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

Monday, January 28, 2019

The 2018 Africa Journals, Ch. 27: Shape-shifters in the Night

I’m struggling to break through the fog of sleep when Marg says, “Did you see the hippo?”   I keep my eyes shut for a moment, going over her words to make sure I heard them correctly.

With no other clues offered, I raise myself in bed, turn to her, and ask, “What hippo?”  We’d seen hippos in South Africa, but none here at Kicheche Mara Camp in the Northern Mara Conservancy.   As of yet, anyway.

“Right outside the tent!   You didn’t hear it?”   I admit to a hearing problem that is inexorably nearing severe, but who could miss hearing a hippo fifteen feet from the foot of my bed?

Me, apparently.   So, Marg saw a hippo and heard a hippo right in front of our tent?

Then she says, “I could see its silhouette on the canvas.”

Okay, now I’ve caught her in this whopper.   African nights are as inky as black velvet.   Like a black hole.   No light, unless you look up at the sky where the constellations sparkle through the clear air.   So how does a hippo leave a silhouette on dark canvas on a dark night?

She said she saw its silhouette through these two windows in the canvas.  There is a covered patio beyone the front  of the tent.

She swears it was there.  Marg doesn’t sleep much—a couple hours at a time, at most—so it’s probable she was awake to witness such a miracle.   And there are hippos in the small river below us.   And we are staying in the Kiboko tent, which is Swahili for hippopotamus. 


This is not a friendly crash of hippos.

I get out of bed and stumble to the tray of coffee, tea, and cookies.   I try to get to the tea water before Marg, a coffee drinker, does, because she makes my tea strong enough to shiver me timbers.  

“It’s good for you,” she says.

This yawning hippo is showing dominance.

The security guy comes to fetch us for the morning game drive.   It’s still dark, but Marg takes a flashlight and announces, “There’s a footprint.”

Anyway, off we went to see hippos.  Before we get too far from the tent, I look back to see how on earth a hippo could have gotten to the front of our tent without knocking it down.

Do you see how narrow the path is along the right side of the tent?

A little way farther down the main path, we side-step a pile of Cape buffalo poop.   No way could a buffalo get to the front of our tent, either.

There are a lot of hippos near the bend in the river.

This yawn is a threat.

And this is why so many African rivers are polluted.

Just a bit of vegetation overhanging the river.

Marg searching for suitable subjects.

While we wander and take photos, David, our guide,  was busy setting up  our breakfast spread.

So, how many times have you had breakfast alongside a river swarming with hippos?

Eventually, we are back at camp for our mid-day break.   And what awaits us there?  More good food.

Luscious potato salad!!!

My lunch plate:   potato salad, meat load, and blood orange with beets.    Wonderful.

Everything was superb!

Back at our tent, I am out in front searching for hippo tracks while across the valley, the usual giraffes dine on trees.

I keep searching in the dirt and grass for a hippo track.   I'm not trying to prove Marg wrong about seeing a hippo during the night.   I'm trying to prove her right!!!!

When I search  for something that might be a track, Marg comes out of the  tent and removes a shipping label that she had surreptitiously plastered on my back.

Then, she sticks it to her butt and returns to the tent.

Traveling with Marg is such fun!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Any Fall Cap Can Take, I Can Take Better....

My friend Cap is traveling in Russian Siberia and I've been following his (almost) daily posts.  In today's episode, he laments about falling down a couple five inches elevation changes in the hallway and reception area of his hotel.

 Cap has traveled extensively, and does so frugally, blending in with a country's citizens.   He stays in modest accommodations and uses mass transportation.   Every day he faces situation that are--or have the potential to be--dangerous to his health.

In the photo above, which I took of the photo he showed on his blog, the transition between the white tile floor and the yellow flooring in front of the reception desk involves one of the five inch steps downs that he missed.

The photo below, again snapped from the photo of his blog, shows another five inch step down right where he exits the hallway from his room.    He missed that one, too.

In fact, he missed these two steps twice.

Now, you might ask why someone would post something like that on his blog.

Well, two years ago, Cap stumbled over his untied shoelaces after clearing the security line in the Dubai airport.   He broke his hip in the fall.   Soldiering onward, he then flew to Hong Kong, stayed a couple days, then on to Seattle and Phoenix where, finally after six days with a broken hip and a useless left leg, he had hip replacement surgery.

He was 80 then.   He is 82 years old now and back to international travel.  Hence, Russian Siberia in the winter.

There are dangers everywhere out there for senior citizens, who might not be quite as aware of their surroundings as they should be.    We are certainly not as spry, our reflexes operate in slow motion, and our healing takes much longer.

Sometimes, we are on certain meds that compound our injuries in fantastical ways.  

In my travels, I have certainly come across dangerous situations, places where I could have been hurt or killed.

I might have tripped over this broken sidewalk in Mazatlan, Mexico, and broken my neck.

 I might have fallen into the polluted Ganges River while walking on this narrow, flimsy bamboo ramp and died of some horrid infection.

This lioness in Kenya was hot on the trail of dinner.   She might not have stopped.

 This sow and her cubs might have decided I was too close.

 Or this sow coming right at me....

When I stopped to pet this  young bull on a train platform in India, I might have been gored, or crushed, or stomped.   (You'd  have thought it had already happened, the way my tour guide acted.)

This elephant in Jaipur, India, could have picked me up and splattered me on the ground.

 The driver of the vehicle I was in could have run off the road to avoid this herd crossing, and killed us all.

Who knows what gruesome end awaited me in this hotel room bathroom?

 Why, I could have died from an embolism after falling while standing still on a remote road in Mongolia.   This is where blood-thinner meds contributed to this fantastic bruise.

This bruise is on my upper thigh.   By the time it finished spreading it was all the way down to my knee.

 Hey, dangers lurk in my own home.   This is my woodstove.

 This is the door I open to put wood in it, which I attempted to do a couple nights ago when the temperatures were minus 15.

 This is what I see when I squat to fill the stove.   Except for the night in particular, when the fire was roaring with all the air it had access to with the door open.

This simple little gadget is what I use to open and close the door.


So the other night, quite late and hardly any lights were on, I filled the roaring stove, and set a knee down on the hearth while I felt around for the innocent little gadget to close the door.

However, my knee came down on said innocent looking gadget and my leg rolled forward.   Of course, that put me off balance and my head was propelled forward--right towards the open door/roaring fire.

I caught myself in time and I am un-scorched and alive.  

Can you imagine what might have happened?   All the blubbery particles in my body would have fed that fire.    My house would have burned down, and me with it.

The Fire Marshal would be clueless, never for a moment suspecting that innocent looking gadget that  lay in the ashes of me and my home.

And the medical examiner, having removed my skull from the open woodstove, would have no option but ruling that my death was a result of self-euthanization from placing my head into a roaring fire.

I am not making fun of Cap's falls and trips and stumbles.   Dangers lurks everywhere and only The Shadow knows where they are.   But, for bruises.   Any bruise Cap can get I can get bigger!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The 2018 Africa Journals, Ch. 26: Everything in Africa Bites, Scratches, or Stings

This photo of me was taken by professional photographer and my friend, Marg Wood.   It is unusual in several ways.

For one, I'm taking photos from the ground and not from a safari vehicle.    That indicates our guide felt this was a relatively safe area to let us get down and walk around.   And have a mocha-choca-rula with a snack.   That drink, by the way, is coffee with chocolate and an a shot of Amarula liqueur.   In my case, I left out the coffee and had hot chocolate.

Second, I'm not wearing a long-sleeved SPF shirt to protect my arms from the sun.   I remember this day.   I was wearing my favorite SPF shirt.  It is a brilliant purple.  I was trying to get close enough to an iguana to get a photo and bright purple isn't know as a camouflage color.

Third, I'm sitting in vegetation with lots of thorns for company, which goes to support the title of this post.

Sneaking up on animals is impossible.

Rest stop along a river full of hippos.

The animals in national parks and private reserves are habituated to seeing safari vehicles.    If the adults bother to look, it's just a glance and then they ignore you.   The little ones are still curious.

The only reason this lioness (below) bothered looking at us is that she's lying in the road where it's warmer in the morning sun.   WE were trying to pass her.   She didn't move; we didn't pass.

This leopard raised her head and then when back to sleep.    There were many vehicles here but waiting in line as only three at a time were allowed to approach close enough to get photos with long lens.

A lone hyena approached and smelled the leopard from quite a distance.   It went right to the base of the tree and looked at her.   There is no love lost between hyenas and any other critter in Africa.  They are universally disliked.

In the national parks, vehicles must stay on the roads.   In some private reserves, vehicles are allowed to go off road to get closer to the animals.

That's great for the tourists, but can be dangerous or fatal to the animals.    We found these very young cheetah cubs in long grass, wet from recent rains.   They could not have been seen without the mother's larger body and better visibility.

And sometimes, the tourists are oblivious to what's going on in their presence.   Luckily for them, the lions paid them no attention.

I have had the big cats--lions, cheetahs, and leopards-- walk right under our vehicles or lie in the shade beside it.   Some plop down in between vehicles.

Usually, the animals consider you part of the vehicle and don't think of the vehicle as a food source.

But then there's the attention you don't want, like this guy leaning out to take a photo with his phone.

He gets attention he will remember the rest of his life.

Something changes in your soul when one of these cats looks you right in the eyes!!   It isn't only the realization that you've dropped a long way down on the food chain, it's ....    Well, you have to be there to understand.

One leap and she'd have that phone and the guy who was holding it.