Written on: 29/11/2006 by MrWillson (3 reviews written)
Adventure holidays were just not my bag. In fact saying "just not my bag" was just not me, until my wife whisked me off to an amazing adventure to the depths of Norway on a husky / snowmobile safari. Let me tell you there's nothing more exhilarating than seeing the Northern lights whilst being mushed through an ancient Nordic forest by huskies. Well, I was wrong; in fact I was so wrong I might as well have told one of them seven foot Norwegian husky drivers that he looked like a girl and his father smelled of elderberries.
This time we had planned a Mighty Fine South African Safari Holiday for a whole 2 weeks. I can just see it now. Landing at the tiny airport in our small single prop plane and being picked up by a team of 4x4's while the front tour guides keep an eye out for the Lions with feet the size of dinner plates, and giant man eating ant eaters being ridden by Fufu Cannibal Warriors with bones through their noses, and shrunken human heads around their necks. No I am not being paranoid and a big sissy, I have seen films; King Solomon's Mines and Tarzan The Ape Man with Johnny Weissmuller. I know all about Africa and its tribes and cultures. In fact, I would say I am an expert I watched Tarzan 5 times.
I was well prepared for this trip; I had the hat, the khaki suit; OK, not a real Khaki suit that good old Doctor Livingston would have worn, but a rather fetching quite trendy copy of it with extra pockets so I could put my insect repellent and anti crocodile, and anti Lion spray in. You thought I was unprepared for this trip didn't you? I had it all under control. We arrived at London Airport with plenty of time to sit down and have a smashing cup of New England Roast 'mocko-loco-java' or whatever it's called coffee. I could see people were impressed and knew I was a man of moral fibre and a high risk adventure taker; I was getting a lot of passers-by stopping and pointing at me. Step aside Alan Quatermain, Introducing Bob Harding, King of the Jungle!
The flight to South Africa was a comfortable ride, and the films on-board were quite good too. We got lucky on this trip, and didn't get any kids looking over the seat in front of us with those horrid snot bubbles, and a crusty cheese curl smile saying "hey mister, why don't you have any hair on your head?" Then the mum normally proceeds to quietly beat the child under the sound of the captains announcement of "If you're lucky enough to be sitting on the left hand side of the plane you will see a spectacular sight which is so rare that I haven't seen one in my 23 years of flying." And of course you're sitting on the right.
Right; now my first surprise was that there wasn't a tiny 2 man operated airport with a sandy runway and hordes of hyenas trying to chew the tyres on the plane; while it was still landing. Instead it was a gigantic multinational, multicultural, multilingual airport with thousands of people buzzing about like they were in some sort of massive hive, they all moved about like they had a purpose and a final destination to get to. I was very impressed and saddened at the same time. I had built up this picture of jungles, lions and masses of Zulu's coming over the mountains to greet us, but what I got was an impressive sight of 1st world technology with a touch of 3rd world images here and there. "This is going to be easy" I thought to myself, looking at the wife, who once again had 'that grin' on her face.
Day 1: The Kruger National Park:
"Bring on the adventures" keeps ringing in my ears. Why oh why did I let my self get talked into this holiday! What was I thinking? Am I just a sucker for this kind of punishment? Now you're most likely thinking about now, "what is he moaning on about now?" Let me tell you, you would be thinking the same thing if you were face to face with a 6 ton African Elephant. I also know that The African Elephant is the largest living land animal (larger than the Asian Elephant). These mammals have very strong social bonds and live in family groups headed by a female (called a cow). Males (called bulls) occasionally join the group. Elephants are excellent swimmers. Elephants have few natural enemies except man, and they are in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat and poaching (they are killed for their ivory tusks). I knew that book I bought from duty free would come in handy; Tarzan has got nothing on me. Right there must be a section in this book on how to deal with a very irritated 10 foot mammal that's just had its Calf's path cut off by a typical tourist in a rental car. As I fumbled through the pages of this Encarta of information on African wildlife, trying to remember if I was supposed to stand still, play dead, climb a tree or whatever it is you do when confronted with a raging bull, my wife decided to take action and proceeded to push my foot down onto the accelerator. We zoomed down the dirt track for about 200 yards before finally coming to a stop in a cloud of dust, thinking all is well until I looked in my rear view mirror to see that the Gargantuan mammal was not having any of this and was still giving chase. I remember hearing a very peculiar sound at that point that I could not put my finger on for some time, rather like a World War 2 siren or some sort of prehistoric screeching giant budgie that's just swooped down and snatched up the local cave-man while he was out picking some flowers for his girlfriend he's just clubbed, only to find out it was me screaming like a baby that's just had its dummy stolen. After about 2 more miles we came to a complete stop and made sure the deranged 'Dumbo' was still not after us. Still shaken up by this ordeal we decided to stay at this spot for a while to get our wits back and have a nice cup of Twinning's from the thermos.
After about 4 minutes we started to hear a chirping like a bunch of old grannies having a good chin-wag about their days outing in the local market; while chewing on a Werther's toffee. I wanted to wind down the window all the way down, but I had been having nightmares of being dragged out of my car by some half crazed blue bottomed baboons the night before, so I decided against it. We sat there for another 2 minutes listening to this muffled chatter, trying to decipher what was being said, only to be startled by an almighty thud on the roof of the car. As if being chased by a 10 foot monster wasn't scary enough, my worst nightmare was about to become a reality.
There sitting on the bonnet of the car with a half chewed fruit in its hand was a blue bottomed Baboon. Paralysed with fear, I could only sit there and watch as the horrid creature started to dismantle the wind screen wipers and then move onto the aerial with the skill of a proficient thug. Once again the wife steps in to save the day, she calmly hit the horn and the Baboon simply grunted, turned around showing us his grotesque blue bottom and left. Still suffering from shell shock after having one of my nightmares come true right in front of my eyes, the wife poured me another cup of tea. Looking back at her I said "I think it's time we headed back to camp now, and had a large whisky, don't you?" As we drove back navigating with the aid of a map, we came to a junction in the tracks which wasn't on the map. Oh dear.
Left or right? Right or left? But the map doest show this track, it only shows a dead straight road? We're doomed!
The wife decided we should take the right hand track, it only seemed right to go right, as she is always right. We went right. Inching along this unknown track with the speed of an asthmatic ant with a heavy bag of shopping, so we had plenty of time to see it. By "it" I mean the biggest lion that ever lived! This beast stood as tall as the car and walked with a swagger like he was as proud as a . . . well I'll be, it is true! Still suffering a bit of a panic attack from being violated by that savage gorilla that totalled the front of my car and nearly killed us, I decided to take this one easy and stay a safe distance. Watching this magnificent king of the jungle slowly walk along the side of this dirt track, really made me feel like we were in Africa. Not a single telephone pole, house or one bit of technology for miles and miles around (OK, except for the car we were driving in) really made you feel like you were back in the days of Shaka Zulu and his mighty warriors. After following this Lion for about half a mile, he slowly walked off into the bush and vanished as though he was never there.
Spurred on by seeing the most amazing creature that graced these lands, we slowly drove on, heading in whatever direction the tracks took us; and just think this was only day 1.
Bring on the Adventure!
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Written by neeltjemin