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7. Who needs caffeine when surrounded by lions?

Impala Stew

Billy's Lodge, Limpopo, South Africa
Sunday, August 9, 2015

It's Sunday, August 9, 2015, in South Africa; a national holiday: Women's Day. On this date a group of very brave black women marched in protest of apartheid, we’re told. I nearly march in protest myself because our door is not knocked at 5:30 and we are too late arriving for our game drive for me to get my needed shot of caffeine. I’m grumpy as we ride out and Tony is happy to remind me of that. Diane piles on with only B4 treading lightly because, well, she loves me so she tolerates me.

Not one minute into our cold morning pre-sunrise ride we come shoulder to shoulder with a grazing giraffe. Then rhino. Then more wildlife: waterbuck, impala, steenbuck, kudu, zebra, elephant and then, the icing on the cake: 13 lions in single file off to find a place to doze through the day before tonight’s hunt for dinner.

From the looks of them, their dinner last night was meager. Nobody’s stomach is full. They march right up to our Land Rover and some go by on the driver’s side and others pass on the passenger’s side. The closest on either side passed no more than four feet from our shoulders. B4 took it in stride as if it happened every day. Given the fact that a woman was killed by lions at the Johannesburg Lion Park just a month ago, I find that remarkable. How is it that she was viewed as a meal and we are barely acknowledged? It is simple, we’re told. At the Lion Park, vehicles carry food to the lions there who are penned into a gigantic compound frequented by tourists in cars. The tourists are told to keep their windows rolled up because the lions associate cars with food. Here, the lions roam free and are responsible for catching and killing their own meals, never being fed from a vehicle. The ever-present Land Rovers are not now nor have they ever represented a threat or a food source; they are simply one other non-edible thing in the bush.

B4 and I, with lions literally at arm’s length, are quite happy with that arrangement and, after just these very few days here, confident in our deal: we’ll take pictures and they’ll pose for them without expectation of gratuity.

Soon we stop in a clearing for the coffee we’ve brought from camp and biscuits packed for us by Glory. Two quick cups provide me with my caffeine and a better outlook on the world. Tony and Diane compliment me on being a nicer person while B4 just smiles, perhaps wondering if she is more threatened by lions or by a decaffeinated Paul.

Returning to River Lodge, we pass kudu and waterbuck and impala and wonder which of them is on the menu for tonight; not ours, you understand, but the lions’.

Breakfast is almost ready when we arrive back at the lodge. We each order our preference of eggs and more while pastry and fruit and yogurt is laid out. Monkeys soon appear. They like the fruit and steal it.

African brunch is completely different from any in Kansas City. In Kansas City, humans are the only primates in the room.

I spend an hour working on internet connections without success. Giving up, I sit to write what you have just read killing time before lunch and our afternoon game drive. Then, without warning and with no reason why, my laptop dings and I have internet. I quickly send yesterday's blog post and upload part of today's. Our other three devices remain silent. Go figure.

AND THEN, WITHOUT
WARNING, THE INTERNET CONNECTION COMPLETES!

My laptop connected. B4’s Surface didn’t and neither did either of our phones but, the old Dell came through. I published yesterday and sent it on its way just in time to leave for our afternoon drive.

We are joined by a couple from Miami; he a retired judge and she a high powered attorney. They fit in with us nicely and this is their first game drive ever. We’re on the road for a half hour and we spot elephant. Getting ahead of the herd, we park next to the water hole Lorens thinks they’re headed for and he’s right. Our perch delivers a bathing scenario like nothing I or anyone else in our vehicle ever witness or could imagine. B4 has some fabulous video but we’ve no way to upload it now. We’ll deliver a special edition of these moments later. It was amazing watching the herd splash and play and snorkel and drink and frolic. We only left because they did.large_7f4631e0-2e8b-11ea-b4b8-2d0b929461f5.jpglarge_7f632fc0-2e8b-11ea-b9d5-bf2a7fe490d2.jpglarge_7f69e680-2e8b-11ea-8708-db1fdff6f1e2.jpglarge_7f6552a0-2e8b-11ea-93ed-4b27a7791a4f.jpglarge_7f32d0f0-2e8b-11ea-8405-f1706046d167.jpglarge_7f468000-2e8b-11ea-8fa0-45785aac0be0.jpglarge_7f408c90-2e8b-11ea-9eee-9706e57752f2.jpglarge_7f3da660-2e8b-11ea-86e6-35b380b3c75c.jpglarge_7f06def0-2e8b-11ea-8405-f1706046d167.jpglarge_7ee3eda0-2e8b-11ea-b9d5-bf2a7fe490d2.jpglarge_7f211db0-2e8b-11ea-b9d5-bf2a7fe490d2.jpglarge_7f0669c0-2e8b-11ea-b4b8-2d0b929461f5.jpglarge_7eab5170-2e8b-11ea-8405-f1706046d167.jpglarge_7ed68020-2e8b-11ea-b4b8-2d0b929461f5.jpglarge_7e922420-2e8b-11ea-b4b8-2d0b929461f5.jpg

On we drove until we spotted our pride of lions again; this time sprawled in a communal bed, napping in preparation for tonight’s hunt. A growl here and a stretch there were punctuated by incessant twitching of lion ears to keep their insect buddies from causing too much distraction. Occasionally one of this group would wake, yawn and stretch and move a few steps before flopping back down into the grass for more rest. Lions sleep from 18 to 20 hours a day we’re told. These we have seen doing everything except hunting and eating.

Tearing ourselves away, we stop for sundowners where B4 finds a phone signal and completes a couple of urgent emails that we’re bugging her much as the flies were bugging lion ears only moments before. I chatted with our Land Rover mates and sipped some Two Oceans South African Sauvignon Blanc while the sun set.

Afterward we head home only to hear rustling in the brush to one side as we approach the turn to River Lodge. Stopping, we see the noise came from a Cape Buffalo standing only a few feet to our right side. The animal flinched before we did so we were able to head the rest of the way home without incident.

Dinner was impala stew; very good actually. We’re exhausted from good company, good fun and bad internet and we retire early…around 9:30. I write while B4 dozes. It has been an amazing day with two highlights which we will carry with us forever. This morning’s lion pride march where they surrounded us approaching at less than five feet and this afternoon’s elephant spa day would be "Big Two" experiences for anyone and for us they happened on
the same day.

Good night, moon. Did we tell you about the African night sky and the stars as bright as your string of Christmas lights? Oh my; with darkness all around there is nothing to compete with the twinkling sky and it is, without doubt, the perfect thing to ponder before falling beneath the mosquito nets that shroud our king size bed. In the distance something howls and B4 forbids me to open the door for a better listen. For her I reluctantly comply.

Posted by paulej4 16:39 Archived in South Africa

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