Africa Day 9

Hi Everyone

Two more days until internet. I have become to not even care about being disconnected from the outside world. My world has become the beauty of what I am seeing and the experience of nature in one of its rawest and primitive forms. You melt into the world around you and only see what nature lets and wants you to see. You are the guest and the wildlife and nature is your host. Your mind starts to see the beauty in all the wonders around you. Even the large and numerous termite mounds become a work of art and beauty. Each one is shaped differently. It is like the termites have carved a sculpture and they are the artists. I now constantly search for small birds and always scan the scenery for any small and beautiful works of nature. You look forward to seeing the wonder of the sunrise and sunset. I think everyone understands that I write my blog at night. It is 9:10 PM in Botswana. We were all just escorted to our huts and told that two lions were roaming around Camp. In front of the Camp is a large pond and during the day you can see hippos with only their eyes and ears sticking out of the water. Hippos come out at night to roam and eat. So besides hippos, we now have to be on alert for two lions. I will not go out of my hut and hopefully will survive the night.

As everyone knows by now, my day started at 5 AM. I was escorted to breakfast at 5:30 and then we all left at around 6:15. The mornings and nights are very chilly, but when the sun rises the temperature goes up fast. Our first sighting was a small herd of zebras. They created a stunning image of the sun hitting their manes. We then ran into a single elephant who was eating by itself. Elephants create lots of damage in the vegetation and trees. You can also spot elephants due to their size and large amounts of poop. It is not common to see a single elephant by itself. Our guide decided that we should head towards the dead zebra of last night and see if there has been any activity. While on the way, three wild dogs ran right past the vehicle and we followed them as they ran through the shrub. There are some dirt and sand trails and our vehicle is made to go anywhere. We drive through shrubs and dense vegetation all the time. We finally arrived at the dead zebra and I couldn’t believe the site I was seeing. There was a pack of about a dozen hyenas eating at the carcass. We have a bad understanding of Hyenas. They need a good public relations person. They are beautiful animals. They look like one big muscle and behave similar to dogs. Their jaw bites are the strongest in the animal kingdom and they have almost no predators to worry about. These hyenas were tearing at the remaining carcass. I couldn’t believe how little was left from the full size zebra we saw last night. The beauty and sadness of nature in one scene. A beautiful zebra being eaten viciously by hyenas. Life returning to nature to start the cycle over again. We also saw vultures sitting on trees waiting for the hyenas to finish. We just watched in awe as the eating went on. We must have watched for close to an hour. Our guides told us they had never seen so many hyenas together over one meal.

We finally left and all three vehicles met up for our morning tea, coffee and cookies in the open. The conversation was about the hyenas and our picture taking. The light was perfect.

When we arrived back at the hotel we were split up into two groups. I was in the first group with Andy, Alan, Amy and Kim. We were leaving at 1 PM for a 90 minute off road drive to an elephant watering hole. The unique thing is that there is something called a Hide or a Dugout built there. So you get down into this dugout and am viewing the elephants from their feet up. The other group was doing their afternoon safari ride and we would switch places tomorrow. We drove out of Camp onto a sand path. The driver told me that 83% of the Okavango Delta is made up of sand from the Kalahari. After about twenty minutes, we saw a full size ostrich crossing the sand path. We then bounced up and down until we made a left hand turn into a wider sand and dirt road. A herd of elephants walked almost in front of us as we stopped to watch them parade by. It was then back onto the small sand road for what seemed like an eternity. I fell asleep in the seat next to the driver. The sun was so warm and comfortable. We then arrived at the watering hole. When I saw the dugout with huge elephants all around it, I wondered to myself how we were going to get out and into the dugout. The Land Cruiser pulled up next to the dugout and the elephants created a path and opening for us. It seemed like they knew we were there and where we should be. The inside of the dugout was very comfortable. There were large chairs set up looking through an opening to the feet of the elephants. I brought two cameras attached to two lenses with me. I was amazed by the whole experience. Started to shoot right away. The lighting and colors were perfect. Some of the elephants were bathing themselves and some others were just drinking. A scene I will always remember. One elephant put his trunk down to almost go inside the dugout. I was in a photography frenzy. My mind was processing the pictures faster than I could shoot. We stayed in the dugout for over two hours. I saw the bottom of elephants feet for the first time. For such large animals, they take very gentle steps. Andy said that during the summer here, such as in October, you could never go into this dugout for more than ten minutes. It would be too hot. We were very comfortable. We were served drinks by the guides as we clicked away. It was finally time to leave since the shadows were getting bigger and longer.

As we drove back and as the temperature started to drop, Andy told us that he has been on over two hundred safari rides and the activities of today rank in the top three. A day to remember in the Okavango Delta.

Dinner was another gastro feast. I love the soup they serve us. Every night the soup is different and cooked and warmed to perfection.

It is time for me to crawl into bed next to my hot water bag. Alan has put a bag in front of the door just in case we get any visitors.

Love
Larry

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