Monday, November 01, 2010

wild life

Visiting game parks is really so very cool.

You drive through the gates, impressively arrayed with giant wooden spikes and topped with electric wires, and immediately your instincts narrow and hone.
An honest-to-god dangerous predator could be lurking behind every bush. To alight from your vehicle could mean certain death. Your eyes re-calibrate, searching the landscape for the slightest movement, any faint change in colour or shape which could reveal one of the beasts listed on your park guide.
Lion! Elephant! Rhino!

And then, hey - dung beetles! Monster black armoured bugs rolling huge balls of poo down the middle of the road. They stop and stare aggressively at the Jeep, some of them marching over as if they've hit the giant poo jackpot.
And, wow - black-backed jackels! Scuttling round an open field, flipping over rocks and licking up the creepy-crawlies underneath. Yipping to each other and scanning the horizons with narrow foxy eyes.
And, look, look - warthogs! How incredibly weird are they? Digging up plants to get to the roots, standing on their fore-knees to lazily munch grass.
And, omg - yellow miercats! A breeding pair, foraging, scuttling around, no doubt close to an underground burrow.

In nature, as in life, it's easy to be seduced by the headli(o)ners, the big names, the big 5. But the sight of these smaller animals and insects (and so many more - ostrich, blue crane, falcons, monkeys, kudu) up close and personal, viewed through a windscreen, if that, and not on a flat screen, is incredible.

And the anticipation of possibly spotting a big guy any moment just adds to the adventure.

On our first morning there, we were hanging out at a water hole, idly watching ellies mooching around on the hills around us. We knew they'd get thirsty soon enough and were happy to wait for them (patience is a game-viewing virtue).

And it paid off. Soon a large family group, mums and babies, adolescents, a big tusky male bringing up the rear, came trundling down the hill towards us. Stella woke up, we started getting cameras ready and then something happened which we'd not anticipated at all.
Frieda freaked out.
She climbed from the front seat over to the back, then over again to the way back, trying to hide behind the stuff stowed back there. 'I want to go home, let's go home now. Drive Daddy, drive away!'
In all our excitement and Friedawilllovethis-ness we'd not stopped to think that elephants are f*cking big and maybe, in real life, just outside the car, a little freakin' scary. Poor poppet.
I took her on my lap and talked her round, pointing out the babies, and the mums with their big milk filled boobs (so like a human's), we laughed at the naughty big sisters, jostling and bumping each other, and chatted about the Dad, coming up behind and making sure they all behaved.
Soon she calmed down and then just loved them. As we knew she would.

They're very big.

And a little scary.


But what's not to love?

We miss them.

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