Thursday, December 1, 2011

Surviving Lions and Beetles

My wife and I spent the past month in South Africa and Zambia participating in a photography safari.  Had a wonderful time.  Also had a few "interesting times" too.  One of which is describe below.  Typically, when you are on one of these photo-safaris, you go on two "game-drives" each day.  One in the morning, often leaving before sun-up, and then returning for a late brunch. And then one in the late afternoon that extends into the night.  After the sun sets one of the guides, "the spotter" brings out a large spotlight and, as you travel slowly down the road, he searches for the eyes of any nocturnal animals that might be out and about.  When he sees the reflections the vehicle stops and for a few moments you watch the nighttime activities of whatever animal you have discovered.  A good spotter, once he has detected the animal never shines the light in the animal's eyes again but illuminates it using the edge of the beam of light - plenty to see the animal without disturbing it. 
It was on one of these evening drives that the following happened:

The evening started rather unspectacularly with not much being seen except a few impala.  Long after dark the spotter saw some eyes that turned out to be two, and then three lions about fifty yards away.  When turning off the road to get closer the driver didn’t see a very large warthog hole into which the front end of the Land Cruiser disappeared!  The lions came closer.  The driver got out to see what could be done about the situation while the spotter tried to keep tabs on the lions and at the same time illuminate the hole so that the driver could see what needed to be done. What was hilarious was watching the antics of the two staff trying pay attention to the whereabouts of the cats while at the same time fend off the insects which were attracted to the headlights and the spot light.  It had rained earlier in the day - the flying ants were swarming and the air was thick with beetles and other assorted insects that crawled all over the driver and his helper.  It got so bad they had to cease their efforts to get us unstuck and go into the dark and strip off their clothing to rid themselves of the insects.  For the four of photographers sitting in the back of a completely open vehicle in the dark it was both scary and hilarious at the same time.  Because we were mostly in the dark the bugs didn't bother us as much as the others.

After finding out that digging with a jack handle (no shovel was available) wasn’t going to cut it and that the small bottle jack (that might have allowed a tire to be changed but I’m doubtful) wasn’t going to work we came to a standstill.  Meanwhile the three lions, two male and a female were even closer and now lying under a bush watching the goings-on!  Long story short – Mark and I eventually got out of the vehicle and, assisted by the spotter, grasped the bumper bar and lifted the front-end out of the hole!  I think the lions were disappointed!

We watched the lions for about another thirty minutes and then made our way back to camp.  By now we were late for dinner and the camp staff were wondering where we were.  The four hyenas and the porcupine we ran into along the way made us even later for dinner!

It is the unexpected situations like this that make our annual trips to southern Africa memorable.

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