On our third day, we decided to opt for a special drive: the Cheetah Walk. This was the only drive where we had a different guide. Going into this, we thought that we’d go for a stroll on a road with a cheetah. We were a tad mistaken. The cheetah walk meant tracking the cheetah with a radio collar. Then we leave the jeep to hike to where the cheetah is. Then we hang out and follow the cheetah if he or she decides to go places. Craziness! As a rule, you never left the vehicle. So this was a completely new experience for us!
We set off for our afternoon drive. Just outside the gates of the lodge, there was a small colony of meerkats. Three of them. They were so adorable. They came out to check out the truck. At different points, all three of them ended up underneath the parked truck, which was a bit nerve-wracking. One of them had been hand reared so he was very comfortable with humans. He rubbed himself against the tire of the truck. Then he started to dig where the truck was dripping water. So cute. The rangers were trying to catch them to bring them back into the conservation area set aside for them. They explained that there weren’t enough meerkats for them to survive by themselves.
Then we were off to see the rhinos. They can’t put tracking collars on the rhinos since poachers can use the frequency to hunt them. Horrible. So we had to hope that we could find one of them at a favorite haunt. As we were driving by another watering hole, my friend shouted, “There he is.” She had turned around and had seen this incredible brown colored beast grazing. It was a black rhino covered in mud. We kept our distance from him (all the guides knew the comfort level of all the animals). But the rhino decided to trot off into the bush. I feel incredibly lucky to have seen a rhino in the wild. I fear that this might be something that I tell my grandchildren about. I hope I’m wrong but I fear that the economics aren’t good in favor of the rhino.
Also, my friend taught me an important lesson: look to your left and right and behind you when on safari. You will catch some amazing things. That’s how she found the rhino.
After our incredible rhino sighting, we drove up to another small mountain/large hill. Over in the distance, we could see a very nasty thunderstorm coming across the park. It was super exciting to see the dark clouds rolling in and see the rain in the distance. Lightening would occasionally strike, sometimes three times at once! There we heard stories about how they once found the leopard there. The trick with the leopard is to walk away slowly, ignoring it, but you never turn your back. That’s how you survive. Not exactly the most reassuring thing to hear!
Then it was time to return to base camp and deal with the storm. As we descended the rocky outcropping, our friend spotted little eyes from a hole. Another aardwolf! I think it was new for the rangers too! These tiny black eyes and big ears peaked from the hole. So cute. We continued our descent. It started to rain a bit as we began to return to the lodge.
In the midst of it, we stumbled upon Goldie again, sitting in the middle of an open area, no cover from the thunderstorm. He was a little bit more alert this time but not by much. We drove around him, caught some magnificent yawns. Then it was time to face the storm. We all got prepped, positioned our blankets and scarves.
Then the storm came upon us. It was a doozy. It rained so hard that the drops stung when they hit us. My fiancé and I used our hats as shields to block the rain hitting our faces. It actually worked rather well. Then the rain became less painful. That’s when we noticed that all the roads were now effectively rivers. This was the desert, so there wasn’t a lot of water beforehand….For the first time in my life, I was really concerned the jeep was going to stall and we were going to have to be rescued from the bush. But Mrs. Jones kept her reputation. Uly and Mrs. Jones got us home safe and sound. It was really remarkable!
I got my first African thunderstorm. Woohoo!
That’s all for now!
On our second day, our morning drive was initially filled with birds. We had companions in the jeep who were bona fide birdwatchers. We slowed down a little bit and took a longer time to look at the birds. At one point, we came across storks wading in a pond early in the morning. It was simply magnificent watching them. So idyllic.
After a few hours of birding, it became all about big cats. One of the rangers managed to track down two lionesses hidden in the bush. It was the most incredible experience. Uly would just plow through bushes and past trees so we could get to them. The two of them were just lying under a shady tree. They are generally cranky and, like Stompy, also they charge the trucks occasionally. They did growl a few times at us, which made my heart race. Thankfully, nothing more happened. One of the lionesses was named “Yoda”. Apparently, many of the animals were named after Star Wars characters, which is pretty cool.
Then we got word that the male lion of the pair was spotted. So we drove to find him. Like the other two lionesses, he was lying underneath a tree. He barely acknowledged us. So sleepy. But he was huge! His paws were enormous.
Then we got word that cheetahs were spotted. So we were off further into the bush to find them. It was incredible how the terrain changed so much. We’d go from bushes and trees with beige soil to just bushes with red soil, and so on. It felt that traveling five minutes in any direction would change the landscape. So neat.
We came across the two cheetahs, also lazing about in the shade. I had heard that big cats spend a lot of time resting about. I fell in love with these cheetahs. They are such beautiful animals. One of them kept rolling in the opposite direction from the camera. Shy!
The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent lounging on the deck of the restaurant facing the watering hole. The temperature was perfect; I was shaded and curled up with my best book. During that time, I listened to the hippos making their grunts. They even walked out of the water during the hottest time and grazed on land. It was amazing to watch a small herd of hippos wander about, bobbing their heads as they walked.
And then I finally saw the wild dogs. I was lazily reading when I had this feeling. I grabbed my binoculars and looked to see a whole pack of wild dogs hanging out on a small rocky outcropping. There were at least a dozen of them. Then they wandered across the plains and disappeared into the bush. I counted fourteen of them. A while later, I saw them running back from the bush back to the outcropping. It was so neat to see these relations of our dogs.
That’s all for now! We’ll talk about our afternoon drive tomorrow!
We went out on our first drive at Erindi. It was absolutely incredible. It was a bit of an adjustment since we had to wake up rather early for the 6:30 drive. We quickly ate some food at 6:00am, watched the sunrise up over the watering hole at 6:15, and were ready in the jeep by 6:30. The idea was to enjoy the cool morning before the heat really took over in the afternoon.
After many weeks of anticipation… I’m going to talk about our amazing African Safari. Yes, back in January, my fiance and I went with two of our friends to Erindi Private Game Reserve in Namibia.
So to continue the theme of awesome things in Chicago, I’m going to talk about three things going on right now. You can still catch them…if you go quickly!
The first is the Court Theater production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot directed by Ron Oj Parson. It’s all African American cast, an idea that had ruminated with the director and some of the actors for years. It’s fantastic. August Wilson and Allen Gilmore as Gogo and Didi were magnificent. I’d seen August Wilson before in Seven Guitars; it was such a pleasure to see him again. Anthony Lee Irons was sublime as Lucky or Pig. (Next line is a spoiler.) I always feel such pleasure when he goes from mute silence to thinking. It’s a magnificent moment in theater.
Waiting for Godot has to be one of my favorite plays. I’ve now seen it four times, the most for any play even Shakepseare. I’ve even put together my ideal cast. Nathan Lane as Didi, August Wilson as Gogo, John Goodman as Pozzo, and Anthony Lee Irons as Lucky. This production was better than the famous Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan show from 2013. Stewart and McKellan just weren’t convincing as Didi and Gogo. Alas.
The all African American cast gave it new layered meanings. It added some more tension with the already painful sequences between Pozzo and his slave Lucky. The director aptly writes in the Director’s note, “In its “absurd” way, this play is about the waiting we all do in life—waiting for life to resolve, waiting for love, waiting for peace, waiting for heaven, waiting for an answer, waiting for freedom, waiting for justice, waiting for change…Waiting…for Godot.” Goodness, it’s so good that it hurts.
Show ends February 15th.
The second show is the recently released documentary Red Army at the Music Box. It’s about the Soviet hockey program. I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I do have a fascination with Soviet Union cultural histories (or generally any cultural histories under socialist/communist regimes). Also, I do have a fondness for hockey. It focuses largely on famous hockey player Slava Fetisov, whose list of awards and medals covered the entire movie screen. It’s such a compelling story of the apparatus that supported these hockey players to become the best in the world.
You get the good and the bad. There’s a wonderful moment when the documentarian asks Slava Fetisov, “How was your first Olympics?” Fetisov’s face immediately falls. That Olympics was the famous “Miracle on Ice.” And you feel for these guys when they lost. I felt that it was an interesting critique of Soviet society. These men were playing hockey as a team for their country. Of course, Soviet society was repressive; one man wasn’t allowed to see his dying father. But teamwork was drilled into these men. Fetisov talks about his unhappiness with Soviet policies but he never chooses to defect. It’s amazing to see how much loyalty and pride he has to this day.
I don’t know how long it will be in theaters so check it out soon.
Last but not least, I just wanted to let you guys know that my favorite event in Chicago is coming up. The 55th annual University of Chicago Folk Festival is this weekend. Friday through Sunday nights, there will be incredible concerts of folk musicians from all over the country (and sometimes international). This was where I heard Irish music for the first time and learned that I really like Bluegrass. During the day on Saturday and Sunday, there are a series of workshops that cover a variety of topics from guitar theory, dance music, to Russian choral singing. The workshops are free and the concerts are affordable so consider checking them out.
That’s all for now!