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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hip. Hip Hop. Hiphopapotamus...

Yesterday, we arrived at The Nile. Yes, The Nile. That thing is massive. When I picture baby Moses floating down in his basket, I usually picture a little stream that someone could wade across in less than 10 seconds. Now that I’ve been here, I have to say it’s a good thing the kid wasn’t an active baby. When I’ve read the story in Exodus, I’ve never stopped and thought about all the wildlife involved in the floating of Moses. God not only made Moses float to the right person, but he also made sure Moses wasn’t a sack lunch for some crocodile. Nowadays, child protective services would have been ON that mother. You’re going to put him in the water with HIPPOS? Really, lady?

We took a boat safari yesterday, and a driving safari today. There is no way I’m going to even begin to blog about a safari WITHOUT posting pictures because it’s so much about what you see.

I will tell you that Gibson drove the minivan. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned Gibson. He is our 50-something-year-old stoic maniacal Ugandan driver for the whole two weeks. Paul wishes a Hollywood casting company could get ahold of him. He'd play the same role. In every T.V. show the credits would read, "Gibson as Himself". Let’s talk about his driving skills for a moment. I think he has superhero powers. He can drive between two cars with exactly one inch of wiggle room on each side (at 60 mph). I know because I have had to pull my elbow in the car to avoid clothes-lining a motorcyclist.

By the way, there are two types of cars here: bodas (motorcycles) and Toyota minivans from the eighties (taxis). There are more motorcycles than cars, and entire families will pile deep (and two high) on one motorcycle. I have seen a family of five on one. And what’s a helmet?

Anyway, we were stoked that instead of taking a safari jeep into the wilds of Africa, we were taking a MINIVAN! I mean, really, who gets to say that? “We went looking for lions in a minivan!” Yes, the minivan with over 200,000 miles on it that overheated twice on the way to the safari!

But the cooler part is that our Indy 500 retiree drove the vehicle. Gibson drove, and the tour guide rode shotgun. And while we're on the topic, our tourguide riding shotgun also held a shotgun. Or a tranquilizer gun in the shape of a rifle. Or maybe it was a rifle. All I know is that if we had to go to the bathroom during any part of the tour, he had to come with us with his shoulder strap gat, which should tell you that squatting in Python neighborhood is a very compromising position.

We listened to the guide's random animal facts for about 15 minutes and then we climbed up on the roof of the van to take some pictures. The view was incredible. Suddenly we were like, “Oh my gosh, we have to stay up here!” So we hung on tight and rode atop the luggage rack for the whole safari. The luggage rack has a nice 4-inch rim around the perimeter, and Abbey pointed out, so well-timed as we were driving towards a lion, “Hey, the luggage rack kind of looks like a dinner plate, doesn’t it?”

Oh, and yes, I said LION! We saw a freaking LION! How awesome is that. It was even more awesome when Gibson went off-roading in the soccer mom vehicle TOWARDS the creature. Here, kitty, kitty. Room service! Here’s a platter of humans. I was thinking, “Huh. So if she starts walking our way, what exactly is our plan? Do we roll up our air windows?” Shortly after we cut the engine, an antelope came running through the field, and for a moment, it looked like we were going to see some live Discovery Channel footage with all the carnage. The huge cat stood up, and got in attacking position. Picture your little cat at home getting ready to pounce on a roll of yarn, only bigger and FOR REAL. She even had the little playful tail flick. She didn’t even look hungry. She was probably thinking, “Should I attack this antelope just because it’s so stupid to run right in front of me?” Then she decided, “Eh, too much work,” and turned 180 degrees and looked exactly at us. It was simultaneously the coolest and most terrifying moment of the safari.

Jeami stayed behind and had a relaxing morning while we went on our safari. When Paul hopped in the car, he said, “Jeami has only one request. If we do have to get out of the car on the game trail to use the bathroom, please stay close to the car because there HAS been an incident here of someone getting trampled by an elephant.”

I said, “Oh my gosh, what a story for your funeral!”

Brooke said, “What a funeral!” And it was downhill from there.

Paul said, “You could have a flat casket.”

“And serve pancakes,” Brooke added.

“I was thinking animal crackers,” Paul countered.

“With all the cameras that were present,” I said, “I’m sure you could have a slide show of the event.”

“You’d get buried in a trunk,” Paul said. At this, we groaned, which only serves to bait Paul. “And everybody would shake their heads and say, ‘Tusk, tusk.’”

“But they’d all remember you,” Brooke said.

“Yeah, but I think the whole affair would be a circus,” Paul said.

Thanks, folks. Tip your waiters.

It amazed us that many of the animals would freeze and stare at us as we drove by, as if they didn’t see safari tours every day of their lives. Many of them looked at us like “WTF?” The great part is that they would freak out, then slowly calm down, then return to grazing. Then they’d think, “This isn’t so smart,” so they’d run up ahead but still along the game trail. So eventually we’d drive up to them again, and they’d repeat the whole process as if it was brand new: WTF, freak out, slowly calm down, graze again, spontaneously run away. None of them had a look like, “Wait a sec. Something’s familiar here.”

By the way, the wildlife is not only on the game trails, as I discovered last night trying to remember Jeami and Paul’s room number. Now in Africa, there are bats everywhere. It’s a given. They’re like houseflies in America. But you always figure their radar is in working order. I have learned the hard way that this is not always the case. A bat thought it was entering a cave when in fact, it was just my mouth hanging wide open as I squinted in the dark at the door numbers. I spit as if a gnat had landed on my tongue, because I had never practiced the spitting technique for when a fistful of fur demands entry through your lips. I continued spitting long after the transaction, but I must say it was a fantastic breeding of gross and spectacular. Was it Edward?

And there’s my teen allusion for the night.

Conversation bit (regarding the incident)

Me: I like bats. They’re cool creatures. I just don’t want one flying in my mouth.
Brooke: A couple of preventative options there.

Oh, the birds were neat too. There were 451 different species of birds out there. I will tell you more when I post the pics next week, but for now I must go to bed. I spent 8 hours on the road today, and the bed is calling me.

Funniest dialogue of the day that was not intended to be funny:

Me: Do you know where my machete is?
Brooke: Yes, it’s in the bag with all the kids’ clothes for the orphanage.