Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Safari Second Day

Safari Second Day We received a call from Trevor, the owner of Viva Tours. I thought for sure there was a problem with the voucher and we would owe more money. Unfortunately, since the mobile service is so poor, he could not hear me though I could hear him. He said he would have to try later, so this put me on edge for the day. I still was uncertain why we had paid 5,820 Rand to Ashanti for the two of us, but what Klaus wanted to collect from us the first day, was 4, 280 Rand. This was a great experience, but not worth 10,100 Rand for the two of us. As it turned out, what Trevor had wanted was for us to stay an extra day. We were to leave on the 11th for Pretoria, but his driver called in sick and he did not have anyone to drive us back. We explained that as much as we would like to, we had to be at the airport in Jo’burg on the 12th at 3:00 pm and would not make it back in time. He said he would have to work something out and get back to us. So it was not about the money, then I started thinking we had paid 1,540 Rand more than they had wanted to collect. Was this Ashanti’s commission for booking it? I still do not know. We were scheduled for another full day in Kruger. The Brits left to go home, the Germans left for a farm-work experience somewhere in the country, but we picked up a woman from Sweden, a man from The Netherlands, and a French couple. The French couple did not speak a word of English. It rained continually the entire day, but the 4x4 had a roof, so we were somewhat protected. It was colder than yesterday and with the rain, it bore into our bones. We started out at 8:00 am and by our 1:00 lunch stop, we had not seen one animal. The four of us from yesterday were disappointed, but the new group and Kirsten were devastated. She whined like someone could coax the animals out of hiding. At the lunch stop, there is a large bush that is loaded with weaver bird nests. These are beautiful yellow birds with black markings. The male constructs a nest, but the female has to approve of it. If she does not, then he starts all over again. We watched the males building as well as the females inspecting and seemingly rejecting. There were a multitude of nests in various stages of development, like a bird condominium. Mark had told us over and over that seeing animals was the luck of the draw. Where some were spotted at one moment, could change within the hour. He kept reminding us that there was more to the experience than spotting animals. The must have been the charm. Our luck seemed to change after lunch. We saw dozens of giraffes, zebras, Cape buffalo, blue wildebeests, impala by the dozens again, elephants, zebras, wart hogs, hippos in the river that refused to leave, and lots of other animals and birds. The only one of the BIG 5 that we did not see was the rhino. At one point, Ron spotted a bull elephant off amongst the trees feeding. Mark stopped the truck and we watched him. The elephant then started toward us and we were overjoyed with our luck. As he got closer, Mark said that this bull was going through the male version of estrus. He was ready to mate, which meant he was being overloaded with hormones to the point of leaking out 30-40 liters of fluid a day. As he was talking, the elephant was coming faster and faster. Then the ears started flapping, while he thrashed his trunk through the air like a fencing champion. With a calm loud whisper, Mark informed us that this elephant was going to charge us. He was not a happy camper and our presence was not welcomed. The elephant made it to the road and then charged. Mark drove about 40 miles an hour in a backward direction. Since we were all facing the elephant still, we were being rushed with endorphins and snapping pictures like crazy. If the elephant reached us and tried to overturn the truck, then we would be worried, but until that point, it was a great adventure. By 6:30 when we returned to camp, we were all exhausted from the rain, the cold, the rush of excitement, and the fullness of the day. The Dutch man and the Swedish woman were returning to the lodge we had stayed at the first night. The French couple was at our lodge. We coerced Ronald for a hot pot and teabags, but with the large number of exchange students, the staff was overwhelmed. We were promised that after dinner, there would be some. At the end of the day, Mark had received a call from the owner of Viva Tours. His solution for the lack of a driver was to put us on a public bus at 7:30 am. Normally, this might not be such a bad thing, but we missed the tour on the way back as they were to take a different route, plus the van was much more comfortable for a seven hour ride. Margosia and Kirsten were staying a day longer, so they were scheduled for a three hour bush walk in the morning if it did not rain. The chances of that were not promising according to the weather forecast. We were told that they have had a drought for the last four years and this rain was welcomed by them, if not by us. We had dinner at 7:30 and then we were given our tea on the patio. When we headed for our rooms, Margosia and Kirsten wanted to see our room. They both fell in love with it and wanted to move in after we left. Ronald the manager is a nice person, but does not handle change well. His management skills are lacking. The leader of the exchange students, who is from Cape Town, told us she has her degree is Hospitality and Tourism. She is a trained chef. She was saying that many people take jobs as cooks or maids in the resorts since they cannot find other work, but they dislike their jobs and therefore have no skills in being part of a service industry. Margosia was telling us the primary reason she left the country was due to the deteriorating educational system. She is an elementary teacher, so had first hand knowledge. There is a social promotion system for the people of color, but white students have to pass exams to be promoted. Blacks and coloreds are admitted to the universities with different entrance requirements than white students. Whites have to pass exams to get in, while the others are admitted on a quota system. Being an educator, I found this interesting, but did not have a chance to verify it with others. It was due to this that she migrated to New Zealand nine years ago.

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