You know it’s early when you’re stirring milk and sugar into your coffee with only the light from your flashlight to see. We climbed into our van just after six. We crossed the river and had the roof of our safari van raised all before the sun was up. Before seven, we were rolling through the park beginning our safari.
Not ten minutes into the drive we were watching a baby elephant trail behind its momma. Birds sat on giant buffalo grazing less than 100 meters from the dirt road. Hyenas roamed the outskirts of the herd of hartebeast and silhouettes of giraffes were farther in the distance. It was incredible.
At one point we came up on to vans pulled off to the side of the road- there was a lioness hiding behind the bush in the middle of the grass. We all clamored to see praying our zoom lenses would yield at least one picture worthwhile. When she was finished humoring us and disappeared, we drove on, seeing hundreds and hundreds of hartebeast, beautiful birds that made me feel as if I were on set of Jurassic Park, and one litter of baby warthogs. There is nothing- absolutely nothing- cuter than a litter of baby warthogs.
Move over baby goats, you’ve got some stiff competition here!
We stopped near the edge of the lake to stretch our legs and look at the hippos in the middle of the water. When we got back in the van, we didn’t see much, that is until we spotted a tower of giraffes closer than any we had seen that morning.
We were a bit tired when we got back to camp for lunch. Andrew and I attempted to take a nap, but failed miserably mostly because I started crying for no reason at all. The burning sensation from the malaria meds had mostly gone away, but it had seemed that emotional sensitivity had replaced the skin sensitivity and I was beginning to feel like I was going crazy.
“If someone told me that we wouldn’t cry at all on this trip, I would think something was wrong with them…” Andrew tried to comfort me.
“But we just went on safari! Why am I crying?” I demanded as the tears fell, annoyed that I had no idea what they were for.
I pulled myself together, we had lunch, and then we lounged in the shade with our other new safari friends, some sleeping not far from the warthogs that were taking their own naps in the camp. Later in the afternoon, we loaded back up in the van to go on a second safari- this time by boat instead of jeep.
I’m not sure which one I enjoyed more. We saw more elephants, many many more hippos, crocodiles, and a view of Murchison Falls from the water. It was so relaxing until a smaller boat started circling our own taking pictures of us. It felt a bit unnerving after we had spent the entire day looking at and taking pictures of animals in the park that I felt a bit like an animal myself being photographed.
I’m not sure if he was working with the tour company and trying to get promotional shots of the boat trip, but the amount of times he aimed his camera directly at our boat really made me uncomfortable! If he was shooting for the company, all he had to do was board the boat before we took off and tell all of the passengers what he was up to- then it would have been fine! Later, we all joked around that we should write to the company to say that they don’t have permission to use our faces for their advertising purposes. Wild Frontiers Nile Adventure Safari, I will see YOU on Trip Advisor. If that was your photographer, shame on him for being unprofessional and creepy!
Having dinner with fellow travelers on this trip is one of the best parts of the trip. We dined with a Norwegian who has been EVERYWHERE. A Dutch immigration tax lawyer and his wife? girlfriend? Two Austrian girls who work with those with special needs. A German kayaker. And those were the ones I had the chance to talk to long enough to find out what they were doing! The Dutch couple were surprised to hear we’re Americans.
“You don’t look like you’re American.” One said, not exactly surprising me. For some reason, no one ever guesses we are American. We usually get German or Northern European… If they guess an English speaking country, it’s usually Australia. It’s been curious to me and I haven’t figured out why we don’t come across as American, so I had to ask why.
“You’re not loud.” She replied. Andrew and I both laughed and we explained how we’ve been traveling and never get “American” when people guess where we are from. Then we had an interesting conversation about their trip a year ago to the States. I asked what they liked and didn’t like about their visit. We were totally amused by their response.
They liked how easy it was to travel (and yes, it totally is, America. So when you get frustrated by your piddly hour delay, just stop it right there) and how neat and clean everything is. They were impressed by how well parks are maintained and nice waitresses are and how everyone always asks “How are you?” when they would walk into a store. They said it took some getting used to when they would stop (picture a Walmart greeter) and start telling them how they were feeling. They were surprised by how the residential area is separate from the shops and markets, that there is a place for everything. Their country is so much smaller, that everything meshes together. Andrew and I agreed that it’s one of the things we’re not looking forward to after living in Seoul, needing a car again. We also agreed with them that the food portions are simply too big. After living in Seoul and now traveling more, I can’t imagine eating American style portions… We told them that we both get a bit sick when we go home and try to eat like our fellow Americans. (Obviously that doesn’t stop either of us from indulging though. I will get sick for one cheese coney any day.)
After dinner, we went to shower up and when I walked out of our tent, I nearly ran into the warthog that was munching on the grass outside. So picture me standing in my scarf-towel with soap in hand yelling to Andrew “Could you hand me my camera?” so I could take a few pictures of where we slept. If I were more brave, I would have climbed out of bed to take a picture of the giant hippo that woke us up in the middle of the night mowing the lawn in between all of the tents. Instead, Andrew and I watched in awe through our screen windows as he stood less than five inches from our tent walls chewing away.