Hakuna Matata

When I was little, my family went to Yellowstone National Park. I was excited to see Old Faithful and had made sure my camera had a new roll of film in it. I have 24 chances to capture the magic of the infamous geyser. If you don’t know, it’s a thermal geyser that is erupted faithfully every 90 minutes or so for years and years. We had waited patiently and the water began to spray up a bit and I got so excited. I started snapping pictures even though my mom warned me that it would be bigger and better if I could just wait. Well, the beginning of it was so impressive to me that I continued to try and capture what I was witnessing. Well, then it erupted for real – the shooting sulphuric steaming water shot up over a hundred feet in the air. I was shocked at its magnificence. But, of course, when it erupted for real in all its glory, I had run out of film.

I was reminded of this story today. We are in a town very close to Queen Elizabeth National Park and both of us have always wanted to see an elephant and a lion in the wild. We had both seen other animals in the wild on previous trips to East Africa, but these two animals eluded us. We thought we should try again to see these animals while we’re here and just so close. We knew that bicycles are not allowed in the park because it’s too dangerous so we talked to Dorothy, our hotel hostess (that we ‘bought dinner’ for last night and seen in a picture below) and she had a friend who had a friend who was willing to drive us into the park today to have a look around. Jackson picked us up at 6:30 this morning and took us out in his van that had a top that popped up. He was delightful company with an easy laugh and a good eye for seeing animals. His driving skills were on fire (he even helped another car out of the deep mud) and he was very kind.

Just like when I saw Old Faithful so many years ago, I got overly excited when I saw my first elephant and his buddy. I snapped a lot of pictures right away even though they weren’t that close and there were only two. Well, by the end of the day, I had seen too many elephants to count and doing such cool things as scratching themselves on trees, drinking and throwing water on themselves and reaching high into the trees to gather leaves with their trunks. Thank goodness for digital pictures so I could snap away to my heart’s content and not worry about running out of film.

About thirty minutes after seeing the first elephants, we saw a lioness. She had just eaten a kob and was lazily licking her paws and rubbing her face to clean up. I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing. I’m the kind of person that gets excited to see any kind of animal in the wild, be it bear, deer, elk, moose, whatever! So to see what I saw today, I just had to ask myself, “Who’s life is this that I am in Africa with my best friend and seeing such amazing things?” My heart swelled with gratitude. I think my feelings were magnified when I saw two teenagers in the backseat of another vehicle, one with ear buds in, trying to sleep and his sister curled up looking totally bored. It struck us as so funny for some reason (teens are the same around the world) and we watched them almost as much as we watched the lion. We saw not only so many elephants and that lion, but also cape buffalo, kob (the national animal of Uganda), water bucks, crocodiles, hippos, warthogs, meerkats, various birds including snake eagles, fish eagles, vultures, storks, king fishers, pelicans, cranes, spoonbills, egrets, and get this… a leopard in a tree. I’m not even lying.

After having such an excellent day, we returned to our room to make oatmeal, mashed potatoes and ramen for dinner. Yum yum. Those carbs should get us to Rubirizi tomorrow and the best part is that we get to ride along the border of the park and just might get to see some of those amazing creatures again.

On the picture of the map below, John marked the location of the lion (dot) and you can see that the road is actually pretty close. According to the park attendant, a motorcyclist was surrounded by a number of lions yesterday and only survived because another vehicle came along. John is carrying all the gear and I am getting faster, so I should be good.