- Showers (rain): 1
Showers (bucket): 1
Cats (spotted): 2!
Carcasses (rotted): 2
The morning game drive must have been part of an Animal Planet series on life in the plains. There is no other way to explain the series of encounters, each more exciting than the last. The residuals will pay for many savannah-delivered pizzas, I'm sure.
We start our episode this week with a pride of lions. Two lionesses and four cubs romp in the sun near a stream and a small stand of trees. The cubs try to climb a tree, with varying results. Some can't quite manage to scale the trunk, and wind up stuck, upside-down, hoping to fall on something soft. Others make it up the tree only to realize that they have no idea how to get down. They looked very nervous, looking down at the ground. They also looked a bit like housecats stuck up a tree. Is there a local fire truck? Or perhaps one opens a fresh can of gazelle meat to tempt them? One of the cubs later practices stalking a very long-suffering lioness. Her expression is universal -- even feline toddlers are difficult. And cats have claws. Finally, the cub decides to practice on a more forgiving target, one of the other cubs. When they settle down for their nap, we move on.
After a brief commercial break, we come upon a group of vultures and other carrion-eaters at breakfast. (As an aside, what do you call a group of vultures? It's a parliament of owls, and a murder of crows. How about a carrion of vultures? Perhaps a congress of vultures?) It seems that vultures are not the wisest of birds. One will peck at a piece of something better not mentioned, at which point the whole gang will hop over and fight over it, ignoring other perfectly good bits of unmentionable fodder. Eventually, they get tired of the bit they're fighting over, get bored, and hop off. One of them will trip over another piece of meat and the whole thing starts over again. The first few times it's funny, but after a while you wonder how they get anything done.
We leave the carrion carry-out and wend our way to the river. The water level is very high due to the recent rains, and clearly some unfortunate cattle were unable to make their way safely across. Floating among the rocks and the drowded cattle are far more inspiring aquatic dwellers, a group of hippos. They fill a pool, looking like huge stepping stones. They are very camera-shy, preferring to stay submerged. They poke their snouts of the water just long enough to breathe, sometimes spouting like whales. As we commune with the hippos, another ex-cow floats by and is completely ignored. Obviously the vultures haven't yet found it, but I have to wonder if that's because they are busy or simply too lazy to fly to food that's not in immediate reach. The hippos are, unsurprisingly, unmoved.
For the second act, a crowd scene. Every Western movie worth its salt, or spaghetti, has at least one scene where the camera pans up a hill to find a line of hostile Indians, or cavalry, staring down at our heros. Now, picture this same scene, but substitute wildebeasts for Indians. Wandering in front of the crowd, reviewing the troops, is a small group of topis. It seems that the standoff is due to a small stream that they need to cross to continue their migration. Apparently the officers are missing, and the NCOs can't quite manage to convince the troops over the bank. Perhaps the topis only had CIA-issued maps and were unsure of the location of the other side of the stream. Eventually they decided to risk it and stampeded over the bank and across the stream, rejoining the thousands of hairy wildebeasts already moving rapidly toward the Tanzanian border.
And to close, the large cats. We first sighted a flock a jeeps, a sure sign of interesting animal activity. It turned out to be two cheetahs, going quietly about their morning bath. They unfortunately had strayed into a lion pride's territory, and a lioness came by to kick them off. They ran off, whimpering a bit, to a nearby stand of bushes. The lioness stood glaring after them, and the jeeps, with a very proprietary air. Trespassers, paparazzi -- it's a very annoying morning for her. We follow the cheetahs in self-preservation. They sit under a bush, looking a bit down-trodden.
When we return to camp, we meet up with the other LandCruiser. We lost them somewhere between the vultures and the hippos. They came back much sooner, having seen hyenas but missing both hippos and cheetahs. Steve and I have continued our affinity for large cats, but we do feel a bit guilty since the other car hasn't seen any cheetahs yet. It was a marvelous day, though, and one of a record film use! Very much worth the special sweeps-week scheduling.
The afternoon was uneventful, a necessary rest from the busy morning. The sky was darkening as we came back to camp, but having missed my shower the day before I was quite determined not to miss again. In spite of a very quick preparation, it started raining while I showered. It was a rather bizarre experience, as I turned off one source of water only to find I couldn't turn off the rest. I was, however, able to confirm the adage that washing your hair in rainwater leaves it very soft. Cold, but soft.