Sunday, January 3, 2010

Into the Wild, and the Hippo Pool

Once again we were waking up before the sun. We partnered off and boarded our Mocorros and headed out to Chief Island in the delta. There our guides took us on foot into the wild. We were all told some vital safety tips. Basically they go as follows: If you see an animal, take your clothes off, run really fast, and climb a tree.

Maybe I should explain that more. Run really fast, cause they want to make you dead – take your shirt off, and put it on a tree so they think that's you and go for it, climb a tree, cause they'll be at the bottom and eventually get bored.

There are some animals for whom this does not work though. The elephant, if you climb a tree, it will knock it down, and make you dead. Just take off your shirt, and run really fast. The lion – if you run, it will eat you up. Just stand still, hope for the best, try not to pee your pants. The Leopard, it can climb really well. They don't like to eat humans though. But, you know, maybe? Just pretend you didn't see it, and all should be well.

This was reassuring as we headed out. Also – it should be said that our guides advice different from the advice Chef and Raymond gave us. For elephants they say to stand tall, clap a lot, and if it charges, sit down in front of it. It will stop. Chef has done this. I trust Chef. Chef is wise; Chef is good. But – when everyone else is running...

On the walk we came across a herd of fifteen giraffes walking through the plains, eating whenever they came to some trees. Giraffes. I had seen so many giraffes by this point that it was hard to even care. But, they were in the wild now – so what's another fifty pictures? Dealing with all these when I get back home is going to take forever.

The giraffes had three zebras with them, and eventually they were joined by a wildebeest.

The girl who didn't like sand, all those days back, from the party bus (ugh... party bus... even in the middle of nowhere, there they were) turned back and said “I hate walking.” She goes to the desert, and hates sand, she goes on a nature walk, and hates walking. Good for her.

These would be the only animals we saw, however.

Other groups came across an elephant, only ten meters from them. Some were scared, but most excited. It's strange how different seeing an animal inside a truck, and on foot, can be. The illusion of safety is a good one.

As a fun fact, elephant poo makes a great fire starter, and the smell keeps a lot of animals away, because they care not to mess with elephant. It's mostly dried grass.

After the game walk we were met with breakfast. Chef had been cooking French toast all morning. This was another one of those weird cultural moments. The Canadians went straight for the syrup – eww gross! came the cries from the Europeans, and the Aussies. Eww gross? Why is putting syrup on French toast gross?

Then I saw what they did. The monsters – the beasts – the horror.

They grabbed the ketchup and spread it all over their toast. Ketchup! (Well, tomato sauce to the Aussies.) What the good god damn was going on here?! Oh they tried to explain it away, it's just egg and toast – you put ketchup on egg and toast. Well that may be true – but no... not French toast.

I had a hard time rationalizing why this should be different. But it just was. Still, I am not one to turn down an experience like this, so I had a piece with ketchup. It's not that it's bad – it's just... Well it's just not the same. It's like putting syrup on grilled cheese. Some people do it, but that's just not the experience I want to have with that piece of food.

After breakfast, when the argument of what belongs on what had ended, we gathered together to waste away the afternoon playing spoons (take a card, pass it, first to four of a kind grabs the spoon, others follow, those without spoons get a letter.) It should be noted that two people (Mitchel and Niki) lost at the same time, as two spoons were removed. The odds of this? Crazy. It should also be noted that I played a perfect game. I am blessed at this – sport – shall we say?

The pollers returned with beer. Those who ordered cider got nothing, as the store as sold out. No replacements. They were without. But Hamish and I had six each. Life was returning to normal. Now, it was off in the boats to the hippo pool.

I shared a boat with Niki, who had thus far been by herself. Hamish teamed with Amy, and all was well. Off we went. And waited. And waited. There would be hippos in this hippo pool, yes?

So much of the experience seemed to be a Disney ride. Polling through the reeds seemed as if we were on a rail, under the water, and waiting at the pond while the sun set, felt like just another part of the ride. When the sun was low, the evil genius laugh “Oh! Ho! Ho!” of the hippo was heard. Clapping brought it closer. And then it surfaced. It would yawn, opening its mouth – but few were ready for the shot. I took one image, and it looks almost fake. As if the hippo were just cloth stitched together. Were you to see it in a movie, you'd not believe it – you'd think it was 1980s technology, not even CGI special effects. Yet there it was. The next time it moved though, I was ready – shooting off thirty eight pictures in the few seconds it had its mouth open. Burst mode is the best mode.

If there was a prize for best lily picture ever taken, I do believe that I would have won it. Sure I took a number as the sun set, waiting for the hippo to show, but it was through that that I ended up with the best shots. Again though, I'll have to sift through all of the images later to pick the best. So many pictures have been taken. So very very many.

Back at camp our guides sang to us. One song in particular stuck out, and became stuck in all of our heads:

Beautiful Delta
Beautiful Delta
[delta, I shall... never forget.]

Beautiful Delta (both)

Beautiful *insert word*
[beautiful *insert word*]

Beautiful *insert word*
[*insert word* I shall... never forget.]

Beautiful *insert word* (both)

This song can pretty much go on forever. Forever ever? Forever ever!

A call was then made for everyone to sing songs from their home country, and it was now that I realized that I don't know any traditional Canadian songs. I'm sure the east coasters have a number, but, all I could think of was this land is your land, through which I got through half the first line. Then I just gave up and sung the Hockey Night in Canada song.

The National Anthem also came to light, and then I helped the Americans with their own. But – to prove us all fools, Hamish sung two Scottish songs, proving himself to be the best:
Loch Loman, and ... something about Heather. And how it kept Scotland from being invaded. A great song – that I completely forget now. The internet will help me to remember.

Bohemian Rhapsody and Yellow Submarine might also have been sung. As Christoph would have said: Is possible.

Once more to the bush toilet.


  1. Ketchup?! I will admit that I literally gasped in horror. Also, Log Driver's Waltz would have been a good one to sing.

  2. i actually did sing that - that being the only canadian song i could think of.


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