“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Day 2 – Kicheche Acacia Camp

My 5:30am wake-up call arrived at 5:50am (‘Swahili time’) which meant I had ten minutes to be up, dressed and ready for the off. As a result I managed to make my tea with the hot water which was meant for me to wash in – oops!
Thankfully I have a sad habit of hording teabags from hotel rooms so it meant when I realised my mistake I could make another brew from the flask of hot water, and actually use the brown warm water for washing in.
I made it to the main camp tent after the other ladies but just 30 seconds before David which was perfect as I was then able to join in the jeering at his tardiness.
We set off and managed to reach a good spot just in time for a few sunrise shots before a herd of elephants came through, closely followed by Cheetah! A female called ‘Mrembo’ (meaning Beautiful) and her 9 month old male cub (who we referred to as ‘Manky-Eye’ since he has not been given a name yet and has a dodgey left eye). We followed them for a good couple of hours and managed to catch them playing together, washing and hunting which was incredible. Mum even leapt up onto the bonnet of the truck at one point which put the wind up Sheila, who was standing with her head out of the roof but facing the other way at the time. Daniel, who was in the driving seat, managed to get a good face to face shot whilst the rest of us jostled for space in the back.
Onwards to include Jackals and breakfast out on the plains only 200 or so metres from where we last left the Cheetahs relaxing in the shade. How lucky am I.
We returned to camp around noon for a camera download and some lunch before heading out again about 4pm. I must say the pace is getting to me a little. I was hoping for more downtime and thinking time and also some time to review images etc. None of which we have had so far. My camera keeps resetting itself to factory defaults every time I turn it off which is a real pain (think I have cooked the memory in the heat) and the new £1,000 lens is so soft it’s unusable. Very disappointed. I almost cried silently at one point this morning when I realised every single one of my lion shots from yesterday and all my elephant shots from dawn are slightly out of focus. Very very disheartening. I thought it was down to me not being used to the new lens, but I have tried everything, checked over the settings, done some set tests under controlled conditions and the outcome is still the same. I cannot get it to produce sharp images even when placed on a table, facing a stationary object and taken using the timer.
We went out this afternoon with the intention of returning to the Hyena den to film the cubs in better light, but unfortunately they were very inactive and so I only managed a few shots of mother feeding one cub. I have returned to using my old Sigma 500mm lens now and will simply have to make the best of it. My own fault for not fully testing the new lens before the trip I guess. Lesson well and truly learnt. I did take some nice sunset shots and a few good birds in flight which I am hopeful for. Although I can’t really tell until they go onto a full size screen.
The group are truly lovely woman. Very like-minded and all well-travelled. Sandy seems the least fussed amongst us about getting the perfect composition and is happy to snap away at anything, which means we continue to stop for things that are not great subjects, repeats or are in poor light etc. But so far it’s not causing any of us a problem (except maybe David!), in fact, she has made some odd calls which have turned out to be fantastic for everyone.
We returned after sundowners in the dark and had ten minutes to shower before dinner. Dinner was pork so I just ate the mash and spinach with a pint of lager and returned to my tent for 930pm. The heat is quite tiring and I feel like there is not enough time to unwind at all or think about what we are doing. I understand we need to make the most of the time here and go out in search of game every day, but sometimes I wish I could just do my own thing for a bit. I might sit out of an afternoon drive one day to take some time out (I think there are parts of my anatomy that would appreciate a rest from the painful ride too – there are no roads on the routes we take!). My cameras behaviour is really starting to grate. I have overcome the factory reset issue by simply not turning it off, but it’s proving hard to change a habit I’ve formed over 20 years, and it also means I am going through batteries much quicker than expected. Add to that the fact that the solar-powered charging banks here at the camp also take much longer to work than 240v sockets at home, and I am really struggling to keep the camera going throughout each drive.

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