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4. We Ain't Lion

Giraffe out the window

Hoedspruit, Limpopo, South Africa
Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hoedspruit (Afrikaans for Hat Creek) sits below the Klein Drakensberg (Afrikaans for Small Dragon) mountain range. The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is here; it breeds cheetah, African wild dogs and black-booted cats. Tourism is the main industry. We landed yesterday at Eastgate Airport which shares the strip with Air Force Base Hoedspruit, home to helicopter 19 Squadron of the South African Air Force. Our Billy's Lodge is a half hour from there.

Afrikaans, by the way, is a language descended from Dutch and spoken both here and in Namibia. You might hear it as far away as Belgium and, certainly, in the Netherlands. It arrived here in 1652 when the Dutch East India Company arrived to engage in commerce. The political history of this place is complex and controversial. We are here not for the purpose of examination of or commentary on the politics and history of South Africa. We're here to see the animals. Our guide speaks English and the local dialect which is used to communicate with our spotter and over the radio to other vehicles so we tourists don't know what they are talking about. When one driver spots lions and alerts the other vehicles, he doesn't use English lest he raise the expectations of the other vehicles' tourists. They would be pretty disappointed if, after their long ride expecting to see lions, they arrived at the spot only to find the cats had moved on. We occasionally see other vehicles but they are not much of a distraction.

From Billy's Lodge this morning, Joshua--our guide--and Conrad--our spotter--loaded us up at 5:45, first light. It wasn't long until Duma introduced us to his pride. large_0aec0730-2e85-11ea-a126-5302ba663e3c.jpglarge_0a2e5c80-2e85-11ea-a0be-f1e48ed396db.jpglarge_0a3b2dc0-2e85-11ea-9494-3b2a8d7c5c33.jpglarge_0a5bd520-2e85-11ea-9018-7bbb3d5e3517.jpglarge_0a3a9180-2e85-11ea-b4a3-9b4d3abf0dd3.jpglarge_0a322d10-2e85-11ea-91f7-771a7a54dcf9.jpglarge_0a336590-2e85-11ea-af80-85adc53d04c2.jpglarge_0a2dc040-2e85-11ea-9018-7bbb3d5e3517.jpgDeep among them, at times no more than ten feet from the cubs and twice that from Duma, we felt our adrenaline rush. We are told not to stand lest we stand out. The point is that lions see us in our open vehicle as a singular inedible unit. Recognized as an individual, one transforms into a meal option. We remain seated.

For the better part of an hour we kept up with this king as he and his queens and court sashayed across the bush en route to what is known as Pride Rock. His pride does. I'll let the photographs do the talking because aboard the Land Rover, we were all speechless.

The ride is bumpy and breezy. Mornings are cold; afternoons are hot. The vehicle is open and our "spotter" rides on a special seat on the left hand corner of the hood; steering wheels are on the right in South Africa. There's a movie down below labeled "We ARE the Shock Absorbers;" play it and ride with us.873d0fd0-2e87-11ea-9884-03b5505b1936.jpg8732af90-2e87-11ea-b4b8-2d0b929461f5.jpg8736a730-2e87-11ea-9eee-9706e57752f2.jpg8731ec40-2e87-11ea-8405-f1706046d167.jpg87315000-2e87-11ea-9685-fb9cff6ffe7a.jpg869b2a80-2e87-11ea-91f7-771a7a54dcf9.jpg86997cd0-2e87-11ea-9018-7bbb3d5e3517.jpg

After lunch, I spotted giraffe from our window. We raced to the viewing platform and communed with five of these lanky dancers as they stripped leaves and bark from high tree branches. We loved every moment. Whispering to each other, we were amazed by what we were seeing up so close that we could hear them chewing. They didn't seem to mind our presence and we valued theirs. These quite large animals disappear behind trees. We knew there were five of them out there but, from moment to moment, you could spot only three or four. How they do that, I do not know. You cannot do this is a zoo. large_45906340-2e85-11ea-a0be-f1e48ed396db.jpglarge_45876290-2e85-11ea-9018-7bbb3d5e3517.jpglarge_45613cf0-2e85-11ea-a126-5302ba663e3c.jpglarge_45887400-2e85-11ea-91f7-771a7a54dcf9.jpg

Our evening drive featured buffalo , buck kudu, baboons, hyena and a flat tire. Our sundowner was delayed by our vehicular problem but we were not put off by that. Elephants appeared and Beryl had a close encounter. If you read the EXTRA EXTRA blog entry, you already know about that. c62e57d0-2e87-11ea-9eee-9706e57752f2.jpgc624bae0-2e87-11ea-9884-03b5505b1936.jpg

A wine tasting in Billy's cellar preceded our BBQ dinner with native music by the Billy's staff. It is cold tonight. We're exhausted. We're off to bed. In one piece.

Posted by paulej4 16:19 Archived in South Africa

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