagoon -  another part of the Okavango delta – to an area known as the Mopane tongue.  It’s about 45 km away; but it doesn’t matter how far it is - we’ll still be on the road for about 8 hours to give the guys time to set up camp and prepare dinner.  The roads on this portion of the trip are much better than on our other two travel days – but “better” is a relative term.

Because the distance we’re travelling isn’t great, Shaka has built in a long lunch break into our trip.  Since we’re going to be stopped for a couple of hours, he decides we should have some chairs to make our long break more comfortable.  Unfortunately, the chairs are at the bottom of the trailer - underneath all our baggage, so we have to unload all our luggage to get to them.

After lunch I decide to have a nap in the vehicle.  Being a short guy, I can stretch out over three seats quite comfortably.  I’m not asleep ten minutes when I’m awakened by a commotion outside.  I find the rest of the group huddled around our luggage beside the trailer.  They seem quite agitated and are poking at something with sticks.  I get up, grab my camera -since I have a sneaking suspicion that the sticks and noises can mean only one thing – snake!  Maybe a black mamba –the most venomous snake in Africa!

I muscle my way into the crowd, and find them poking at….   a pair of my underwear -that slipped out of my bag when we unloaded the trailer.  They are trying to pick it up with a stick and put it back.  It’s not even dirty underwear!  With a disgusted noise I pick the gaunche,   slip it back into my bag,  and stomp back to the vehicle. Amazing!  These people don’t fear hippos, lions, or leopards – but a pair of underwear?   It must be a European thing.
Our campsite on Xakanaxa Lagoon

Our new campsite is the nicest yet.  It opens onto a small grassy plain offering some nice vistas.  Supposedly our tents and  contents are supposed to be the same at each campsite; but I’ve noticed some subtle changes.   For instance, at the first camp I had a black toilet seat, now I have a brown one.  I also notice my bush shower doesn’t have the same flow it had in the previous two camps.  It just sort of dribbles – like me.  
The "borrowed" bush shower

I complained about my shower during dinner and one of the Brits breaks out laughing; it appears he had the same shower at the last camp and is delighted I have it now.   During dessert I excuse myself from the table, travel back to my my tent, lower the bucket and sneak over to the back of the Brits tent.  I unzip the back tarp, lower his bush shower and replace it with mine and head back to my tent and install  his in place of mine.  I return to dinner with a smile on my face. 
“What are you smiling about?” one of them asks.
“Nothing,”  I reply.

Thursday February 21st
Even though we’ve only traveled a short distance from our last camp I notice a big difference in the climate.  It’s quite cool in the early morning – enough to warrant a fleece or jacket. By ten am it’s getting warm - by noon it’s bloody hot!  

We return to camp around noon after seeing the obligatory zebras, giraffes, impalas, etc. etc. etc.  After a week it’s getting almost routine – still no wild dogs are cheetahs – I’m beginning to lose hope that we’ll see them.
pass the soap
After lunch it’s too hot to nap in the tents so we all lounge outside the tents waiting for the water to arrive for our afternoon showers - which is the highlight of the afternoon – for several reasons.

The water is delivered in order of the tents; so being in tent four I get mine late.  While I’m waiting for my water, I hear a shout emanating from tent two.
“Groberman!   What did you do to my shower?”
“Nothing,” I reply with a sweet smile on my face.
There is more cursing, but I ignore it as my water has arrived.  I’ve never enjoyed a shower more - but it’s cut short by a shout.
“Elephant in the camp!”
I rinse the soap out of my eyes and look out of the screened window – and sure enough there’s a big elephant standing just outside my tent!
“Get lost,” I shout. “Find your own shower.”
…which is exactly what he does!  He stomps off a hundred yards to a pond and begins to spray himself.  How about that!  I speak elephant.  Check out the video!

A few hours later a small herd of impalas wander by.  This is a great site.

Friday  February 22nd
Today is our last full day on safari.  I don’t know if it’s just me but there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm in our group.  After more than 80 hours of animal watching in little more than a week it takes a lot to spark interest.  Even the most ardent birdwatchers in our group don’t seem to care.
“Look a pink billed lark!” Shaka points out.
Washrooms! The highlight of the day
It’s met with stony silence.  Shaka stops the car.   Several of us pretend to take a picture so he’ll move on. 

The most enthusiasm exhibited is when we stop at the park gate and there’s a race for the restrooms.  In the afternoon we run into a small pride of lions – the first ones we’ve seen since Chobe.  We never spot any wild African dogs, so it’s a bit of a relief when we pull back into the camp at dusk.
As we’re getting out of the vehicles one of the Germans looks up and exclaims.
“Aren’t those African dogs?”
Sure enough, milling around right in front of our tents is the elusive pack of dogs we’ve been searching for. 
“Back in vehicle,” shouts Shaka.
Dog Day Afternoon
We pile back into the vehicle and take off after the dogs.  The dogs can cover an incredible amount of territory in just a day.  We are travelling after them at more than 40km/hr and the dogs are pulling steadily ahead.

“They can run like that all day,” Shaka states.  “While Lions and leopards are the sprinters of the animal world, these guys are the long-distance runners.  They’ll simply wear down their prey.  They’ll actually let one or two of the pack chase hard, then fall back to rest and let the fresher animals continue the chase.   When they finally exhaust their prey, they can strip the carcass in a matter of minutes.”
I notice one of the dogs limping running way behind.  
“What about that dog,” I ask. “By the time he gets there there’ll be nothing left.”
“The pack will look after him,” Shaka replies. “After they gorge on the kill, several of them will head back to him and regurgitate some of their meal for him.”
We follow the pack until it’s too dark to see then head back to camp.  The day and the trip concludes on a high.

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