“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

Friday, 20 February 2015

Day 6 - Fig Friday

Last night I had spent the evening chatting to 70 year old egg farmer, Ken Staverley, about Moba machinery and his factory in Lancashire. An interesting conversation with a charming, if a little tipsy, gentleman. So today, of course, the girls took the mick. Which made for a very giggly and lighthearted safari truck - right from the word go at 615am.
Charles excelled himself today, also from the word go.... even before dawn, he managed to get us into the best position, a foot deep in water, half way across the river, in perfect time for a pride of lions who were about to cross with their cubs. The ISO was bumped right up and both cameras had to be used as the cubs came a little too close for my borrowed Nikon lens, but I absolutely adore this shot of one of the cubs, growling at the water, as he tentatively padded from stone to stone right in front of us. Such a memorable moment.
After dawn, we found Fig guarding last nights kill (baby wildebeest), which was up a tree. Charles thinks the reason she stashed it instead of eating it last night is because she already killed and ate a baby impala right after we left her, so the wildebeest must have been a second opportune kill. Charles knew she would have to get the kill down at some point to hide it during the day, so we had breakfast in the van and waited to see what she would do. Trucks came and went - we stayed, and thankfully
our patience was well rewarded with three glorious hours of exhilarating "Fig" action. First she came from the bushes in front and trotted over to climb the tree and retrieve the baby wildebeest with immense jaw strength and grace - blink and you would have missed her get up that tree trunk - she took a little longer getting back down with the kill - tugging and pulling to free it from it's wedged position of safety 3 metres up. Then she caught her breath at the foot of the tree occasionally licking the kill before removing the innards and burying them in the dirt.

Next, just as we finished re-positioning the truck she dragged the kill right out into the open in front of us and into another bush 20 or so yards away from the first, but 2 metres from our truck! Charles is definitely worthy of his reputation as the best guide/driver - all other trucks had a blocked view behind us and no space left to re-position - we felt very privileged - and Fig did not seem to mind at all - casually going about her daily routine - she left the kill hidden from scavengers and went to a hippo pool for a crap before settling down in the shade under Richard Costin's van for a well earned rest - how funny that she chose the only professional photographers vehicle to hide herself under - totally out of reach of his lens.

Back at camp for lunch and the conversation was flowing much more freely from the shared Leopard experience - to the point where straight-laced New Yorker, Jennifer decided it was a good time to test out her use of the British word "w**ker!!!!" hilarious. Pretty sure she had no idea how rude a word it is in Britain!
Cleared and transferred my cards and Darren set up his camera trap outside our tent for us ready for the night watch. A 30 minute nap and I felt right as rain and ready for the afternoon drive. Caroline however cannot have felt as good as she mistook these two giraffes for elephants at one point! We saw quite a few elephants today, in a herd, young and old, scratching the ground with their feet to get at the minerals underneath, drinking seriously muddy water and splashing themselves to cool off and cake themselves in it like sunscreen. We also saw a massive troop of baboons, more lions with cubs, and during another non-existent sun at the sunset hour, we decided to stay with a large male lion called "Mohican". No sooner had we sipped our first and got the nibbles out when Charles suggested there might actually be a sunset after-all and so we grabbed hold of everything and sped off towards the open plains with moments to spare. We were going so fast racing across the grasses that Charles ordered Sam and Jennifer who were right in the back ~(the bumpiest seats) to ditch their wine out the side of the van in order to properly hang on - the look of horror on mine and Caroline's faces as Sam's full glass of white went sloshing to the ground told Jennifer all she needed to know about us two - we laughed and laughed but eventually we got our first sunset of the trip under dramatic African skies whilst the ladies polished off the rest of two bottles of wine. The perfect end to another incredible day.

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