Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Our Neverending journey..Part II .....Lolling with the Lions

Ahh..so here I am finally blogging about our visit to 'Lion camp'.The camp..McBride's camp is part of Kafue National park..and is out in the boonies.It's set up to be a part of the park..and doesn't stand out for any reason..not the least being that it runs without electricity!Of course my booming voice gave half of Kafue National park's animals a heart attack, and the other half fled in mortal(animal?) fear!Needless to say they were only mildly excited to see me safely back in the car,with promises of "We'll be back soon!"...sleep well oh animals of Zambia..Shilpa is on the bawl!!

So off we set bright and early one Friday October morning.Barry was at the wheel..and I was safely ensconced in the centre at the back.Now it was 6 am..and I had had no entertainment yet....Naturally I burst into song..( can one blame the yearning of my vocal cords to break free ?)I was quickly hushed..and plied with drink!Mosi busied himself with his camera as usual,taking what I grudgingly accept as a 'cool shot'! Ah me..so magnanimous of the praise of other's gifts...


Ah well...back to the journey of course.We drove on...4 long dusty hours later..our first signs of life..other than the one musical humans and 4 annoyed ones in a blue Pajero.Warthog family..with three little ones..piglets? wartlets? wiggles?hmm I wondered aloud..much too loud for the Puku..he snarled slightly to quiet me down!...hmmm these animals I tell you!


We came across a sable..These are rumoured to be very shy,reticent animals.They are tall and majestic with wonderfully curved antlers.He walked away gracefully..taking refuge in the trees..it couldn't have been my singing could it?



We arrived on time ( Annika was insistent 12 means 12 !!) at the camp and were warmly welcomed.Well-meaning thumps elicited expected clouds of dust and we stretched out the kinks in our bodies!Barry had been a great driver,not even swerving off- road at my melodic rendition of Hotel Lusaka.
Mosi and I were checked into Anthill hut !!Annika and Shruthi had taken a tour of all the huts..and decided that one was the most romantic !Of course romance has a slightly different connotation out in the Bush surrounded by tall waving grass.Here,jumping with fear at the prospect of being eaten alive and unable to see my own hand in front of my face..Romance was reduced to,"Honey,do you think that sound was a Hippo? "
Anyway..we settled into a wonderful lunch..and a stuffed , sleepy gander out at the river soon after.It was amazing,sitting down comfortably a little distance from the banks of the river..and the animals actually come to you.A group of thirsty elephants came to get a drink..and a crocodile came by to sun himself...From the way he had his mouth open,I figured he either wanted food to drop straight into it or was waiting on his dentist.The former was not reassuring given the food induced stupor we were in.But atleast the croc had people to choose from eh?


That evening Charlotte( of Mcbride fame) took us on a walk..close to the camp.Walking around we saw some amazing birds.She is Chris's wife and together they run the lion camp.She is wonderful with birds..telling apart even the smallest of feathery flutterers by their calls.We saw a Kingfisher and a gorgeous fish Eagle in a majestic soar...


Walking along still further..we startled a herd of Puku..they took off in alarm..Footfalls I reassured myself..nothing to do with me!However some of the annoyed glances in my direction could have been interpreted otherwise..ah well..There was also this kind group of white birds ( herons?) accompanying an Elephant.Charlotte said that the elephant disturbs locusts in the grass as it walks..and the birds happily(lazily?) prey on them...


Back at camp...we proceded to create one of our most effective weapons against wild animals...


One of the guides who works at the camp arrived late that night ( as I was busily munching on cheesy pasta..) with news of a lioness and her cubs being close on the opposite bank..That caused a stir of excitement..and quick plans to go over the next morning.
Off we set that next morning with Chris himself..He has studied lions since the time he was 5..and is obviously passionate about them.Anyway..hours of walking later...we came across a baby Oribi.These are highly territorial animals with an interesting defence strategy.They curl into a tight ball and play dead...great idea if there's tall grass around..but with the ground so bare...not that smart perhaps..We also came across a giant ant hill..Our guide told us that it would all wash away with the first rains....Way too much effort ..me thinks!!!



We came upon a Buffalo head.The lioness' had been active a few days earlier..and hd brought this massive beast down.The hyenas had had their go at it..and all that was left was a giant head.Shudder...with grotesque image of own head lying on the ground..mouth twisted in one last off-key note...


We got into a boat for our ride back to camp...I had to hold on to my hat..and my hair!...there was a stiff breeze..Well..laugh all you want folk..but that was the only wide brimmed hat I could lay my sunburnt hands on!!! 'My fair Lady'...Here I come!!!!

Peacfully sailing down the river..and what do we see? An elephant stepped right off the bank and walked..waded into the river straight for another boat!! Thank god its not us...?Anyway the elephant barely noticed them..and made a beeline for an island mid way!...All the while a Hippo watched us warily.Reminded of 'Madagascar' I remarked how cutely disproportionate they looked.Always watch your words with the Hippos..this one was not amused..it walked along the riverbed..right under the boat..sending us rocking !! Not very reassuring,the idea of crocodile infested waters beneath.Luckily we held on...hat and all....


How clannish these animals are...Here was another crew of Hippos chastising me for my mean comment....Well sorry guys !!!


Back at camp...we tucked into an enormous tea...It was evening and the sun had started to set..Off we went into the Wild on an evening Game Drive.We didn't see alot..and everyone who was on that trip with me will remember a 'certain somebody' who hogged the front and refused to tell us what they saw!!! Grrrr...my revenge will be sweet...Anyway all we saw were Warthogs..on bended knee making for cute pictures..


A small voice inside my head grumbled..Lion food is here...where are the lions??

The next morning on our return from a walk....finally Lions!!!!A lioness was asleep in the shade not far from the camp.We huddled into the boat..and quietly( me too!) paddled away..A group of nervous Puku came by to drink from the river..but the lioness ignored them all.Then an unknowing family of Warthogs happened by,and in one quick flash,she was up,charged and grabbed a baby Warthog.All over in a minute..sealed with one sharp squeal....Poor Warthog...!The lioness had three hungy 8-month old cubs to feed..and she didn't waste any time hanging around!



Sufficiently excited...we headed back to camp.Sunk our teeth into a tasty lunch..and Me,Mosi and Shruthi sat ourselves down on chairs set out overlooking the river.Who should come by , but our ace hunter Lioness!!...She walked slowly,crouching low not far from us.She sized us up...I bet she was thinking,"Ah that annoying one in the fancy hat...looks well fed.The cubs will be delighted!"Frozen with fear,voice stuck in my throat( who would have thought??)...I got up slowly and walked into the nearby hut...She disappeared into the tall grass...Whew..Look how close she was...


PS...the blurry chairs are where we were sitting...

Look at the muscles on her....Soon after she slunk away...thirsty animals were back..A Kudu came to join the Puku at the river's edge!


Later that afternoon Mommy Lion made another appearance with her three cubs in tow...They walked coolly,across the plains,giving a start to a quiet herd of Puku grazing nearby.So fluid were the Lions....so graceful each step..We were entranced,falling into a reverent silence..( yes,even me!)





Eyes still clinging to that sight straight out of National Geographic..we huddled into a Safari Van..and headed out on our second Game drive..We had more luck that day..and chanced upon a huddled Genet cat.These are small cats,very similar-looking to a civet.


What a day....brimming with excitement about my near-death experience I proudly gazed around the table.....Ahh brave me!!!...Braver still with the new found knowledge that Lions are scared of human voice.Beware my potent weapon....Drained from the excitement...I sank into a dreamless slumber.Woken only to ponder the munching sounds from nearby Hippos outside the hut.Mosi ( my brave co-inhabitant of said romantic hut) was lost to the world in a sleep so deep that the Hippos couldn't wake him...
We awoke early the next morning to the news that the Lioness and her cubs were now stretched out on the banks of the river right next to the camp.Hurriedly we gathered there in an almost breaking dawn-light and watched excitedly as they woke up.The Lioness couldn't be bothered with us again..and she wandered away.The cubs stood their ground..and they were an adorable sight to watch.Two of them stood guard..and the third was not be denied his snooze...People or not..!

We continued being a part of play time for the feisty cubs...Watching them at play is a delightful sight.They have the same wonder and mischief in their eyes as my dog...only that of course he is never awake at such an ungodly hour!!


The lion cubs finally tired of their adoring fans...and walked away into the bush...
We hopped into the boat for one last peaceful ride...We saw more Hippos..one even kindly spouted a cloud of water..caught on camera expertly by ace photographer Mosi( of growing talent to be captured here)..!!!We saw two leopards drinking quietly down the river.We halted the boat and tried to follow them.Some of us were lucky to see them up close....Annika and Shruthi have pictures of them..and I'm waiting for them to send them over!
We saw the same three cubs again..one of them made a half-hearted attempt to hunt a Puku.The Puku was only barely scared and darted away...the cub returned shame faced to join his siblings..


Sadly...it was soon time to leave...Although perhaps this picture doesn't quite convey that sadness?



Here was the brave group of explorers.....Surviver all we be! and to tell the tale...and how!



Finally it was time to leave..we piled into the dusty blue Pajero..Making our way back...Barry requested me( of rusty voice) to sing a song...perhaps that wasn't the smartest suggestion....We managed to confuse this one Owl...and this elephant trumpeted,"Quiet down!!"....



Keep watching this space..there are still a few pictures that need to go in...
And if you like the photos so far.....there's more where those came from...we are putting them together on picasa...keep an eye peeled for the album link here.

9 comments:

Ashwin Kelkar said...

WOW !! fundooo.. now am really jealous.. you saw all tht in just 4 days ? amazing !!
oh and btw.. really well written as well.. and cool pics..

Scarecrow said...

Wonderful! As promised I had been "queuing" up for the post.
Now you inspire me to write.

When you said you imagined ur head on the ground with the jaw twisted in one last off-key note, I burst out laughing and I'm still laughing (imagining ur head, of course)!!!

My eyes are peeled for the snaps...

mosilager said...

thanks Ashwin, it was fun working on the photos.

mosilager said...

Great description of the trip. It was so much fun! Hope we can go back at some time.

shilpa said...

Ashwin..Yeah..they don't call this the Continent of NatGeo for nothing!!!You have to come visit!
Thanks for the compliment..I loved writing it..made me feel like I was back there!
PS..thanks Mosi for the pics! They make the post more interesting!

Scarecrow...Wow...high praise again..Man you spoil me!..So have you written anything recently?Haha well the image of my bodyless head is funny..funnier still since it insists on talking!

Mosilager..you bet the trip was awesome! My first time on Safari..and what an experience..thanks for the comment!

alok said...

Ah! that was a awesome post (pretty much live) about a mind-blowing trip, and now I am left with no words but wondering about those beautiful places, the wild animals and the endless nature’s presence. I am glad knowing that you guys had a great time out there. And, yes those pictures added more colors to this post, just wonderful.

BTW, thanks for dropping by at my blog and the comment.

Aneesh said...

i wanna work with y'all!!! :( plz plz plz invite me!! plz(accompanied by sad puppy dog eyes)

Shruthi said...

In case any of you are skeptical, I can attest to Shilpa's speechlessness after the second sighting of the lioness! It was one of those rare occurrences to which few are fortunate to bear witness (I mean the silence not the sighting) haha ;) PS. I love your writing style!

shilpa said...

Alok ...thanks for the comment!!! The trip was amazing...there is so much to see on this continent!!

Aneesh....Sure...consider yourself invited! When do you want to start? Only requirement ..must know 'Hotel Lusaka' off by heart!

Shruthi...have your fun!!Silence is a rare commodity eh? Thanks for the compliment...Need to re-read the second Harry Potter book to write my version of it!