Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A stroll among the Rhinos

Toka Leya - Livingstone, Zambia

Seven twenty pm

Dear Dorothy

Time for a room tour. First of all the room is BIG. Maybe 400 square feet. I call it a room because the only resemblance to a tent is that the walls and roof are made out of fabric. The fabric is over a wooden wall frame. There are two sliding glass wooden framed doors that glide effortlessly on their wheels. To the right is a writing desk with an electrical outlet on the wall that has outlets for 3 different plug types. The only one missing is North America's 2 prong plugs. A hairdryer is in the bottom the left are two wing chairs and behind them is a table with coffee, tea, sugar and creamer. A hot water heating pitcher and French press coffee maker. A flippin' French press!!

Toka Leya tent - Zambia
Two twin beds surrounded by netting, covered in thick cotton sheets and down comforters on top. The air-conditioning unit is over the bed. Behind the bed is a wall with double sinks and mirrors. A private toilet with flushers for number ones and another for number two's. Of course the t.p. has the folded end. There is an entire room as the shower with teak floors. There are gaps in between the boards and the water drains through them and on to the ground 6 feet below (the whole unit is built on stilts). There is a frosted glass door in the shower leading outside to the outside shower.

The deck is totally covered with a table and 2 chairs and two bamboo chaises and an unobstructed view of the river.

These are my current humble digs. I could certainly think of doing a do nothing vacation in this place and have the exotic-ness be an added bonus.

Ok enough on the local architecture.

After tea. The usual spread of way way too much. Pastries, 4 kinds of juices and teas, plus the usual bar of soft drinks and wine, Sam wrangled the three of us for the game drive. There was a nearby group of Americans who I expected to be with us, but it was just the three of us.

We piled into the Land Rover and went on the game drive. Small, small park. Certainly not the size as Davison's "Larger than Belgium" park. We drove out to a police checkpoint and picked up a Kalashnikov toting man and then drove down the road maybe a mile, maybe two, before pulling off the road and parking. Another "Kalash" toting guy walked up and the three locals talked for a bit before Sam said "Gun in front, me second, slowest next  ... and gun in the end. Step where I step. Walk in single file. Okay?" Uhhh.... ya suure  ... okay.

So off we start walking into the bush. I thought I was going on a game drive, not a forced march in 90 degree heat and few trees in sight. So like ducklings we waddled along behind and in front of high powered rifles into the bush. In about 5 minutes of this heat stroke inducing slough through the underbrush the guy with the gun stops. Stops dead and is looking very intently at something. I'm thinking "THIS IS NOT GOOD". Then he motions us forward and before us are 4 Rhinos. 1 dominant male, one female with pre-teen child and a young male. We are so close that my telephoto lens will not un-zoom enough to get all of them in the same picture. I mean they were "right there!” Right there. Perhaps 50 yards away. Just munchin' on the grass. They saw us. They didn't see us as a threat, so we just stood there with mouths agape clicking shutters and taking video. After we got our fill of photos and gawking Sam said it was time to get going so like a trail of ants returning from a sugar we walked single file back to the truck.

The guy who met us at the guard shack was the guy directing us to the other guy. That guy's job was to guard the Rhinos. These 4 Rhinos and the other 4 in the park have 24/7 guards to keep them safe. Bravo, Zambia.
Rhino - Toka Leya - Zambia

Then we did the drive the normal way. Saw a zebra or two. Impalas. kudu. Wildebeest and warthog. This is a smaller park than the last one and closer to civilization by 100's of miles and we were able to get closer than at the last park. Part way through the drive Sam hit the brakes and pointed to the side of the road at a Monitor lizard lumbering down the avenue. Sam says "I'm going to fight this lizard" He gets out of the Rover crosses the road gets down on his hands and knees and starts making a big circle to intercept the reptile. Pretty soon the lizard crosses back over the road away from Sam. He gets back and says that guy was a coward. He said that if he stood up the lizard would view him as a human and a threat, but low he would be seen as another animal. I don't know about you but pissing off a 2 meter long dinosaur (sp?) while laying on your belly in knee high grass does not sound like a smart thing to do to me.

A couple more animals and we came back to the Zambezi river and two boats were on the shore and six tourists where lounging on the bank being fed veggies and dip and sausage and wine and soft drinks and...and... Caroline said "Different tribes.". she was right. The boaters barely noticed us and in the spirit of singularity we did the same. We sat near them and watched the sunset sipping wine and noshing noshes.

When we got back to the camp one of the men said "Are you having dinner with the couple you have been traveling with today?" I told him no, I'd be having dinner alone. Well Sam wants to have dinner with you. "Go the f**k to sleep". Well in that case let's make it a foursome for dinner.

Actually it was delightful. The conversation flowed easily and the food. Pea soup with fresh minced veggies. Lamb and roasted baby potatoes whit a red wine reduction. Crème Brule'. Coffee and red wine. BURP!

Back in tent. Good night, moon.

 - t.

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