Zulu Nyala, South Africa
Tuesday Morning, September 12
We decided Monday that we'd skip the morning ride to sleep in and pack for our afternoon departure, but we were both awake at 6:30, so Tom got up and packed while Cathy went back to sleep. Cathy was still battling the cold she picked up in Paris and had been getting just a few hours of sleep each night. Tom was ready to go in time so he decided to go on the morning ride.
A couple of minutes from the lodge, there was a tree that had been pushed over onto the sign for the lodge. Tracks confirmed that elephants had stopped by for some water that morning then continued on down the hill leaving a path of destruction behind them.
We tracked the elephants for an hour or so, coordinating with three other groups, but didn't find them. It's amazing how well such huge, destructive animals can disappear. Marius claims they have hidden wings they can unfold and fly up the clouds to laugh at us as we search for them.
Here's an ant colony, in a tree. They have a nasty bite...
... so Marius fished around until he got one to climb up his wrist. He said it was so we could see one of the ants, but it was probably in hopes he could get stung.
We were also interested in finding the baby giraffe and came upon a group of seven or so lounging in a field, but no baby. Marius told us about some more guide humor: telling guests that this is a giraffe standing in a hole:
"What do you think, honey, should we move along?"
"Yeah, we're out of here."
The same rhino bull was hanging out in a field with some warthogs, zebras, and impala. He was pretty focused on mowing the grass and didn't mind us watching. He had an avian friend feeding off of the insects he was rousting as he munched along.
Hippos have a tough life hanging out in the pool all day. That sort of work can really wear you out.
An adult male nyala.
This typical male/female pair of homo sapiens was spotted enjoying the view from the lodge.
Tuesday Afternoon, September 12
Marius dropped by to join us for lunch before we left. I think he really liked our group. He talked about how he goes through the same process with each group. At first they know nothing and are excited about every animal they see, so he stops for every nyala, warthog, and zebra. As the group gets more experienced and patient, he can focus on finding the unusual. We had a great group, everyone was excited to be there, interesting in learning, and respectful of the guide, the group, and the experience. We saw some evidence to suggest that not every group is that good.
After lunch we loaded into a van, with our luggage, no flying trailer this time! We had an uneventful ride to the airport, with just one bit of excitement. As we approached the airport without any mishaps, the two of us were playing charades in the back seat to decide how much of a tip to give the driver. There was a bit of a miscommunication, and Tom ended up giving him three times what would have been reasonable; still it was a small amount for a safe ride on the roads of South Africa.
After the first short flight, we checked it at the Air France terminal at the Johannesburg airport. The agent was shocked that we only had two smallish bags each. He said rarely sees anyone travel that light, and it was the first time he'd seen an American do so. Ironically, the baggage turned out to be a big hassle since there was no storage space either overhead or under the seats in front of us even though we were flying business class. All or our luggage got piled up in a closet at the back of the small upper cabin. Tom had to go luggage diving to dig out his laptop once we reached altitude. Sitting upstairs sounds like it would be fun, but at least on that plane it's not so good if you have carry-ons bigger than a paperback that you like to keep handy.
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