The car and driver, Eddie, we brought up from Kampala was the same vehicle we took on safari. There’s a sliding top that opens for us to stand on the seats and see for as far as the eye can reach across the African savanna. But a guide is necessary to find our way through the park, so when we booked in Kampala they told us we can take care of this at the lodge. When we arrived at the lodge they told us we should have booked that in Kampala. I kept my mind in operation, I didn’t get frustrated, I just went into problem solving mode. I asked the woman at the desk to find one for us. She frowned. She made several calls, I checked back with her over a few hours, and finally before we returned to our rooms for the night she said a guide will meet us outside at 7:am. Once again my perseverance served our group well. I never mentioned to my group that we had this problem of finding a guide. I just wanted them to enjoy sleeping in a game park in Africa.
I would like to mention how strange, unknown and awkward it felt for me to wear the “boss” hat for this adventure. I had to plan the money, make all the payments, make all the decisions and take care of my group of seven. (Eddie, Olive, Nana, Emily, Kevin, Jack and myself) When I stopped to realize what I was doing, and how well we were managing I was rather surprised with my ability to be stronger than I knew I could be. In normal situations my wonderful husband takes this role and I am released to manage the needs of the children and think like an artist about the experience. For this trip, until Craig returns, I am both. It has given me a greater appreciation for single mothers. It’s a full burden to be both and more mentally and emotionally exhausting than I ever realized it could be.
At 5:30 am I sang the “wakey wakey” song to get the troops moving for our safari adventure. I, being in charge, was fully ready to go at this time so I could be available to solve the numerous problems that arise with a group this size, as they always do. I left our room to search for a cup of coffee. There were bats swarming along the outdoor corridor swooping close to my head. I have an unnatural panic button with bats, but for some reason this close encounter did not cause me to scream. For the first time ever I appreciated bats. This is something my husband will have to see himself to believe. On the lawn behind our room there was a family of water buck resting. They watched me carefully, frozen, to decide if I was going to be a threat. I went to the reception area of the lodge and it was closed down and vacant. Africa sleeps afterall. So I’d have to wait for my coffee, I returned to the room. In the distance I could hear the hippos in the river trumpeting to one another. The sound of bird song carried me back to my room. The bleary eyed were rousing and packing and all a twitter for the adventure ahead.
We ate a hearty breakfast, checked out and loaded our van while we greeted, Taban, our guide. He was dressed in army green fatigues and carried a shotgun. This excited the boys. We might do something dangerous! The hotel is located in the game park so once we loaded ourselves into the van, we were on safari.
The first sighting was the Ugandan Jackson Hartebeast. These are exclusive to Uganda, and they are proud of this. This animal has a large deer like appearance with two twisty horns that shoot straight up from the head. Our Jack liked knowing there was a Ugandan animal with his name, so he began calling it “me- beast”. We began calling him “beast”. This won the heart of our guide.
It wasn’t long before we had our first giraffe sighting. The electricity among us crackled. It is the first sighting of the animal and the feeling that comes with it that will always be remembered. They are so tall and elegant. We were fairly close to them so we could see the extension of their eye lashes and the length of the tongue. I had a strong urge and desire to hug around their long powerful necks. I reached my arms out and said, “come to mama I wish to hug you”. I used a Ugandan English accent and it made everyone laugh. They are so gentle and peaceful. When they walk across the savannah, free, they have the look of a model on a runway. Of all the animals I could ever encounter, the giraffe is my personal favorite. I could never tire of seeing a giraffe make its way across the savannah. The giraffe’s we saw all have different depths of brown markings. The older giraffes have a very dark brown, and the younger ones have more white with light brown spots. At the very end of our trip when we had just about retired our cameras two baby giraffe crossed the road right in front of us. They were adorable. They have so much more energy than the old folks. We saw them galloping with their sloping necks through the grass. Then when they encountered our vehicle they stopped right in front of us to pose for our pictures. When they realized we were boring, they attempted to climb a steep slope to carry on with their romp. It was funny to see them stretch and struggle to climb the incline. We said a prayer of thanks for this special treat.
We saw warthog, hyena, gazelles, buffalo, waterbuck, elephant, cobs, antelope, crested crane, storks, baboons, and some jackals. We searched and searched for a leopard in a tree or a lion in the grass. But this is the season when the grasses are very tall so it is nearly impossible to see the lions. When the grass is short he says they see lions every trip. But during this season only once or twice a week. Our hopes were high, but we did not have expectation so we were not left with residual disappointment.
Emily and I spent the entire four hours of our safari standing on the seat with our heads up in the breeze. My mom would pop up now and then to take a picture, and most of the time Jack was there with my second Nikon snapping pictures like a pro. Kevin passed, he’s not one for heights, and he was satisfied with his binoculars and view from the back window. Olive sat quietly at her window, slept and fretted over her safety from the animals. She’s mostly afraid of the big animals, even the giraffe. Our guide educated us along the way about every animal we saw, and he answered our never ending questions. The roads were so uneven that we were bracing ourselves and balancing best we could. I got seriously bruised in the ribs from bumping the edge of the sunroof, and my legs were worn out from the rocking motion. It was an exhilarating ride. The four hours slipped by without notice of time passing.
At one point my mom looked around at Africa sprawled before her and she started to cry. She could see many varieties of wild animals co-existing at once and the beauty of the land. She said, “this is what heaven looks like for me.” She sniffled, and wiped tears, and said, “I am so happy.” There was a moment of silence in the van as we felt the impact of her realized life dream. I swelled up in my heart with a good feeling knowing that I had been able to help her dream come true and I told her, “it’s not every day that a daughter has the opportunity to give back to her mom, and this is special for me.” When the ride came to an end we were full and satisfied with our African safari. The ride home to Kampala was full of chatter about our thoughts about the experiences. We named for ourselves the animal we are most alike. We all had to agree on the choice. That was fun! Nana is a mama elephant like the one in the Dumbo movie, because she is so maternal with children. Jack is a howler monkey because he’s active, and makes a lot of noise. Emily is a giraffe, because she is tall, peaceful, quiet and elegant. Kevin is a heron tall, thin, focused and accurate when strikes. Olive is an antelope because she is pretty, watchful and quiet. Jordan is a baboon, because he is funny and inquisitive. Donny is a bull elephant because he is so strong and family oriented. Craig is the Lion King, enough said. And I was assigned the leopard because I have long periods of quietness, and then when I am in action I am a whirlwind of strength and power.
We had some unbelievable experiences with the elephants on this ride. They were so wonderful and scary I will save them for another post. Thanks again for your comments and inquiries. Having your partnership and response here is so much fun and erases any loneliness I might otherwise feel.