Part II, The Jeep Safari
By, John L. Fuhring
Saints Preserve Us!! It was himself on the ground, half in and half out of his tent. I didn't know what to think of the sight revealed by the lantern. I said "Faith and begorre man, what's happened to you?!?" Poor Paul was like a man possessed by the 'deevel' himself. Looking past Paul and into his tent, I could see that there was an inch of water covering the floor of his tent. A quick investigation revealed the cause - the fly over his tent had been incorrectly set and it directed rain water right into an open tent window with the result that all of Paul's and most of Reinherdt's stuff was soaking wet, including their sleeping bags. What a mess! Then it struck me - Oh geez-us, what about my tent and my stuff? I hurried over and with trepidation I opened the tent. I was sure my stuff was soaked too and my digital camera would be ruined. I wasn't concerned about my GPS because it's waterproof. Oh Hallelujah, I found the inside of my tent and all my stuff dry. My tent's rain fly worked like it should have.
I urged Paul to leave the clean-up for a while and to have dinner while it was still eatable, but he was so upset he wouldn't stop. At last I convinced him that he had succeeded in preventing further soaking and the task of cleaning up could wait until after supper. Finally he joined us for some cold supper.
The contrast between our simple native-style food and the elaborate gourmet courses (served with vintage wines) that the Germans and (especially) the Italians were enjoying couldn't have been starker. Even their elaborate dining tables were in sharp contrast with our tiny dented up folding one. Their tables were brightly lit with many candles, ours was dimly illuminated with a single small lantern. I was a little surprised they didn't have live musicians playing violins. I didn't care, I was hungry and although the food was simple, it was OK (damn krauts and i-ties anyway).
After our meager supper we went back over to Paul's tent and he recommenced deep sea salvage operations. Paul's sleeping bag was absolutely soaked through and all the wringing out still left it very damp. Reinhardt's sleeping bag was damp but usable.
You've heard of how mad wet hens get? Maybe you've even seen wet hens in action. Well, wet hens have nothing on wet Irishmen, let me tell you. Paul took his bag to our driver and adamantly insisted he do something about it. Truth is, I've slept in bags that were just as wet and in much colder climates and I'm still alive. I didn't think Paul would be able to get any help from our guide so I tried to advise him that he'd be OK once he climbed in the bag, but he'd hear none of it. Well, would you believe it, our guide was able to borrow a dry blanket from the other safari people and Paul had something dry to sleep in after all.
Many of the Irish I've met over the years seem to be wonderfully optimistic people and Paul certainly fits in that category. Not only did he think he'd get something dry to sleep in, but he thought he'd get his lost luggage back too. You see, when he arrived in Nairobi, it was without his luggage. He had his money and passport with him, but nothing else but the clothes he was wearing. To get by, he bought a spare shirt and some other things at the central market in Arusha. Still, he had a ton of scuba equipment, clothes and other personal gear in his lost luggage and he, quite properly, wanted the stuff back. Every evening he would have our driver use the short wave radio in the Land Rover to call back to headquarters in Arusha. He'd have the headquarters people call the airline (KLM) and check on his luggage, but for the last two days, no word on the stuff came in over the radio.
Finally, all that needed done was done. By now it was late, very dark in camp and we needed to get into our tents. I should mention that the campground was completely open to the surrounding plain and it really wasn't safe to be outside our tents at night. I'll tell you about some animals that did wander in to camp in a bit.
Before turning in, Reinhardt told me why the English still deeply resent the Germans 55 years after the end of WW II. It all boils down to lifestyle and attitude and because the really nice sunny places are visited by all European nationalities. When on "holiday" (vacation to us yanks) the English quite sensibly regard this as a time to relax and catch up on sleep. The Germans are always efficient even when on vacation and get up with the dawn. With Teutonic thoroughness, while the English are still eating breakfast, they lay claim to all the lawn chairs by putting little name tags on them. When the English come out to enjoy the sunshine, there's nothing to sit on. Naturally the English are too polite to rip up the tags and tell the Krauts to "bugger off." No wonder the Brits dislike the Krauts. As Otto von Bismarck himself once said "if nations wish to avoid war, they should avoid the pinpricks that precede cannon shots." He said all kinds of cool stuff like that.
Next morning, with the Teutonic side of me in full gear, I was up with the other Germans. Our guide had the Land Rover all ready for a full day's safari out on the Serengeti Plain, but my comrades were still sound asleep. I couldn't stand the way we were burning daylight so I went to their tent and, in the best British accent I could muster, I shouted for them to "royse an shoine, ya blokes, royse an shoine - the jerries are getting all the lawn chairs." That was enough to bring Reinhardt instantly awake. Immediately he let out with an spontaneous, but heartfelt response, "those bloody Germans!"
We spent the whole day searching out game in visiting interesting places. Our guide was good at spotting things. Many of the things he spotted were far away and most everything we would have missed if we were on our own. Speaking of far away, let me just say this: if you go to Africa, leave anything you want behind - you probably won't need it that much. I mean, you really don't need that much over there, but do not, never, never, no way Jose, leave without binoculars. Bring along the best you can afford. Paul had a small pair that had extremely high quality optics and I had a pair with much larger objective lenses that were better for lower light levels. Unfortunately, my binoculars had only OK optics. I had not noticed it before, but under the right conditions, you could clearly see color aberration through my glasses. Still, they were way, way better than nothing.
pools and some beautiful areas
where the elephants like to hang out. Saw some herds of
huge herds of zebras. The thompson's gazelles were
a matter of fact, the two most successful species of animals (judging
sheer numbers) seemed to the zebras and the gazelles. Not too
to say about seeing the animals out on the plain, you really have to be
there for yourself. Anyway, here are some pictures.
Perhaps the most fascinating sight of the day was a leopard and his prey high up in a tree. Sorry to say that I didn't have enough lens to get a photograph worth posting of this extremely interesting sight. Our guide spotted something in this tall thorn tree. The tree was about 35 feet (12 meters) high and about half way down, in a crotch, was resting this beautiful leopard. This was where I really was glad I brought my binoculars. You could see his tail hanging down and twitch every so often. Following the trunk way, way up to the very top of the tree, my God, there was a large gazelle of some kind. Somehow the leopard had placed his the gazelle way up and far from the thieving lions, hyenas and other scavengers. On the ground, this lone cat would be outnumbered and he could not defend his food, but way up there it was safe.
This sight was too good to keep to our little group so the guide got on his short wave radio and called all his buddies from the other safaris to come over and see. After a while jeeps started arriving full of tourists like ourselves until there was a veritable traffic jam out there in the wilds of Africa. You have to say this about African natives, they are not selfish and share good fortune with their many, many friends even if they are working for rival companies.
Cruising around out there was a wonderful way to spend a day, but like all good things, the day was soon over. We were on our way back to camp when we spotted a critter and I got the best picture of the trip.
After arriving back at camp I borrowed a metal basin and washed out some of my underwear and socks. I took a bit of a sponge bath, but again, no working shower. On the other hand, I hadn't done anything in the last couple of days to work up a sweat or get really dirty, so going without a shower wasn't much of a hardship.
About sundown we had dinner on our little tin table out in the open and this time it didn't rain. Actually it was very nice out and we were pleased to let the Krauts and I-ties have the dining shack. After dinner my comrades and I sat around talking a bit when there was this big commotion over by where all the Jeeps were parked. I could kick myself for not running after my camera so I can't show you a picture, but there was the biggest, most hugest porcupine I have ever seen. I wouldn't have believed those critters could get so big - about the size of a medium sized dog and it was covered with stiff quills as long as arrows. The natives were extremely scared of it and started shouting warnings if they thought you might be too close to it. They claimed it could shoot those quills several feet. The porcupine was eating somebody's dinner and nobody made a move to stop it. It then dawned on me just how open this area really was and how any wild beast could come by for a quick snack if it wanted to. Quick snacks included us, by the way.
As before, Paul had the guide call into headquarters on the short-wave radio. This evening, headquarters reported that the KLM people had found all of Paul's luggage and what's more, they'd be sending a special agent out to our camp on the Serengeti Plain to deliver his stuff that very night! I couldn't believe it. An agent would come all the way out here from Nairobi to deliver the lost luggage - man what service. Later that evening, sure enough, all the stuff arrived.
Next morning I again got up early and photographed the sun coming up. It was to be a big day and we had many places to go so everybody was most eager to get an early start. This morning I was having a little trouble and I made everyone late, but not by much.
As we were packing up we were invaded by a large troop of baboons. They broke into the garbage and started scattering things around. The native guys kept a respectful distance and started throwing stones at them to drive them away. God, that looked like fun, so I joined the attack too. There was this huge male that seemed to be the leader. I foolishly charged him and he went running off then promptly returned. If that animal would have gotten angry and attacked me, I'd not be here today to write about it. You shouldn't think that baboons are silly and weak little monkey creatures. They are extremely intelligent, cunning and murderously armed with powerful muscles, jaws and huge teeth.
We took off for another game drive around the Serengeti, saw more interesting sights and then headed toward the Naabi Hill Gate.