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.:: The Daily Cowbell ::.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


MY APARTMENT (THANKFULLY) – It’s not that I didn’t have fun at Masai Mara.

Quite the opposite. Not 5 minutes after entering the park, we ran into a lioness trying to snack on her kill. We were greeted by the darkest sky I’ve seen in Africa (strangely, a welcome reminder of our violent weather at home). We ran into a colossal group/herd/flock/gaggle of wildebeests, saw tons of gazelle and zebras, and passed some of the most gorgeous landscapes I’d ever seen. No, it wasn’t not fun.

It just wasn’t all I expected it to be. In three days, we saw two lions (one eating its breakfast of a straggling wildebeest), probably 10 giraffe (with 8 being seen an hour outside the park), a huge herd of elephants (that we couldn’t stop to see because our host, Game Trackers, was in a hurry to see something interesting), 0 leopards, 0 cheetahs, and approximately 17,045,213 wildebeests (give or take 4).

Oh, and it rained. And Elvin and I were assigned to a tent I wouldn’t cram Gary Coleman into. And the potty smelled ungodly.

3 observations:
  1. I’ve felt every bump, lump, bulge and contusion from here to the Mara. Once upon a time, I used to complain about the roads in Nebraska and Missouri being unbearable. Kansan roads are a million times better (as they should be, since they’re being constructed, repaired, or modified 342 days a year). However, those days have passed. Compared to the turbulent path that we drove upon for 8 hours, Nebraska and Missouri are Route 66.

    I’ve never been jostled and tossed in any form of transportation as I was on the full-day trip to the Mara. Massive canyons located strategically in the road (referred to by the locals by their apparently Swahili name, potholes) would literally fling me, a 200-ish pound guy, a foot off the seat. The skinny people on the land cruiser often times came close to hitting the 7 foot ceiling. A few times, we came close to losing an infant out the window. Luckily, we all made it safely to the campsite

  2. “Mommy, what is that thing in the lion’s mouth?” The highlight of the weekend was definitely the early morning game drive on Sabbath morning. After dragging myself out of my sleeping bag, running through the pitch-black, frigid, mid-40º air to the bathhouse, realizing that I was in fact nowhere near the shower area and actually walking down the road towards a neighboring Masai village, sprinting towards the bathhouse after hearing a low, animal-like grunt in a nearby bush, and cowering away from the ice-cold stream of water trickling out of the soldered-onto-a-rusty-metal-pipe shower head, I made it onto the land cruiser for some animal sight-seeing.

    And some animal sight-seeing I did. Guess what I saw? A Wildebeest. But then, what else? Another wildebeest. And after that? Two wildebeests. The rolling plains of the northern Serengeti were covered with wildebeests, as far as the eye could see. I was literally surrounded by a million of these guys. If they all would have got the idea to charge at our vehicle and flip it over, we would have been dead in an instant. However, that would have required the gnus to abandon their grass-eating, grunting, and staring mindlessly at us. We were safe, this time.

    It was mind-boggling to see all these guys, but nonetheless, disappointing. No one, except for Gnutologists, come to Africa looking to see wildebeests. It’s like someone going to New York to see homeless people or hubcaps. We wanted something good, and just down the road from the herd, was that something.

    One straggling wildebeest must have found a really nice plot of grass, because he had been standing a half-mile away from his group when the attack came. I imagine it was out of nowhere: calm, peaceful morning air. Then a rustle in the grass, behind him and to his left. He peaks around, and sees nothing. Then, to his right, another rustle. He swings his face that direction, scanning the grass for the predator. Nothing. All is still. All is silent. He takes a deep breath out, then goes back to working on his breakfast.

    All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a flash knocks him onto his side. He looks up, horrified, to see a lioness, bared teeth and all, ready to tear into his flesh. He tries to call for help, but too late. His howl is muffled by the searing pain of his attacker’s teeth, wolfing down his side. Moments later, all that remains of the victim is lifeless fur and warm blood.

    This is when we come along – too late for the attack, but just in time for the victory party. I sat, in the comfort of the vehicle, just a few feet away from this monster, still rummaging through the corpse, looking for a tasty intestine or another lick of blood. It was truly amazing.

    I got some pretty good pictures, but not as good as Elvin, who was toting around his 400mm zoom lens. My pictures show the lion, 30 feet away, eating his meal; Elvin’s show the flies on the meal. Dammit.

  3. Mudding in Africa isn’t as fun as in the States. On the dreary Sabbath, after an intense morning of gnu-watching and an incredibly tasty and nourishing lunch of pasta salad (Mine came with a strand of curly hair in it. For free!), we decided to test our luck in another area of the park.

    Five minute later, when 2 of our 4 game trucks were stuck in the mud, we heartily regretted the decision.

    We sat in our truck (one of the ones not in mire) for one hour, waiting for the two stuck vehicles to magically be removed from the muck. Some found it a great time to gleefully run around outside, playing in the wet dirt; I found it to be a great time to escape the bumpiness and take a short nap.

    The two vehicles eventually escaped their destiny of never moving again when a quick-thinking Game Trackers’ driver suggested an option:

    “Hey, how about instead of solving the problem with an obvious solution and simply pulling out the stuck cars with a ‘surviving’ member, let’s completely pull out the drive shaft and put in a new, 4-wheel drive one!”

    “Great idea, Rick!”

    And so it was, 60 minutes later, that we could re-begin our game drive. Great.

  4. Bonus Masai Mara observation: Did my academy’s faculty enjoy supervising this much? I’ve confirmed the much-spread rumor to Maxwell Adventist Academy – Yes, my goal for this year is to put a couple on social.

    After the students’ initial reactions of “What?” and “Dang, you’re a jerk!”, I’ve sensed an air of fear about when I walk by. Oh, look baby, there’s that crazy assistant dean that wants to stunt our social life! Yes, I do, kids. And what’s a better time to ruin the lives of Romeo and Juliet then on a school outing/camping trip?

    So after supper, when tummies were full and most faculty were ready to turn in for the night, my fun began. My sidekick Elvin and I began our own game trek, scouring the throngs of students for couples trying to get “too close.” I sauntered around like an overconfident policeman, my mini-MagLight as my baton. While we didn’t catch anyone - or more important, anything - our presence was felt. Batman and Robin once again saved the day. Hold your applause.
Ok, I’m tired. OUT!



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