The Mystery of Africa 2007

The Mystery of Africa 2007
The Mystery of Africa 2007

Saturday May 12, 2007

Leaving was so stressful and as usual I always am left wondering why I did this. Little difference from all of these bush trips. Anxiety ridden until that final decision is made. Money changing hands again and again in large dribbles until my bank account is drained.

Then the inevitable nerves…that feeling that shouts…”you could have bought a piece of jewelry for this amount of money.”

Then excitement though I am most certainly not there yet. This trip is even more stressful as I had to leave my beloved Paul behind. Not to feel his warm naked body wrapped around me all night or to hear his sweet voice is tearing me up.

Got to Johannesburg on time only to find out that the hotel pick up service is a shuttle. After waiting 15 minutes I went directly to the taxi stand for a more direct route.

The hotel sounded big and well equipped but turned out to be more like a motel 6. No clock in the room no air or heat or vents at all. A rock like bed. Thanks for the duvet which I slept on and dragged blankets down from the cupboard for warmth. Of all things I forgot my neck roll pillow. So I rolled up a towel and put it into a pillowcase. Still couldn’t sleep. I miss him already. Called him again to see if he would wake me at 6 am as I hardly trust this “hotel.”

I can’t remember ever staying in such a place. No phone on the bedside table, No clock. No directions on the phone for places like front desk or outside call. A disaster 4 star indeed. Dinner was a pathetic buffet with food that appeared to be lying around for days. I ate salads and went to bed.

Sunday May 13, 2007

Mothers Day! Once again I have been forced to have a day where my only child…the viperous Greg…fails to acknowledge my existence. My husband makes up for his “pathetic behavior and gives me a beautiful dinner on Friday but the lack of caring or concern, love or respect that this person who is my son shows is hurtful no matter. But as we have both exclaimed before…Paul and I have each other and we no longer have to structure our lives or our futures around our ungrateful kids.

I am at the airport waiting for my flight. Spoke to my love this am again. How much I miss him. How much I wish he were going on this trip with me. I love him so very much. He is my heart.

3:30PM At last we are landing in Nairobi though not without some drama. A massive nose bleed came upon me. I mean the mother of all nose bleeds…it was surreal. I didn’t know what to do other then go through a ream of tissue, hold my head back and mop up. Thank Heaven for black. It stopped and not a moment too soon.

Landed: $50.00 for a Visa and $35.00 for the cab to town. So glad to be off of planes. SAA first class, what a joke!

After checking in I anxiously waited to hear from Hagai but nothing. Went to dinner at the Thai restaurant upstairs and left a message for him to join me when he got in. Nothing. I am very worried. What happens to this trip if Hagai doesn’t show up? I can’t believe the stress I am experiencing. It is horrendous. I called Hagai’s phone…no answer. Oh well I will just eat, drink and be merry and figure it out later.

Got into my room and there is a message. Hagai came by and is going to pick me up at 9am in the morning. What in the world has happened to service and why didn’t the desk give him the message? I just don’t get it.

Monday May 14, 2007

My darling husband called this am. How I love his voice and how I miss him. But for the very first time in my life I truly know what it is to be loved unconditionally. I leave on this trip without personal stress knowing that he will take care of everything and be there when I return. How great that feels!

7PM WOW! Gibbs Farm as I have never seen it before. It has been raining a lot in Arusha and so the road up is so muddy that the car cannot go straight. We are skidding and sliding through the mud. On the way to Gibbs I bought some sweets and colored pencils for the kids. The only problem is that when you see one child and stop suddenly, that single child morphs into a huge crowd of kids all with outstretched dirty little hands reaching in over and over to get a sweet. The boys are rough and pushy but they are all so wonderful. I love this. So many colors, beautiful fabrics dotting the road. The colorful dress of the people. And then there are the houses made from the earth and sticks and stones. The wondrous amazing way they blend into the beautiful landscape with their shapes both square and round and the thatch of the roof. Hagai and I discussed bringing Masai to SA to teach the people how to build using the natural surrounding materials. No squatter camps or townships anywhere in Tanzania. Just beautiful red earth homes or stone homes or wood all made from available materials. So back to Gibbs. They have built fabulous new cottages with plank floors and open fire pits and outdoor showers with stone. The place is beautiful with a lovely veranda of plank teak and comfy chairs. The cricket concerto is playing. It is a lush cottage with beautiful wood and glass. Overnight just isn’t enough.

Heading up for dinner…found out earlier that no one wants to take the rand. US Dollars are what one needs. For the Visas, nothing else will do.

Tuesday May 15 2007

Yesterday I thought it was the longest Mothers Day ever until I realized it was actually Monday and Paul’s first day of whip cracking at the office. Great honey you are going to knock them all over.

Saw the most beautiful yellow and green bird this morning through the glass of the open bath. He was eating the green bananas. I worked with Hagai last night on the idea that thoughts are things and he just needed to jump off the cliff and get someone into his office pronto instead of taking his computer and TWO cell phones on safari. He must now drive to the lodge, 1 ½ hours away after dinner to answer emails from clients and potentials. I think he got it. He phoned someone last night at the dinner table to go on a hunt for an office workers. Leaving at 8 am for the Serengeti…game driving all day.

It is now 8:00 PM Tuesday and I am sitting in my own tent with two rechargeable lights that are fading writing as I wait for Hagai to fetch me for dinner. Baboons and hippos call out warnings in the night. Remote is the word I have often used but think nothing anywhere but rut roads, one car wide, total desolation, pitch black night. Think big ruts and rocks for all of the passage from Arusha into the camp.

We have been driving for 11 hours now. Our entry into the Serengeti was ordinary. A few Cape Buffalo, giraffe, zebra. Two Serval cats popped out. One poked his head out cuter then cute, then ran back into the shadow of the safe grasses. I must admit that I am a bit stressed out at the moment. Hagai has been either on one of two cell phones or making plans to leave the site after dinner to go to any lodge and download his email. I am upset. At dinner I told him this was the final safari for me. Seriously, lots of money why should I have stress like this. A diamond bracelet, no stress. This was too much stresss. He was upset, so it is time for him to fix it. On another note, came back to the camp late and saw a herd of Cape Buffalo. Just a sea of eyes in the dark.

Dinner was amazing: Talapia, fresh green beans, turnip soup, fresh tomato and cucumber salad, potatoe and broccoli rabe. Cake…too much food. Had words with Hagai and told him I thought this would be my last safari with him. Why? He was on the cell phone at dinner. That just doesn’t work.

Rough night sleep. 4 am the toilet started to run and leak water. What is up?

Wednesday May 16, 2007

Up at 4:45 am…got ready by the light of my maglite and rechargeable light. Just like Africa. Went to breakfast and promptly told Hagai about the toilet and then let him have it. “I truly don’t care if he has jackasses for clients and that the Spanish and the Italians have embraced the idea that cellphones and computers work in the Serengeti. I don’t and won’t deal with it and either he gets it or I am out of here. No more cell phones. You want to download your email, I don’t want to see it. Your other clients have no appreciation for all of this and they support this new bad behavior by bringing their cellphones to a safari and chatting it up. No good.” So finally he turned the cell phones off.

Frankly I think he is losing his edge perhaps because he has horses asses for many of his clients. He can skate along and just get by without having to make each day better then the day before. Well not with me Chuck!

On our way with a new understanding. I hope I am wrong about his edge.

Saw a few lone lions today. Many zebra including a tiny baby a day old. A few elephant, giraffe, many wildebeest, the biggest crocodile that I have ever seen, 15 feet at least…I know not to expect anything and so it is.

We came back for lunch partly because Hagai wanted to get to the nearest Lodge 30 minutes away and download his email. I was a bit weary though, have yet to stop.

Lunch was freaking amazing. Fresh guacamole sliced inside the avocado with minced chopped tomatos, onion chile on top. Fantastic! Pasta and Bolognese sause, Pauls favorite. We leave at 3 pm for more game driving. Yesterday the grasses were burning and so today the rains came. Torrential rains that created muddy rivers some near impassable. The Maribou Storks stood motionless in a large cluster, wings tipped to knock the rain away.

A huge male elephant kneeled in a mud bank to scratch. My flash freaked him out and he came angrily towards us. So close I just couldn’t get him into my lens. He was pure mud from tusks to tail.

Missed a leopard today that was in a tree. Only by 5 minutes but a miss is still a miss. I did see several lions though but none were what I call great shots. Did get some great hippo shots at a pond that was just teeming with them.

This is a hard trip. No way around that. Last night I searched for clothing using a rechargeable flashlight. Not for the feint of heart. My shower is being poured in a few minutes so I must sign off.

PS. Anyone who might wonder what one eats in the middle of the bush, no electric or gas would be advised not to go on safari with Hagai.

Tonight: Pumpkin soup, the best ever, Chicken in casserole with potato and wild ric`e, sliced tomato and avocado salad and fresh peas and carrots. Fresh bread, toasted cashews, banana fritters and merlot to drink. Yikes I need an exercise program and Atkins.

Thursday May 17, 2007

Jade comes home tomorrow. I do hope amnd pray that her meeting with her dad goes well and that he remains strong in the face of her charms. I do miss him and love him. This trip so far has been somewhat of a disappointment. Another morning of upset. Is it me? Do I have such unrealistic expectations that I think it is wrong to wake up at 6 am in the middle of nowhere with the animals sounds fighting to be heard over the sound of Hagai on the cellphone. No I don’t think so. Or was it wrong of me to be annoyed last night when I came down for Happy Hour at the appointed time to find Hagai on the computer. I just don’t think so. I can’t help it that his Spanish clients bring phones and chit chat on them while game driving or take siestas here all afternoon. Or that they smoke cigarettes around the camp and don’t like, no hate long game drives. Their choice. So this am I told him about how loud his voice was at 6 am and that I thought he had lost his edge as a guide because he was just pandering to clients wo embrace this bad attitude. He is no longer the great guide that he was but perhaps underneath all the paella and tortillas he could find greatness…find that animal that he once was again.

I reminded him that we have always found the game, until now as we follow others to the game. Ok that said. This am we saw a few lion and a swift cheetah. Also some fab herds of zebra with many small babies. Several pair of inseparable dik dik and a gathering of very young giraffe. Many great pics of them canoodling. It is about time.

One major upset is the burning of the grasses which brings the rain. And that it does. Yesterday and today in buckets which turns the ruts into muddy near impassable slush piles and destroys any game viewing.

Two days of this, enough and very depressing to say the least. Perhaps I am just a bit jaded. I want so much more then the typical safari tourist. An entire pride of lion…alone. Cheetah with babies. Extraordinary events like the male elephant kneeling on the mud bank. I want that…every day. At least once. I have so many of those special experiences embedded in my minds eye available for recall at a moments notice. I want more.

We got off to a very rocky start this trip as he has changed, become sloppy, satisfied with less but wanting nothing but more and more business. So he is working on other client’s safaris when he should be in the her and now with me or whoever he is with.

I suppose the fact that the Spanish are on cell phones or sleeping or drinking or eating, they don’t ask for much from him. Fall less then me so that has made him change. One lion, an occasional elephant, a giraffe or two….and maybe a leopard and that satisfies these clients. Not me. Let us hope that he gets the message and regains his leading edge.

Dinner tonight: WOW. Carrot soup, beef dish (must get the recipe)_ mashed potatoes, veggies, crème brulee, restaurant quality.

Friday May 18, 2007

Jade is home. I am so happy for Paul…at least they can talk in person. Will today Hagai got the message and this morning was a dream with the bird sounds and silence. It was great. Mango for breakfast as always. Saw a hippo running to the water. What a sight. A lion jumped across the road in front of us…half a sighting. We quickly drove off the road, that is a joke…as the road anywhere is RUTS. We hid in the bushes but alas no lion. We are heading to Lake Victoria today, Bantu land. Went directly into the migration. It was great. Actually witnessed a territorial male lose his family right before our eyes. Saw some major crocs…some incredible giraffes that were curious as always about us. Had tomato juice at Lake Victoria. Then on our way back a couple of tiny bat eared foxes ran so fast along the side of the car. Then in the dusky sky – one can’t drive at night but here we were driving at night - LIONS in the road, 8 of them 2 females and 6 grown cubs. And grown they were. I was so excited I erased the first 84 pics that I had shot. I was over the top. They posed and posed until the male decided enough was quite enough and strated to chase us. One more pic, just one more and we were off.

Suddenly lights in hot pursuit. More lights and the rangers caught up with us. It is not legal to drive in the Serengeti after dark. We are talking pitch black now, with ruts and stones everywhere through a maze of high grasses. No signs whatsoever anywhere. This IS the bush!

What were we doing? Where were we going? Excuses and more excuses from us. Oh and by the way, had we seen the lions back there a ways? Now that was a silly question. Of course we had seen them. Then a few words back and forth in Swahili and off we went. Darkness embraced us quickly. Ahead another rut before a huge cement chunk with a waterfall that we drove through…Water on both sides. Then only rain and more darkness.

Suddenly we round a bend in the road and in the headlights a full on quill wielding porcupine waiting for us. He was hell bent for some action with all his mighty quills standing on end and ready for an armed assault on our vehicle! He stood his ground, porcupine against Defender…mighty quills against huge vehicle. Finally he scurried ahead of our lights and into the darkness ahead. I had never seen a porcupine before other than in a zoo.

Saturday May 19, 2007

All looked go this morning and we headed east towards the Eastern Serengeti. There were the bluest of blue skies overhead…at least then. Damn the Park Warden anyway…three days of rain just like Noah’s Ark. It was not going to stay blue in the end.

I spotted a few animals in the first couple of hours and then in the middle of nowhere, which is practically everywhere we are…we got stuck. I mean ass deep in mud and unable to get the vehicle out kind of stuck. The sun was blazing hot. Tsi tsi flies had come and gone leaving me covered with about 15 nasty bites, one worse than the other. I didn’t even know how to operate the radio and I worried about what might happen if something were to happen to Hagai. He had gone on foot around a huge rock formation in search of some small rocks to put under the wheels. Rock formations = Lion dens. I conjured up a plan. It took nearly two hours to get us out with Hagai finally jacking up the Rover over and over to move it by hand. I was worried and rightfully so. I took pics of where we were 360 degrees of them on Memory stick one.

The Gods were smiling though after that as we went off the road and found three amazing cheetah. They were a mother and two cubs. They were so beautiful and we were all alone. No other vehicles anywhere to be seen. Then we were blessed by a magnificent herd of elephants walking in a straight line towards us. It was incredible. They actually climbed up some rocks to get water and bathe right in front of us. A sight to behold.

At lunch we picnicked on a rock and found a beautiful Hagami lizard that was sunning himself red and royal blue. Afternoon around 4 true to form it rained once again.

Sunday May 20

I am bitten all over by the TsiTsi flies They are horrendous and as much as we beat them off, they return biting right through layers of clothing. They ride on top of the car in swarms all the way to camp. It is quite necessary to wait inside the car until the guys at camp use insect spray and swatters to get rid of them. Their bites are far worse than mosquito bites and I am now the walking wounded with more than 5 of them on my legs, stomach, behind and shoulder.

We went o ff this morning with Hagai telling me that lions had been in the camp last night. He had even zipped up his tent. Baboons were screeching as if they were being murdered this morning. They jockey for branches that are the best so that they can avoid the leopards. The big males shake the babies off the branches to get the prime spots. It surely sounds like murder to me.

Saw a cheetah crossing the grasses and over the road. She was very shy. Two herds of elephants met each other and greeted then parted. A tiny little baby less than one year old was nursing and that was great!

We saw a giraffe with a very tiny baby maybe a month old and it was so cute.

The area that we went to is north and very beautiful. Trees dot the landscape and huge lion friendly boulders. We found a female lion overseeing potential dinner of Wildebeest and Zebra. McDonalds on the hoof as we call it.

Our vehicle climbed over boulders looking for leopard…no luck. Took pictures of 360 degrees of where we were. Remote is not a words I use lightly. We only saw one vehicle in the 8 hours we were out and not where we were driving but on the road coming back. Remote = Serengeti.

I got some great shots of two vultures fighting. One on sight when the other flew in to share the cadaver and all hell broke out. Interloper rebuked. It is very hot today! No rain! But they burned again! What is up with these people?

Hagai shared some interesting information on the Masai. Female Genital Mutilation is practiced so men may have a number of wives. He is trying to help stop it by sending girls to school before they have been circumcised.

Masai face lions full on and run at them. They draw themselves up at large as they can and run head onto them yelling as loud as they can. The years of walking with the lions and hunting them has made the lions fearful. Now Masai can’t hunt them any longer but the lions remember the red Masai cloth and run away. Fascinating!

I am reading by flashlight. My hair is a mess and I am totally bitten up by the TsiTsi flies. I talk about Paul every day and miss him like crazy. I hope all will be ok with the business.

We saw the elephants again and another herd. Lucky us!

Footnote: As we were driving Hagai spotted a ton of porcupine quills over an area of about 10 – 15 feet. Clearly the predator…whoever that was…met his worthy opponent who slew the “dragon” with a face full of quills. Hagai gathered some of them up and I am returning with them. I have decided to us them in my new art projects. They are quite amazing. It seems the quill – less porky will have to hid out in his den until he grows the new quills back. This process takes about a year.

Monday May 21

If my writing seems odd it is because I am in camp in my tent fighting off two TsiTsi flies. They won’t die. I have so many horrid bits on me, breasts, 4 on one, 1 on the other, arms 8 on one 6 on the other, back stomach legs rear end. These are huge bites that itchh like mad. They attack my ears and side of my face and I am bitten there as well. Like mosies human and animal blood comes out of them at death. One more dead and one to go. They can and do bit through layers of clothing unlike the mosquito and they attack aggressively. My day was fabulous other than my bites.

I had five lion sightings: 2 females, then 4 females, 2 females again different ones and the 5 females and one female. It was incredible. However I did have one bad incident. Canon is going to hear from me. There is no fail-safe on the erase mode. I was trying to erase one lion pic and pushed it a bit too far and all of the pics began to erase without even saying…do you want to erase all. I panicked and stopped it but not before it erased the first 70 pics. The marketplace for the Masai and some Masai kids, Gibbs farm, a great baboon shot, hippos, 2 male lions in the grass and two cheetah. I moaned and groaned a bit. Then we decided that we would return to those places and try to regain some shots.

Saw two separate herds of elephants, great little babies and a huge matriarch.

Murdered another tsitsi fly but there is another in here. I don’t know what to do here. Just cannot figure out where they are getting in. At last the final and best sighting of the day. A female leopard in a tree. Great, no beyond great!

UPDATE: I did a count in my bush shower, 42 bites. Horrible. They are surrounded by puffy red blotches.

Tuesday May 22, 2007

Oh how I miss Paul. I was thinking this morning how I can’t wait to be wrapped around him like a cocoon. To have him buried inside me. I miss him like crazy.

Today was incredible. Took my bites some as large as .50 cent pieces and off we went. For good measure our campsite is in the TsiTsi fly area. Yikes! They actually swarm around the car like bees and ride alongside of it until you stop.

We started our day with five female lions on the rocks. They were obviously tired but as we were leaving a glance and up comes a giant fur ball. God, he was magnificent. There in all his splendor, The Lion King on the rocks. He preened and preened and then moved over to the other side and promptly fell asleep. So here we are leaving again and ….no…not true another giant fur ball appears from down below and lies his great body right in front of us, posing.

Wow! Saw a couple of cheetah, very shy and they took off. But then found another Cheetah and watched her for an hour as she moved between termite mounds before spying a gazelle. She missed.

On our way back to camp…what in the world…a Leopard in a tree. What a gorgeous creature he or she was…magnificent. Great Great day. Saw two more female lions . By the way last nights dinner was Filet marinated in red wine, veggies, Spicy Tomato Soup, Tomatoe and Cucumber and Salsa salas, Pumpkin Mousse and Guacamale…the best!

At dinner we walked up to the dining tent and lo and behold a Hippo was in the camp. I wanted to see her so we walked in the dark through the brush to the kitchen tent and Israel shined a light and there she was grazing. She hated the light and went away. Fab.

Wednesday May 23, 2007

A week and I will be home. I can’t wait. I know I asked for this trip, begged for it…but it is hard, hot, very hot, tent life and then there are the bites. Each one surrounded by a large red ring. I am concerned…not sick though.

This morning /2 day first rest and then out again. The heat is near unbearable, but the TsiTsi are worse. Saw a male lion, how gorgeous he was lying under a bush. Then cubs, four of them posing like tiny actors, Mom was nearby.

The migration is on its way back. They are confused. The Wildebeest and Zebra don’t know what is happening thanks to the burning. This afternoon….a Happening. We are driving along and spot a lone giraffe and stopped. At first it didn’t really seem very unusual. They are a curious creature but very shy at the same time and run like crazy if they are approached. Suddenly this huge male heads right towards me and stops at the side of the car. He is staring and so close for about 10 minutes he just stands there staring at me. Then he moves closer to me at the back of the car. I climbed up on top of the roof and he stood there 5 feet from me for about 15 minutes. It was absolutely insane and great. Hagai was taking pictures and he said he has never seen anything like that. What a high that was!

Thursday May 24, 2007

This was another great day. I decided to go to the doctor today to be looked at because of the 42 bites that were really starting to look bad. It is a mission going to a lodge as we are over an hour and a half away from the nearest one. I said…no deal til the end of the day. It turns out that I had an allergic reaction to the Tsetse flies and the doc ended up putting me on antihistamines, a shot, crèmes etc. I will start the pills after dinner.

On to the sights that made the day so fab. Saw three lions, two males and a female doing what they do best…sleeping! Then we saw a huge herd of 40 elephants. They were amazing. The giants! A little baby stuck underneath her mom eating the grasses. Three baby wildebeest lost forever to the Serengeti wilds. We tracked one for a while hoping to chase her to any horned animal. There were three Hartebeest in the distance that seemed likely candidates but the baby would have nothing to do with them and continued on her hopeless search to certain death. Nothing that we could do there! I tis sad but true.

Late in the day we saw a tree where a leopard had hung its kill…a baby wildebeest though not one of ours as those had been too far away.

Found a lion in a yellow bark tree. It was the most amazing sight and we stayed with her for hours. She spent part of the time sleeping and part of the time trying to understand what we were looking at. I think I must have taken nearly a hundred shots of her…it was so beautiful.

Then on the way to the doc at the Seronera Serena Lodge 60 km from camp, the elusive Leopard in the trees. What a beauty! What a day!

Friday May 25, 2007

It’s Friday! Dragonflies have been following me all over the Serengeti. Paul, I am certain of it. I tell them how much I love them every day. Tried to SMS today an I love you so much message but it failed to go. It seems the only one who can use the phone is Hagai…lol. Don’t want to waste battery life if it won’t go. I want to be able to call from Joberg on Wednesday.

My bumps and welts and bites are getting better. They are still very swollen on my stomach though. I had a bad night sleeping and heard something very large near the tent. Turns out an elephant was grazing on the grass just in front of my tent.

I think I have all but outgrown the tented thing. While I love, love , love the sounds in the morning and lions roaring and hippos calling and wildebeest and hyena making their noises, I need real light, a proper shower even during allotted times, a full mirror, proper wash basin and key to a door. Ten nights of the tenting was far too much for me 11 years later. Lodge, private car and driver.

We are on our way out to Ngorngoro this morning. Two amazing beautiful cheetah posing, hunting with tons of gazelle everywhere but they had all spotted the cheetah so they moved on.

Saw a pride of four female lions sunning themselves. What a sight when one approached the other and kissed and nuzzled her. Just like big pussycats. Saw another large herd of elephants but they were too far away.

On our way to the crater with a proper lodge on the bluffs. Our last night of dinner in camp and the chef made a cake with candles. They sang! It was really great, they were all so very nice. At the lodge finally. What a schlep. Hours and hours to go 22 km from the sign to the lodge. The roads are the essential 40 miles of bad…river bed time…roads.

I am in heaven. A round private cottage with sunroom that overlooks the crater. It is beautiful, shower, mirror, bathroom…things we take forgranted in our everyday life. Things I have been without for 10 days now and kiss the mirror in front of me gratefully. Yippeeeee! I can now see all of my welts, bruises and bites in the light.

Saturday May 26, 2007

5 AM - I had a wildy bad nights sleep, tossing and turning. Dinner was good. Interesting and even a bit bizarre to be re-assembled into a dining room filled with tourists. Mainly they were large groups chatting it up about this driver or that. A lot of overweight people, older people , at least that is what it looked like to me. I found myself making a few too many judgments. Not so good.

Had a rather spirited conversation with Hagai on taboo topics such as religion, the bible and gay sex and the intolerance of religion and hypocrisy of it towards the different. I got nowhere but like I say, interesting. A simple question of who wrote the bible could not be answered.

Last night I picked up the bedside copy of the bible. Unusual step for me and started searching for the place therein where it says gay sex is a sin. I didn’t finish but couldn’t find it in the New Testament. Did find the Lord’s Prayer which I remember saying as a child while kneeling aside my bed. I still know it by heart. Our Father who art in Heaven… It was interesting. I found it hard to interpret what I read into what religion teaches. The intolerance of it all.

This morning, lights…a lot of them. It was so great to be able to find my clothes without a flashlight. We are spending all day in the crater. I am meeting Hagai at 5:40 am so I must dash. All I can say for today is a heartstopping WOW. My heart is still pounding. For all of his sins of the early part of the trip…Hagai has made it all up now and he is forgiven.

We went out very early and right away saw this incredible Black Rhino all alone. She was not very happy with us and so she charged the car. Now we are talking about 7 am in the morning here comes this amazing creature the size of an automobile heading towards our car, horn pointing straight at us. We were totally alone. I think that is because all the other tourists get up at 7 or so, head down to breakfast, wait for the straggler or two, organize getting into the cars and then by the time they finally get into the crater which takes about 45 minutes it is well after 9 am. Ok that said, here we are all alone and headed straight for us is this 2 ½ ton armored vehicle horn directly forward. At the eleventh hour she steered away from us and then crossed the pathway and let us know exactly how she felt about our presence by peeing this huge stream aimed towards our vehicle. That said it all!

Today we were to see a total of five black rhino. Wow! It was still very early when we came upon the three female lions and their two tiny babies. The lions were very skinny but the babies were oozing with cuteness. They were a 20 on the cuteness barometer. The females were directly in front of us calling out for the others in their pride. Again we were totally alone. The females made these incredible grunt like sounds over and over again. The babies were hungry and wanted milk so badly. One of the babies approached a mother and went for it. About this time one of the other members of the pride returned and the mother who was trying to nurse began to growl and roar and snarl. I was so lucky to get 25 shots of this amazing scene where the mother was angered that the cubs were nursing and she didn’t really have any milk. We watched them for over an hour as close as close can be. It was amazing. At one point the one of the cubs did this little yawn that turned into a little lion roar. It was the cutest thing ever. While this was an amazing up close and personal experience it was not the jaw dropping, heart stopping adrenaline pumping experience we were to soon have.

Earlier in the morning we saw two male lions with a kill but they were too far into the grasses to get any pics. So we left only to return around noon that same day. We came upon a vehicle that was filming and at first all we saw were about 9 hyena and a couple of hundred Cape Bufrfalo. The hyena were after the kill that the lions has made earlier in the day which was apparently a baby buffalo. We didn’t realize it then but all hell was about to break loose and yours truly found herself face to face with a female lion two feet away and nothing was in between us but air.

The male lions suddenly appeared to our left. There were only two cars, ours and the film people, some Germans and two Indian men from Jaipur.

The lions, two males and a female now decided to reclaim the kill that the hyenas were taking. The hyenas began to call backup. The buffalo in the meantime start going after the hyena and then just as the lions approached the buffaloes start to go after them. They initially chased off the one male. Imagine a herd of these giants changing this one lion. The lion was not to be defeated and he returned again and again only to be chased off. He and the single female come back and now decide to lie underneath our car.

So here I am leaning out of the top of the vehicle with this female lion below me and a male just next to her. The buffalo are closing in around the car and they are very very mad. It was at this point that Hagai says we need to move. I said not on your life. Stay puSo the lions lay within touching distance. Another car, a self drive arrives and is to our left and the film group guys depart. That was a mistake on their part as the situation was about the really heat up. More lions confronting hyena who by now have grown to a formidable group of about 30. The buffalo and the hyenas are standing their ground until one of the male lions reclaims the kill and finishes eating.. The other two lions roam off a bit but then are again chased by buffalo. In the meantime the 30 hyena are stalking the lion.

Both the male and female lion return to our car again for a rest but now a new twist. I am standing up … the safari vehicle has a metal top that lifts totally up and is in effect on metal stilts so there is only open air above you. I am standing up changing a lens and shooting the buffalo who are inching closer and closer to us when there is a thump. The female lion now has jumped onto the hood of our car. “She’s on the car.” Screams Hagai. I bend down and see the entire front window is filled with female lion. I stood up so that I could lean over and take a shot of this and there she is face to face with me, paws on the top of the car, fangs bared. The only thing separating us from one another was a lot of air. One terrifying second which apparently was captured on film by the car across from us. I immediately dropped back inside the car but the top was still open. Hagai put the car into reverse and she was knocked off. My heart was pounding. I was scared but not right away as it happened so quickly that I didn’t really have time to be frightened. The car across from us of course had their windows rolled up the entire time.

The lions, all three of them plopped themselves down for a third time in front of and on the sides of our car. They were rolling over and playing by this time. Of course as luck would have it, now more cars arrived. But we had already experienced over an hour alone with these magnificent creatures and had the time of my life. Hagai turned on the car and we left. Later during dinners he shared his fears with me. He was worried that she would leap inside the car…doing some serious damage on the way in…and then she couldn’t get out but then neither could we as the two male lions were lying under our car and behind us were about 300 Cape Buffalo and then there were the Hyenas. It was not a good situation for us. But it was truly incredible. I wish I could have had a picture but THAT picture is imprinted forever on my brain. Face to face nothing in between us but air her fangs and a couple of feet. WOW!

Sunday May 27, 2007

I am sitting here in a bent wood rocker overlooking the crater. A bit of expected fog but we are ok with that as it is an everyday occurrence. Lots of people here, which I don’t particularly enjoy, mostly in groups with that “herd” mentality.

Funny, yesterday in the morning I was up at 5 am and we were out by 6:10am at the crater entrance by 6:30 am. We were the second car to go down into the crater. Then around 8:30 or 9 the other tourist cars start swarming in. The early morning in the crater is really great.

Dinner last night there were a few tables of two, very few, many big tables of 8 or 10 all chatting. In the buffet line a man asked me “How was your day?” which I think is code for what animals did you see today. I replied that I thought I was the only person in the room who had a face to face encounter on the top of our car with a lion. He agreed. He was British with his family but living in KwaZulu Natal. I called Paul and I was very happy to have heard his voice. That little wonderful way he says Darling…so great to hear. How I love him. I really am counting the hours now. No more game drives , but then what in the world could top my lion encounter. My heart is still pounding.

A small beautiful bird with a bright yellow front is trying to beak its way into the window where I am sitting. Sweet. Anyway this morning we are leaving for Gibbs Farm for a quck stop so that I can re shoot some of the pics that were lost. The Amazing Erase thing. Then to capture some of the kids, also lost. Then on to Arusha for lunch and overnight at the Coffee Plantation.

Tomorrow Nairobi and the Tree House and then home Wednesday. Now I wish that I had forgone that second day and come home Tuesday so that I could be with my love. The sounds of the quiet of the crater are being broken this morning with the raucous voices of a couple of kids. That really does say something for the private tented safari. No one else around and after I got Hagai not to use the cell phone in the morning…can you imagine…service from Serengeti to Arusha…who would think. The sounds of the plains are magic. And so the adventure continues.

Monday May 28, 2007

It is a long, hot and bumpy ride from Arusha to Nairobi with Hagai. Had my palate set on the Tai Chi food in the Stanley Hotel but when we finally arrived at 4 PM…we left at 10am...we found that they were closed on Monday. Disappointing. We left the Stanley after a light bite and tried foir more than an hour to find the Ngong House. What is up…no signs nothing.

Finally I get here and it is bloody unreal. It is a Tree House up steps. The round structure is fully lined with huge bamboo and a large piece of wood struts out to form a bar with high leather directors chairs on either side. There is a thatched ceiling that is double story with loft and second bed. The main room is a mixture of glass and bottle glass and cement treatments. There is a big bed and wood plank floors with a couch of wood, bar and wardrobe of wood. Netting hangs over the bed and there are fresh roses on the bar. A long wide hallway talkes you past glass windows looking out onto beautiful trees and plants. Voila! The bathroom: the tub is wood lined with porcelain but is a full on dugout canoe. The doule sinks are incredible and the shower is half large bamboo all around with a near hidden entry at the back. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Two treehouses joined together to make a home for me.

Tuesday May 29, 2007

The driver Girard took me to see the baby elephants at Daphne Sheldricks. I adopted a little chap who was just so amazing. Playing with a ball running around after the kids who were visiting him. A true little charmer. Had lunch at the Stanley Hotel Tai Chi Restaurant. It didn’t disappoint. There was a table of two Americans living in Nairobi, one Kenyan, one girl from Shanghai who lives in Capetown and four other Chinese men. Standard Charter Bank, some of them hustling the Chinese men. The food tonight was amazing. Shrimp pineapple, steak, chicken ravioli. It was the very best. Two desserts, one frozen and one mousse. What a great spot! Lunch out on the beautiful lawn area with the birds.

Wednesday May 30, 2007

Home again, home again…I can’t wait. Paul called last night and it was great to hear his voice. How I missed him. No more nights without his wonderful arms around me. Got to the airport early only to find that my Yellowfever vaccination expired last June. Had to go to Port Health at the airport, pay then go to First Aid to get the shot. I am glad I was early as SA won’t let you back into the country if you have been in a Sub-Saharan country more than 6 days without a vaccination. No pain though…you could tell this goes on all day long. In the line waiting to get on the plane. I tried to get into my email to send Paul an email…no Luck. I guess it only works for Hagai…LOL.