I’m standing in the shower, soaking wet, in total darkness, hoping someone walks in. Someone does walk in, this time. Then the lights go on. At South Pole, two minute showers, twice per week are all that is allotted. An additional energy saving protocol has been enacted in the men’s restroom: the lights are all on a motion detected timer. After a very brief period of no motion, the lights go out. Unfortunately, the showers are not in the detectors field of view. Thus, I ended up unable to find my towel. So you either wait for someone to walk in and turn the lights on, or risk it and hop out to activate the lights. Usually, someone walks in. After a few weeks of this, I gave up and started showering in the clinic. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier, but it did look a bit odd to see one of the medical providers walking out of the clinic soaking wet.
“Be sure to close the doors. We have monkeys.” This is not a flippant statement. At the safari lodge we are staying at, there is no fence between the deck, hot tub or outdoor shower and the bush. The monkeys inhabit the bush. I’m no monkey expert, but these monkeys seem particularly fearless. Within moments of our arrival, they turn up to see who they’ll be sharing the bush with for the next few days. They would come within a few feet only to scamper off, howling, momentarily later.
But the wildlife is why we are in South Africa. After the epic laziness of Mozambique, it’s time for safari. After settling in and having a light dinner, we venture into the wild at night. Driving around the reserve, we stumble upon a pack of elephants. For such monstrously large animals, it’s amazing how little noise they make. Each step makes no noise, other than the occasional twig snapping.
The next morning, before the break of dawn, we are off into the wild again. The lodge abuts Kruger National Park, but there are no fences between the lands of the two. The animals roam from the Park into the reserve and back at will. Early in the day, we find a pack of wild dogs. Our guide explains that in the entire park, all 7,500 mi2 of it, there less than 200 left. It is quite the lucky sight, we’re told. They just look like dogs to me. He tells us that maybe this is a good sign of what the day is to bring us.
We drive. Tree branches invade the open cab of the Toyota. We travel across roads that aren’t roads. Up and through anything and everything. It seems we have entered a Toyota or Range Rover commercial. These things go through it all.
At the sun warms up, the guide, from the back of the truck, quietly says to the driver something that I don’t understand. All I get is “200 meters” and he points. 200 meters away, through thick bush, he spots a leopard lazing in a tree. We drive to within about 2 meters of the base of the tree. It’s about the most “Africa” picture I can imagine. He’s up in the tree, lounging on a branch, two legs on each side, just enjoying the sun.
“There was a female here, but females are skittish. So she left.”
“And the male in the tree? He’s not scared of us?” I ask.
“Him? No. He’s the predator. He doesn’t care about us.” Right. Apex predator. Zero fucks to give about a truck full of tourists. Fortunately, our guide is quite certain he’s recently eaten. We see giraffes, hippos, zebras, wildebeest and wild boars. It’s pretty much the ultimate tourist experience, but I’m having a good time being a tourist.
We’re taking an evening safari drive as well. I head back to my cabin to shower off the days sunscreen and DEET. My wildlife experience is certainly not over for the day. I look up from the outdoor shower to find a couple monkeys staring back at me. I went from not being able to see anything when I got out of the shower to looking up and having a staring contest with a monkey.
Then I played with a white lion.
Showers in Seattle seem a bit boring these days.