"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The 2018 Africa Journals, Ch. 8: Food, More Food, and the Invention of ChocoMochaRula...or was it MochaChocoRula?

You know the wise advice about not going shopping when you're hungry?   Same thing applies to sitting down to write a story about a leopard using us to hunt warthogs.

I'm hungry, so today you get a photo essay about food, the first of several to come in the future of these journals.    Hopefully, there will be one from each of five camps!

To set the scene, we begin at Kirkman's Camp.

At six every morning, Matt gathers us from our individual rooms and escorts us--for safety's sake--to the main lodge.  We are the first guests there, because photographers like to be in the field at first light.   I don't recall any other guests joining us so early in the day.

Matt opens the doors and turns on the lights.

Before us is a selection of tooth-breaking rusks.   A traditional Afrikaners snack, rusk is a twice-baked bread with various additions, perfect for travelers as it does not need refrigeration.

South Africans must have teeth of titanium or else they always dunk these rusks in their morning drink.  Coffee and tea are available, and some fruit juices.

Laura (left), Matt, and Marg, eating inside.

My early morning juice and tea, with a hard rusk.

Some mornings, we enjoyed our drink and rusk on the outside pavilion, as Marg and Holly are doing.

This is not meant to be a meal but a waker-upper.

Then, we head to the safari vehicle and the hot water bottles provided--thoughtfully--on these cold mornings.

Camera, blanket, and a flannel-wrapped hot water bottle.   Ready for a South African winter.

Somewhere around 9 A.M.,  we stop in sites deemed safe enough for us to get out of the vehicle and walk around.   Richard and Matt promptly and efficiently set up a table and adorn it with a selection of snacks and drinks.

 Sometimes I used these morning breaks to wander, but not too far.    On this day, we stopped at a large pond and I was immediately drawn to it by birds.

Staying far away from the water's edge (in case monsters lurked), I circled to the side where I "hid" beside a bush and waited for animals to approach for a drink.

Impala.   On all the predator's menus, these impala were very skittish and often ran off.

To my right, a male nyala also approached the water.

I mentioned I was hiding behind a bush, right?

At other times, I would take my cup of hot chocolate and find a nice spot to  sit and enjoy the view.

Laura Hannusch caught one moment as I sat on rocks in the morning sun, contemplating how fortunate I am and watching a pastoral scene of impala across the valley.

Here we are at another morning break:

Marg is hugging her coffee for its warmth.    L-R:   Marg, Laura, Richard, Matt, Holly.

An hour of photography later, we arrive back in camp for breakfast and a long break until three o'clock, a time during which the light is too harsh for photography and the animals are hiding from the sun.

The ham she is slicing is wonderful!

My Hunter's Benedict.

Breakfast at ten and followed by lunch at one is too much for us, so we opt out of lunch.

Then, at three, it's back into the bushveld and more photography, wildlife, and scenery.

In the early minutes of the declining sun, we stop once again at a "safe" site for Sundowners.

In no time, Matt and Richard have a table set up for what Americans call happy hour or cocktail hour.   There's gin, vodka, rum, mixers, and wines, along with snacks--nuts, cookies, and always fresh potato chips.

And perhaps, not-so-safe.   This Cape buffalo bull, one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, prompted a cautionary, "Get back in the vehicle, ladies,"   It paid no attention to us whatsoever.

Gin and tonic is the traditional sundowner drink, beneficial for its refreshing taste and for the quinine that wards off malaria-causing mosquitoes.   But, it is  during this late afternoon break, that we accidentally concoct a drink that will see us through the rest of this trip:   coffee, chocolate, and the magnificent cream liqueur Amarula.

Image result for AmarulaMyself, a non-coffee drinker, I went with chocolate and Amarula.   Less dilution of the Amarula.

One was enough.   By that time, the syllables in the name were inadvertently and frequently mixed up.   Sometimes it was MochaChocoRula; sometimes ChocoMochaRula.   Sometimes it became something unrecognizable by any of its ingredients.

Fermented from the sweet yellow fruit of the marula tree, with sugar and cream added, the alcohol content is 17 per cent by volume, the same as Bailey's Irish Cream.  In any instance you use Bailey's, Amarula is the perfect substitute.

And, no, elephants do not get drunk by eating rotten/fermented marula fruits from the ground.   Instead, they push over the marula tree and eat fresh fruits.   Or, they bash the trees with their heads and knock  down the fruit.

We return to camp at 6 o'clock and have an hour to freshen up, start downloading our photos to computers, and put the batteries on chargers.

Dinner was by candlelight outdoors, so photos weren't possible.   But!   Every other night, dinner was an expansive feast in the boma.

A boma is a construct made by natives to protect themselves and/or their livestock from predators.  Traditionally made of thorny brush, bomas in tourist camps vary vastly in materials used to make them.

The boma at Kirkman's Kamp appears to be made of corrugated steel and doesn't look like much by daylight.   At night, however, lantern and firelight reflects off the painted interior and turns it into a charming dining venue.

This is a buffet and the selection of  goodies on the grill included several meats, sausages, and poultry, with an adjoining table full of side dishes.


Other guests at the grill

Of course, a fire for roasting marshmallows.

And then, came a surprise.   You won't be able to see much, light in the boma being what it is, so sit back and enjoy the music.

By far the biggest surprise came in place of the morning coffee break.  We rounded a corner and saw--well-hidden beforehand by brush--tables and chairs set up for breakfast in the bush.

Having once owned a restaurant, I can appreciate the work involved in setting up and preparing this wonderful surprise.

On this occasion, we were joined by another safari vehicle full of guests.....but we got there first!

L-R: Marg, Holly, and Laura.

My bush breakfast:   cantaloupe, that delicious ham with chutney, and a few grapes.    Full disclosure:  I followed this up with some scrambled eggs and bacon.

I also miss it.   Like, right now when I'm hungry.

And that's the food episode from Kirkman's Kamp.   Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programing....

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The 2018 Africa Journals, Ch. 7: When an Immovable Force Meets an Irresistable Object

We are across the Sand River on a part of the reserve that is owned by another company.   That company does not hire native trackers.   By agreement, Kirkman’s Kamp has permission to take its guests through their property, but our tracker must ride in the vehicle with us, rather than out front on a seat designed especially for trackers.

For that accommodation, I would soon be decidedly grateful.   Not sure how Richard, who tracks lions through bushveld armed with only a radio, felt about it, though.

The sun is quickly setting and it's almost dusk as we mosey our way back to camp, and we are quickly losing the light for photography.   The road drops to cross a shallow swale and right beside us are two white rhinoceroses, one male, the other female.

We watch them briefly as they graze, but when the male turns and faces us, I wonder if it’s unhappy that we’re there and is about to confront us.   Then someone says there’s another rhino behind us.

It’s a rhino, all right, but it looks as big as a diesel locomotive as it descends into the swale and comes towards us.   We are right smack in its path, like victims tied to the railroad tracks as the train approaches.  We don’t move.   I don’t breathe.  My shutter clicks and clicks…..

That's our vehicle in lower right.
This boy is bigger than our safari vehicle and we are parked right in the pathway.


These are southern white rhinos, the most abundant rhinos of the four genera.   The others are Sumatran, Indian/Javan, and black rhinos.   Within the white rhinos, there are two species—southern and northern.   The northern are almost extinct.

Let me interject:   all rhinos are gray, though some appear red due to the red dirt prevalent in Africa.   They are called white or black because the Dutch words to describe them were corrupted in translation.   Wijd in Dutch means wide and refers to the square upper lip of the so-called white rhino.   Somehow, the black rhino with its triangular-shaped lip became the black rhino.

Full-grown male rhinos are massive, almost 15 feet long plus their little two-foot-long tail and close to seven feet at the shoulder.  They can weigh more than 5,000 lbs.   Females are smaller, at 12 feet long, almost six feet at the shoulder, and near 4000 lbs.

Those horns that poachers slaughter these animals for?    They are made of karatin, the same material as human fingernails.


I’m watching the train approach and considering what could happen if Richard were sitting out front of the Land Cruiser on his seat.

At the last moment, the rhino, I’ll call him Two Ton though I suspect he weighs much more, veers slightly and passes in front of us without incident.    He isn’t interested in us—he’s going after the female, the Lady henceforth known as Lou.   (Thank you, Robert Service—The Shooting of Dan McGrew.)

Matt isn't scared.   He's ducking so those of us behind him can photograph the rhino.....   Well, maybe he is scared, but he doesn't tell us.

The two smaller rhinos, One Ton and the Lady that’s known as Lou, get out of Dodge by climbing up the bank of the swale.   Two ton follows.

Matt quickly turns the vehicle around, drives out of the swale and parks a safe distance away incase there’s a train wreck about to happen.   We get there in time to hear loud bellowing and grunting,  and the stomping of feet to raise dust clouds.

The horn-to-horn stand off.

One Ton and Two Ton are horn to horn.   The Lady that’s known as Lou has gone into the brush, like someone who starts a fight in a bar and then hides under the table.

There’s a long stand off with the males.   Eventually, One Ton shows signs of backing down, and he and the female again leave the scene.

Two Ton sniffs around, smelling the female’s scent to see if she’s in estrus.  Apparently she isn’t, because Two Ton takes his time following the two youngsters.    

Two Ton at left.

At one point, Two Ton stops and defecates.   Then, he kicks his dung to spread it, as rhinos tend to do when marking their territory.

The collective nouns for rhinos are crash and stubbornness.  How appropriate. 

We follow and a short distance away, the two males are once again in a face off.   The Lady that’s known as Lou has redeemed herself and is standing beside the young male.   While probably not a breeding couple, the two obviously have formed their own little crash.

One Ton and the Lady that's known as Lou.

The Lady that's known as Lou is now standing with her man.

This stand off goes on for a long time and darkness rises from the land as we wait.

Eventually, One Ton and his Lady concede to Two Ton and wander off towards the river.
Matt turns the vehicle towards the river and as we turn onto the trail that parallels the water, we catch a final glimpse in the murk of Two Ton, still following the pair.

A stubbornness of rhinos, indeed.

More photos from Africa: 

Zebra, fore and aft.