Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Part One: The Night Drive

It was a weekend of epic proportions. EPIC I tell you.

It all started on Friday. After a day of anxiousness/burning CDs (thanks homeboy) we were off to the Durban airport. We (me, Teresa (a new intern from London), and Jasmine) were about to entrust Ryan with our lives in a rented car. Usually Ivy does not worry about roadtrips but this one involved driving on the wrong side of the road (well, I guess it's the right side here but it looks SO wrong when you're driving) with a steering wheel on the wrong side of the car (eee, scary). But after a few minutes we sank into our seats, confident in Ryan's skills on the road and eased by the British voice coming from the GPS,The Beatles (Abbey Road to be specific), and the beautiful scenery.

3 hours later we arrived at our destination: St. Lucia. After checking into our backpackers (a sorry excuse for a hostel but it had running water and sheets and seriously what more could you ask for if you're paying $14/night?) and met up with our friends from the Africa Centre (the ones that came to visit us the other weekend in Durban) for dinner. After our meal we headed out to our night drive. Night drives are awesome because it's kind of REALLY hot in Africa so the animals tend to hide during the day, but just like college students they come out in masses and do it up at night. We boarded this monstrosity of a vehicle/ huge open-air 4 x 4 and greeted our tour guide, Kian.

Kian is the dude-- he literally knows anything and everything about wildlife, ecosystems, predators, plants, etc and he was HILARIOUS to boot. Man, this guy was awesome. We started our drive and we immediately knew it was going to be a cool ride. Kian sat in front and had this cool little spotlight thing that he would shine everywhere to find the animals. Within minutes he had already spotted the first little dude he would be showing us: the dwarf chameleon.  

The dwarf chameleon was so cute and Kian even let us hold it, and it just felt like having a little moving creature on your hand. Nothing too gross or scary, in fact quite comforting and I sort of want one of my own.

Now if you think that's cute then you are about TO DIE. After driving for another few seconds, Kian SOMEHOW managed to find a baby dwarf chameleon in the trees (he has to have the most incredible and sharp eye in the world). 

Soon after that it was animal after animal. Like this beautiful waterbuck.

And some waterbuck booty, which is very distinctive. According to Kian the waterbuck butt is so unique because if the animals are all out and suddenly a predator comes along then the lady bucks just chase the butts that they know belongs to their dudes. Pretty awesome.

Soon thereafter we encountered a water buffalo (!). 

You now need to learn a term: "The Big Five". 

"The Big Five" (Lion, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard, and Black Rhinocerous) are the five most difficult animals to hunt by foot in Africa. Don't worry. I have not been hunting. The Big Five is a term used by everybody and anybody to talk about the coolest game to see (which is basically the big 5). So yay! 1 of 5 down. Sweet.

Kian described this particular buffalo as one of the old dudes, which he says sort of roam around like old bachelors together. Apparently, they are all chummy until they see a lady and then its basically each man for himself. This specific buffalo was totally at peace with us and our large vehicle. He just kept walking towards me (literally, he was on my side of the vehicle) as though he sensed my ladylike nature.  

Also, according to Kian that massive slab on skin in between the horns is 4 thick inches of forehead, ick. If this thing charges, you've got forehead to the stomach and basically you're donezos. With that thought in mind, we were off!

Next, Kian spotted a chameleon and he immediately got off to take it off its branch and bring her on board. She was bigger than the first one and super cool.

And duh. I have a weakness for babies and that includes baby animals so when Kian showed us the baby chameleon I just about peed myself (which could have been some pleasant warmness, IT WAS FREEZING).

We also saw a serval, well we mostly saw its ears, but I didn't manage to get a picture of it. But wikipedia that shit. Its mad cool.

So day 1 was down and we had only seen one of the big 5. Little did we know what was to come the next day when we drove through Hluhluwe/Umfalozi game reserve (gotta love a cliffhanger...)


until then, dreaming...

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