Wednesday, October 4, 1995
Edward Gets There First / View to a Kill
We learned our lesson. Everyone is ready to go by 5:30, and we are rolling by 5:35. Edward quickly finds lion tracks crossing the road. We drive again through the same giant herd of Buffalo, the dust from their passing a cloud of fiery red smoke in the sunrise.
We see several hyena between us and the river. Then, on this side of the road, a lion. A young male, the beginning of his mane just visible, lying on his side, belly full and distended, keeping a wary eye on the hyenas. More lion barely visible in the bush behind the male. Also visible, the bloody ribs of a cape buffalo. We have the scene to ourselves for about fifteen minutes to photo and video before another safari truck happens by. It pulls off the road closer to the kill, a violation of park rules. In a few minutes, other trucks show up.
Most trucks have shortwave radio, and when lion are found, the word goes out and the site is soon crowded with four to six vehicles. The other guides used to get irritated with "Eddy" (as they call him), because he did not always broadcast his spots. Edward solved that problem, he no longer has a radio in the Beast. We move on.
Edward puts up the canvas top, and the morning game drive extends into a four hour journey inland across Chobe National Park to our next camp. Edward warns us that the drive would be very hot, very dusty, and the roads were very bad. Edward, it turns out, is an optimist. Along the way we see zebra, sable, wildebeest, and more elephant. We stop to observe a breeding herd close to the road. The tuskless female matriarch takes a dislike to the vehicle and mock charges. We don’t move, we don’t make a sound (as instructed by Edward) and she turns and goes back to eating. When Edward turns on the engine and starts to move, she trumpets, and chases us 60 meters down the road.
While moving quickly along one stretch of good road, Wayne sees a small cat stick up his head along the shoulder as we roll past. He describes the cat in detail to Edward, who says that it was a Caracal, a very rare sighting. No one else saw the Caracal, and Wayne didn’t say anything until we had sailed past. After some discussion among the group, we decide to place an asterisk next to Wayne’s spot. Wayne defends it staunchly, but the asterisk stays.
We pull into Savuti South, an Orient Express lodge, in time for a late lunch. We will be staying here two nights. The permanent tents overlook the riverbed of the Savuti river, which dried up mysteriously a few years ago. Private bathrooms for each tent are in a concrete structure 50 meters from the tent, but because of the amount of wildlife walking through the camp, we are instructed to use a bedpan in the tent at night. We relax in the tents to escape the heat of the day, then head out for the late afternoon game drive.
The local guides are proud of their brand new Toyota Landcruisers and give Edward a hard time about the Beast. Edward looks over the Landcruisers, and proclaims the Beast to be a far superior vehicle. Out of loyalty to Edward, we express our vocal support for The Beast. Privately, we have doubts.
I am standing in the Beast, immediately behind the cab, looking over the top of the cab, eating dust and scanning the country as we bounce along. I spot a jackal, one of my embarrassingly few spots despite my premier spotting location. Before I have time to line up the video, I hear Edward’s voice, "Cheetah." The Beast coasts to a stop at the closest point on the road to the Cheetahs. No one can believe he found them. We are 150 meters away, and all you can see is an occasional tail flick above the grass in the shadow of a tree. Through the glass we can see a mother cheetah with four cubs, each almost as big as she. Edward tells us it is rare for a mother to get four cubs to this size. "She must be a very good provider." He says. "Now we should wait and see what happens."
We wait. We watch. The same flies that are harassing the cheetahs, prompting the tail flicks, descend on us. Mama cheetah gets up, walks to the other side of the tree, and flops back down. One cub rolls over. Another sits up, watches us for a while, then lies back down. Mama gets back up, walks back to her original spot, and lies down again. The sun is like a blowtorch. The flies are driving us crazy. We are all watching the cheetah through binoculars and long lenses. All except Edward. I look at Edward, now standing on the cab, looking through binoculars in the opposite direction. He sees me looking at him. He says "Impala." Smile. Connect the dots. Even I can figure this one out.
Soon there are two Impala walking in front of the vehicle toward the cheetah. They are so cute and adorable I decide to give them names. The one closest to the vehicle I name "Lucky." The other one, pictured below, I name "Lunchmeat."
Lunchmeat watches the Cheetahs
I don’t understand Impala. They must have seen the cheetah. They stopped and stared directly at them for a long time. All the cheetah were sitting up and staring at the Impala. Eventually the Impala decide it’s okay to continue grazing. Big mistake.
Mama Slinks Around the Bush.
The Kids Watch Mama to See How it’s Done.
Mama Takes Off
There is a furious chase, a cloud of dust, Lunchmeat and Mama disappear behind a bush, the kids take off following Mama. Edward drops down the hatch and we are rolling in the Beast. Around a corner we find them, now only 75 meters from the road.
Edward says we were very lucky to see this. We figure we are pretty lucky to have Edward as a guide.
NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were screen caps from video which I am leaving as is for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts. The difference should be obvious.
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