Knooks or Krannies in a Nano-second

Paris, on the SeineSecond post!  Love hearing from you, useful suggestions, kind words, encouraging … and an unbelievable amount of patience.  Thank you!  Thank you!

Gurgle, gurgle, can’t keep ’em down: Thoughts from those etc. knooks starting to bubble up … ooh, that chilly night atop a deserted Machu Picchu dancing under the stars with only one bottle of wine among us … fairly floating ten miles down into the Grand Canyon, laden with backpack, but not noticing, so in love was I … namaste hands pressed to my breast as I, head bowed and barefoot, shuffle into the temple of the sacred tooth of Buddha in Kandy, Sri Lanka … Not all the past is prologue … Now I undertake (no pun!) in retirement a new language, a new medium, a dabble at Facebook and Twitter, creative writing, closing up a 2nd business, taking computer/machine classes in Fab(rication)Lab, traveling, traveling, traveling … So, if I can only figure out how to import photos, change fonts, navigate this system …  Ah, well, one lesson at a time ….

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Tenting in Botswana: The Details

But first, a vignette or two —

  • Vignette One:   That so very, very black night we’re sitting on canvas chairs, a semi-circle of seven, facing a crackling campfire.  We’re voraciously munching down unlimited portions of lamb chops, all the while listening rapt like little children to our guide Teko’s tales of life and death in the bush.  Just beside us on the other side the shrubbery lies a glen within a clear depression, “cafeteria for the lions,” says Teko, “… many deer grazing.”  Knowing this particular terrain so well, he cautions us about hyenas.  “If you see one, it’s OK, but if you see six approaching, then you worry!”  Impelled by a sense of ESP, I glance sideways at the far end of the group.  There at my husband’s elbow, two eyes glowing eerily in the darkness.  A hyena … a frozen presence.  I blink.  It disappears.  I say nothing.  Maybe it’s just an illusion.  Soon enough we break.  Drowsy from the fire’s warmth, those mesmerizing stories, the day’s long jeep rides rumbling over rough terrain, the excitement of encountering wild animals in such abundance, and throughly sated by a heavy meal, I slip into our tent and quickly fall into a near-drugged sleep.  Next morning, Teko calls us over to the jeep.  He points wordlessly to jagged gnashes and gnawings around the headlights.  Overnight, hyenas had slipped past us and destroyed the parking lights, having chewed them off around their rubber fittings … and no one heard a sound …
  •  Vignette Two:  We’re in the Moremi Game Reserve setting up camp after a morning ride past a blur of slim jackals (see author’s photo of silver-backed jackal), Silver Back Jackal.jpgbucking wildebeest, jumping impala and scattered flights of guinea fowl.  I notice a flurry of activity by the vehicle — long-tailed glossy starlings, as ferocious as kamikazes, dive bombing a cream-colored puff adder while Teko is winding up to hurl  a tire iron at it.  The thing narrowly escapes into the bush with its life.  At the same moment, we look across where the snake sought refuge and see two lions curiously watching us, perhaps a half a football field away.  There’s no chain link fence separating us, just undergrowth and one downed log.  Teko cautions us to move slowly, not to be afraid (HUH?).  Have respect!  Just those few simple words.  A Kalahari tribesman, thoroughly at home in the wild, he knows his animals.  He goes so far as to joke that Campsite #1 is notorious for its resident lions.  If you don’t see a lion, it’s bad luck!  His calm demeanor is infectious.  We do as we’re told (what choice do we have?) — keep our tent flaps down and zipped up at night.  The lions, he says, will smell us, but they won’t see us.  “What about snoring?” I ask.  “Snoring is OK,” he assures us, as long as it’s inside the tent.  They’ll think we’re termite mounds!  That night we do not venture out to the make-shift loo, a hole in the ground surrounded by an open-to-the-sky, barely-there canvas tent a few yards away.  Instead, I slice the top off my water bottle and set it in the corner of our tent, our en suite.  Silently, anxiously, we settle down for a night of on-again, off-again sleep.  Just as all becomes quiet, a loud roar detonates us!  A gigantic tree limb has come crashing down to the woodland floor sweeping along with it half the dead upper branches, too close for comfort!  So ends Day Ten of our safari.  Oh, yes, the following morning, we observe distinct cat prints in the soft sand surrounding our tents.
  • A few drawbacks to camping in the wild:

being eaten by lions  ….  trampled by elephants  …  scared to death by hippos emerging suddenly and hugely from the river  …  snagged by burrs and scratched by thorns  …  nearly frozen by night  …  choked from campfire smoke when the wind blows in the wrong direction  …  covered with dirt penetrating our eyes, ears, teeth, lungs and clothes  …

Of course, I savored every moment, a distinct way to celebrate a  61st birthday!  I can still hear (in my mind’s ear!) the sounds of Botswana — the honking, croaking, chirping, wailing, buzzing, droning, hooting, blaring, snorting, trumpeting — and the silence.  And, oh, those star-filled night skies.  I can still savor the childlike wonderment, the occasional fear.  I can still feel my death grip, holding on for dear life as we swerved, sped, rumbled and slithered around rough grasslands away from the rutted roads in pursuit of a herd/gaggle/group/family of some animal or other.  One day I stood on the shore of the Chobe River and laid eyes on four countries at one time —  Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia — supposedly, the only place on earth where you can do this.  And there was so much more …

Next — Camping in the fantasy-land that is the Okavango Delta …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Tenting in Botswana: The Details”

Tenting in Botswana: The Feel of the Place

I’ve dreamed of seeing this part of Africa ever since I heard a man at a party in the ’80s describe a place of quiet beauty, a paradise where animals roam freely, a land lush with vegetation and crystalline waters, an Eden virtually hidden from the world.  He said it was called the Okavango Delta, the name as I enunciated it, set up a vibration deep within me like the slow palpating beat of a tribal drum … O — KA — VA — NGO …

A standoff: topis facing a lion
A standoff: topis facing a lion
Sister Lions
Sister Lions

Botswana is that Delta, bleached white-sand islands beckoning with their inviting turquoise lagoons and swaying palms, mocorro glides through hippo-infested waters!.  It’s also the Chobe River where elephants graze unmolested casting dark shadows against the blaze of the setting sun.  It’s the Savuti marshland crosshatched with animal runs, home to zebra, wildbeest, tsessebe, steenbock, giraffe, ostrich, the fresh smell of sage in its open fields and a rainbow of gorgeous, quirky, funny, fearsome birds.  Botswana is the reverberating purr of lions at night rumbling the earth beneath my sleeping bag, my husband snoring as if in competition with the primal sounds of life in that primal land.  A hundred different bird calls, hooting baboons and snorting hippos, male impalas snuffing defiantly to protect their fickle harem.  Jackals, guinea fowl, hyenas, alligators, wild dogs (a local treasure), puff adders and mambas, termite mounds shaped like a miniature Turkish Capadoccia, tens of thousands of quella birds swooping this way and that in the skies, like a school of airborne fish.  The bulbous baobab; camel-thorn acacia, poster tree of the African veldt; the marula tree whose ripened nuts make elephants and monkeys alike go fairly “nuts” with intoxication …

Part Two: The Details, Hows and Wherefors

In a Cavern (remember that tune?)

I’m balancing awkwardly on hands and knees, chilled, covered in mud, shuffling forward, peering directly at the shadowy behind of the guy in front of me.  He’s sloshing slowly, deeper into the nearly pitch black cave.  Married only two weeks (2nd time around and in our 50s), I gave no thought to canceling this (why are all my shenanigans?) once-in-a-lifetime experience at spelunking.  It’s quiet enough that I think I’m hearing my Bill behind me starting to hyperventilate.  We married in only three short months after three or four 12-hour dates. (We met in a yoga class of four students, but ignored each other for seven months.)  In the rush of preparation for our wedding (no shotgun story here, sorry), I hadn’t thought to inform him I had this jaunt to West Virginia on my calendar.  Never had the question of claustrophobia come up.  Why should it have?

“Need to see some sky,” he croaks sotto voce.  The “sweep” behind him calls a halt and as clumsy as pregnant bears, we as a group, manage to moomph around without kicking each other in the face though not without more splatterings of chocolate-colored mud added to our already slimy clothes.  We plod our way back to the spot where we descended by rope down the rabbit hole, an Alice-in-Wonderland moment!  The two guides quietly talk to Bill while he’s looking up at the small circle of brilliant blue sky overhead.  He begins breathing normally.  Within a few minutes, he’s good to go … The rest is history (23 years ago), a great traipse.  Next?  Let’s go tenting in Botswana!

Baby Steps!

Like a toddler, here I go wobbling and faltering, piecing together erratic thoughts with a few “look-behinds” (apologies to the oxpecker on the zebra’s rear end I found in Kenya), and adding a pinch of what-ifs and why-nots.  I’m awed by the potential, no, the miracle of birthing an elusive, misty inner world into a full-blown “something new”  added to my already “somethings old” and maybe even “somethings blue.”   More than likely this blog might turn into just a rag-tag commentary of an ordinary though sometimes quirky life, those Knooks and Krannies, the et ceteras we forget to remember!