Badly Written Safari Story #1: “A Tale of Gore and Lions Galore”

The winter sun had just begun to rise, illuminating the cold bush morning with the thinnest promise of golden warmth, when we spotted the first vulture. All eyes followed his trajectory into the distance where he joined his brethren… circling… circling… circling. We turned to follow – Frank scouting ahead from the Landcruiser’s tracking seat while James navigated the camps rutted and dusty roads. More vultures appeared, circling the skies or perched in the tops of leadwood trees, waiting and watching, waiting and watching. We circled the circling vultures, twisting, turning and doubling back along the track. Senses straining, Frank searched for signs of whatever event the vultures had gathered for… tracks of predator… tracks of prey… drops of blood… bits of fur… the scent of death. He found nothing.

We returned to our camp without satisfaction and gathered on the viewing deck to soak in the silent beauty of the bush below. Nursing our disappointment on warm sunshine and cold beer… our drowsy meditations gave way to wonder as one giraffe after another materialized near the waterhole. Seven in total…followed by a herd of impalas and a family of warthogs. The unmuted sounds of their afternoon activities lifted up and carried across the bush… so near and so clear we could hear every crunch and every munch… the running hooves and the shuffling leaves. As the afternoon moved on, the animals receded deeper into the bush and we loaded back into the Landcruiser to repeat the morning’s circumambulations… searching as the vultures circled.

We returned to our camp without satisfaction and gathered on the viewing deck to soak in the silent beauty of the bush below. Nursing our disappointment on warm sunshine and cold beer… our drowsy meditations gave way to wonder as one giraffe after another materialized near the waterhole. Seven in total… followed by a herd of impalas and a family of warthogs. The unmuted sounds of their afternoon activities lifted up and carried across the bush… so near and so clear we could hear every crunch and every munch… the running hooves and the shuffling leaves. As the afternoon moved on, the animals receded deeper into the bush and we loaded back into the Landcruiser to repeat the morning’s circumambulations… searching as the vultures circled.

Frank noticed it first – signaled a pause, lifted his head and… there is was… the stench of death. Guided by the increasingly pungent odor, James headed off-road, moving slowly over boulders, crushing bushes and branches as we approached the source. Drawn by the astoundingly audible buzz of a million flies… our attention landed upon the carcass of a full-sized giraffe… splayed out on the ground… seemingly intact. Slack jawed with awe… we stared at the scene, only marginally aware of the golden movement in the golden grass… Lions… Lions all around us. Seven all. The Takazile pride. Satiated and slow with bloody maws and distended bellies… intoxicated with the organ rich blood and guts of the fallen giraffe.

Frank noticed it first – signaled a pause, lifted his head and… there is was… the stench of death. Guided by the increasingly pungent odor, James headed off-road, moving slowly over boulders, crushing bushes and branches as we approached the source. Drawn by the astoundingly audible buzz of a million flies… our attention landed upon the carcass of a full-sized giraffe …splayed out on the ground…seemingly intact. Slack jawed with awe… we stared at the scene, only marginally aware of the golden movement in the golden grass… Lions… Lions all around us. Seven all. The Takazile pride. Satiated and slow with bloody maws and distended bellies… intoxicated with the organ rich blood and guts of the fallen giraffe.

As dusk approached we moved on, eventually heading back to camp where we settled into bed for the night – slightly anxious that dreams of dancing dead giraffes might haunt our dreams – we shouldn’t have worried. We did not dream. We did not sleep. Instead, we listened to the soundtrack of an African drama unfolding in the dark of night. It started with hyenas – nocturnal creatures who discovered late in the day that they were second in line for a fine dinner of mostly fresh giraffe. The good news was broadcast across the bush as the local hyena population headed toward the kill site. Unfortunately, this vocal enthusiasm caught the attention of a neighboring coalition of male lions who apparently decided to head over and check things out. Now it just so happens that our camp was located smack in between the male lions and the Takazile’s kill. So, there we were… and there we sat… eyes wide in the black of night… listening to the hyenas, listening to the lions. Hearing them move through the bush… so close, so close, so close.

By dawn, we were once again driving up under the ironwood trees, anxious to see how the midnight drama had played out. The Takazile were gone. The hyenas were gone. The giraffe (now nothing more than an assortment of bits and pieces) was being chewed and chomped by the new lion coalition. Jackals loitered around the perimeter daring each other to get closer and closer. And the vultures had moved from the trees to the ground confident that soon they would get what they came for.



Cheers

Julia

hiking

 

 

 

 

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