Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hippo herding


Nxai Pan Camp - Botswana



Dear Dorothy

After a brief hour of just laying on the bed zoning out, not sleeping just almost aware of my surroundings. I met Teko for a motor boat drive. I was the only person on the boat except for Teko and of course Wilderness Safari would have none of that. I Had to have some company along. I am guessing that solitude is not a word they have in their employee handbook. So Lebo came along. We had already had the "Where do you live, how many kids, what does your husband do .. Conversation. That left me with not alot of conversation left. I didn't know their politics well enough to broach that subject. I didn't want to be the "Well back in America we do things THIS way" kind of tourist. What's the old adage? Better to say nothing and let them think you are stupid, than to say something and prove it ?

The ride was expecting was the same as we had previously taken west and then north. Instead we headed south. The area was quite a bit different. Not as many islands and many more narrow channels through the papyrus and reeds. The channels were perhaps 10 feet wide through them and none of them are man made they are all hippo trails. The hippos have a great highway system. Occasionally they would open up into very large lakes (think Lake Padden times 3). I could look over the side of the boat almost all the time and see bottom in the crystalline water. A fish now and a again. Nothing very big. Some Bream (Tilapia) was all I saw, though Catfish and Tiger fish (a great game fish?) were in the same waters.

Lilly with hippo
No crocs. A Water buffalo and some Cormorants and another diving bird that swims under water locally known as the snake bird because of its long neck and pointed head. Well there were hippos and they we everywhere. I did have one request, well two. To see an Otter (scarce but possible) and a Meyers Parrot. The only parrot I found in Birds of Southern Africa that inhabits the local area.

All of the hippos kept their eye on us and if we idled too close might start to swim towards us, but Teko kept a very safe distance. When we had to pass near them he would get the engine screaming and roar through their area. Then we came into a channel where a lone hippo was and he swam away from us. Teko sped up behind him (not too close) and the hippo took off down the channel then stopped. We roared again, and the hippo bounded down the channel. We were herding hippos!! This went on half a dozen times until the huge ballet dancer ducked under a floating island of papyrus and escaped. Then he sat on the other side of the blockage in the channel and I'm certain I heard him saying "Ho Ho Ho" laughing at us.

Hippo herding
This was the terminus of our trip, our point of must return. We cruised into the middle of a big lake and stopped the boat for our required "Sundowner". No alcohol by anyone this time, 2 employees and me. Lebo is a modern woman who is ambitions enough to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She is a supervisor of all Wilderness' housekeeping staff and sells jewelry to the staff as well. Sounds like a slight conflict of interest, but was ain't in Kansas as the saying sorta goes. It was very nice to get away from the artificial world of Wilderness Safari Camps and actually get to talk to them like real people instead of paid host and client.

Back at camp it was the briefest of rests and then cocktail time and then dinner. I had seen papa Eskimo arrive with other the other Eskimo princess the previous day. Sharon had introduced me to Carol but not papa Eskimo. They walked in and looked at me. Maybe he's shy. I stood up and took a step towards him and with a smile said "Hi, I'm Theresa" He didn't make any form of non verbal communication. No handshake. No smile. Nuttin' but "I'm Ron". Fucker! Later we passed and I said Hi and he grunted. This morning I nearly bumped into him and said "Good morning!" and he said "good morni......" as he turned away. Double fucker ! This morning I asked another of the guests if she had spoken to him. She said "Yes .... he's ... a ..... a ... a ..... a bit contentious". So I guess it wasn't all about me.

I again sat next to Margaret the documentary producer who is wed to the former big pharma guy. She told me about her latest project called "The Bully Project". Their goal is to have a million children see their film in actual theatres and then have a lead discussion about the film by local teachers from the producers talking points guide lines (syllabus ?? no that's not the right word .. but I think you get my drift) It got great reviews at Tribecca and Sundance. It fallows five kids who different in different ways. One could be perceived as slow, one a different race that her peers, on gay .. Etc and shows what bullying's impact on them is. I hate her, because she is a much better person that I am. Actually I really liked her.

I read a little before bed and then went to sleep about 10:30. I didn't sleep all that well. The hippos were roaring and yakking all night and in the trees the owls or baboons were screeching. I thought it was just me as a light sleeper, but the conversation around the breakfast table was how noisy it was last night. (OH ! There was a cobra on the patio while I was on the boat ride ... and ... a python was seen when they escorted the first guests after dinner back to their rooms - Waaayyy coool) I saw Margaret's sweetie Gary the breakfast table. He was a drummer in his youth and said to him - "I'm sure glad you didn't blow up."He gave me that processing stare and then he laughed "I'm probably the only one at the table who would get that joke." If you didn't get it you obviously haven’t seen the Mocumentary "This is Spinal Tap".

Packed and off to the airstrip and Teko was driving the vehicle and said "Theresa. If you look in that dead tree you will see the Meyer's parrot".  These guides have good memory and a finely honed sense of humor. Then the rest of the vehicle said ""Yes I see them" There they were the Meyer's parrot. Up on a branch acting like parrots do, hanging upside down and playing. Well, I'll be!

The 208 turbo arrived and we flew to Maun where I had enough time to re-clear security before getting on the Cessna 206 with two employees from Nxai Pan to a very bumpy ride here. I was pretty impressed by the pilot he was the first and only pilot on this trip who checked out the runway by flying a downwind leg and an upwind leg before landing. All the other pilots just assume the people on the ground had done their jobs and made sure the strip was clear.

This camp is a step down from Wilderness Safari's facilities. More rustic.. ya that's the ticket! Lights in the room but no electricity. A little rougher around the edges but still for what it could be is nice enough. I got spoiled earlier in the trip. Maybe this should have been the first camp and then gone to Wilderness. The staff is just as attentive, the facilities are just a little more basic.

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