By Marilyn Karr
One evening while jotting down some notes for another article for the Tillamook County Pioneer, I burst out loud with laughter as I reminisce on a most memorable night. Perhaps the most memorable night of my life.
It is 2012. I am on a tour of Tanzania, my first of eight journeys in eight years to Africa. While riding in the open vehicle during daylight, we watch the wild animals in their natural habitat.
We view two giraffes necking. In their attempt for dominance, they bash one another with their skulls. Atop each male’s head is a pair of ossicones, which was cartilage that now turns into bone. These 500-pound swinging necks can puncture the opponent’s skin, maim him, even cause death.
Thankfully, these two young giraffes are still in the practicing mode. After about 45 minutes, they walk off together as if they are best friends.
As we watch a family of elephants wallow, roll and lollygag in a mud pot, I think it must be a form of freedom and camaraderie as well as a refreshing, cooling respite from the hot sun. When babes slip and slide, their mothers and aunties carefully lift them onto their feet, so they can again continue their frolicking antics.
I find watching the matriarchal family a life lesson. When another family approaches the muck, the first family gathers up their babes and youngsters and walk away, so the newcomers can enjoy their turn. And this continues from one family to the next, over and over.
I never knew female lions hang out in trees. Spread eagle across the limbs with their legs hanging down, these “sisters” appear to be sleeping. But, do they rest rather than sleep? Most likely, they rest. The creche below and around the trunk of the tree is quite full with their babes. Kind of their girls’ day to hang out together.
Early one evening, the magnanimously, large sky opens up. White lightening crisscrosses in the sky and bolts to the parched earth. Raindrops the size of ping pong balls strike the ground. The thunderous roar echoes throughout my being. A storm unlike any I’ve witnessed.
A little later while we eat dinner in our dining tent, we watch a herd of elephants enter our compound.
I might mention that I reported to the staff when I first ever entered my tent that the portion below the door does not fasten. I certainly don’t want any critters getting inside.
It’s getting late and with an early safari drive tomorrow, I announce, “I think I’ll head for my tent.” “Someone must escort you,” a staff member states.
As I bend over at my tent’s vestibule to remove my hiking boots, the escort says, “I see something. I need to find a club.” “Should I stop taking my boots off? I stutter while stooped in a vulnerable position. “No, its alright.”
He pounds a limb onto the floor of the vestibule just inches from the open area at the bottom of the door. It’s a pink snake. He calls him a sand snake. “It is harmless,” he says as he tosses him to other side of the dirt pathway. “That’s good,” I almost inaudibly respond in my still-reclining head-to-foot posture.
Now I am in for the night. There is no leaving. In front of my tent, a metal stake with a lantern supposedly warns the wild animals from entering or tearing into my little abode – my home away from home.
I open the shades so I can hear the night sounds and smell the night aromas.
All is quiet – until the elephants at the side of the tent nearest my head begin to energetically pull up the grass. What goes in must come out, and their passing gas aroma permeates the tent. Ahhhh, nature’s fragrance.
Something stirs me during the night. I look out the window into total blackness. The only sound I hear is the roar of a lion.
Being an early riser, I shower and dress before daybreak, but I must not head to the dining tent for coffee until daylight. Supposedly, the animals disperse by then.
I slowly open my tent zipper. A mass of matter lies next to the opening. It’s afterbirth. A zebra gave birth at my door.
At breakfast I learn what the noise was that awakened me. The couple in the next tent also heard the noise. Thinking her husband fell over something, she says, ‘Are you alright, dear?’ ‘I’m just lying next to you,’ he replies. They blow their whistle to call for help, but no one arrives. This morning they observe what caused the commotion. An elephant pushed over a tree between our tents.
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