Monday, 23 November 2009

Day 8: Shingwedzi

Monday 3rd August 2009

Ok - let me get the apologies out of the way first. It's been far too long since the previous post, as life has been ridiculously busy. Well, it's still busy, but enough people have complained that they are waiting for "day 8" that I've been shamed into action!

We'd learned by now that it was complete pointless to try and wake Izzi for an early morning drive. The motto really ought to be "let sleeping teenagers lie", as they're far more dangerous than dogs! Harriet and I set off for the eponymous Red Rocks just as the sun was coming up, on the grounds that some lions had been spotted in the area the previous day. The only wildlife out and about that morning were the two of us, unfortunately, although it was a beautiful morning in which to be out and about...

Having failed to see any big cats, we went to an area overlooking river where it was safe to get out of the car. Again there was nothing much to be seen - or heard, for that matter - apart from a loud "clunk" behind us, which certainly made us jump. It turned out we'd been visited by a pair of YBHBs, who were extremely interested in the various bits of ex-insect stuck to the windscreen of our car! Windscreen wipers, it seems, make a perfect perch...

We did see a solitary giraffe a little later, plus a troop of baboons on the road. The latter were great fun to watch - especially the youngsters, who proceeded to beat each other up just in front of the car. It appears that the adult male baboon has developed a taste for German beer!

Just outside the back entrance to the camp, we came across a saddle billed stork which was busy fishing in the murky water. There was a good viewpoint from a concrete bridge, but unfortunately we had to keep moving as other people kept wanting to get past us.

Back in the camp we went for the (now inevitable) second breakfast, after which decided that we could put off the evil day no longer. We'd all run out of clean clothing, and it was essential that we did some laundry! This turned out to be quite entertaining, as the washing machine and dryer was in the communal ablutions block. Nothing unusual about that, apart from the dispensers full of free condoms in both the ladies and gents toilets. AIDS is a real problem in these parts, which must explain the policy (it's one that I've seen before, when free condoms were handed out to everyone waiting to catch a flight out of Maputo airport in Mozambique).

After a late lunch, we all went out for the afternoon for a drive along the Shingwedzi river. Because it was the dry season, the river itself did not contain any running water. Instead, the animals had to dig down a bit in order to get a drink, and we spent a while watching an elephant do just that. We also saw various wind pumps: relics of a time when it was considered a good idea to provide artificial watering holes so that visitors were pretty well guaranteed to see game close to the road. Nowadays they're considered to be unnecessary, and are gradually being removed.

There were lots of animals to be seen that afternoon, including giraffe and water buck. It was only when I looked at the photographs of the giraffe leaving the watering hole that I realised it had been injured at some point - possibly by a big cat.

The highlights of the afternoon were two "close encounters" with large herds of elephants and buffalo respectively. The elephants were wonderful to watch, but as before the juveniles decided it was time to have a go at the strange four-wheeled beasts which were disturbing them. Quite a lot of time was spent in reverse gear that afternoon, as discretion was definitely the better part of valour given the situation!

The encounter with the buffalo was slightly different, as we'd seen the herd earlier in the afternoon at a distance. By early evening they decided they were going to cross the road, and it took well over twenty minutes for this to happen. We didn't count the number of animals in the herd, but at a guess there probably a couple of hundred. They kicked up a lot of dust as they crossed, which was picked up by the sun behind them.

Of course, this post wouldn't be complete without an African sunset...