Earth Traveler

Did I Ever Tell You about My Trip to Africa Pt.4

Posted May 6th, 2010

Traveling to Hwange

The next day was a travel day. By van. ROAD TRIP! We were headed to the Hwange National Park for the safari portion of our trip. Also this would be another rest day for me.

At some point after we left Vic Falls we wound up in a tiny airport. I don’t remember where or even why. Maybe it was on this drive to Hwange. Maybe we flew out of there after the safari stuff. I only mention it now because I think it’s funny that I can’t remember what the hell about it.

At some point we wound up at a resort in Hwange. Just so you know, I really like saying Hwange. So you’re going to hear me say Hwange just about as often as I can fit Hwange into any of this.

We stayed one night at one resort because there was some problem with the resort we were supposed to be at. I didn’t care. As long as there was a bed and the windows closed. After a very strange dinner in an almost campground-like eating area we were all whisked off in safari trucks as there had been a lion sighting nearby. Lions are a big deal to safari guides. Because they are a big deal to tourists. By this time we had seen plenty of zebras, giraffes, impala and wildebeests, but none of the Big Five.

In Africa the goal of a safari is to see one or more of the Big Five: elephants, lions, rhinos, buffalo, leopards. We knew we weren’t going to see any rhinos because there ain’t none in that part of Africa.

About 15 minutes away from the resort we saw it: a lioness. It was actually pretty awesome. But the one problem with these and every other lion sighting is that it does not stay a secret. There were a dozen other safari trucks nearby enjoying this sighting. It’s not like I need my lion sightings to be a private affair, but there is something lost in the moment when there’s a herd of trucks.

Hwange Safari Day 1

The next morning we set out for our first actual safari trip. And while we were away our stuff was being moved to the other resort.

So this is how the touristy safaris work: there’s a few major watering holes and since all the animals need water, the safaris are basically just trips to and from these watering holes. On regular roads. So it’s not really that adventurous and by that I mean that it’s pretty safe. Which is fine by me. I was already dealing with Deva. I didn’t need anything else trying to kill me.

First we came across a small herd of elephants. I mean we were RIGHT next to them. So close that we were ordered to be quiet by the guide so that we did not provoke them into charging us. There was some part of this instruction that Mick didn’t quite understand and he kept yammering away until one of the elephants started to move towards us. He quieted down after our choir of “shush.”

It was right after that that I saw it. A huge elephant penis. Ai carumba! This thing was at least two feet long. I whispered a joke: “We’re going to need a bigger truck.” Then I grabbed Deva’s camera and zoomed in for the close up shot. Just a glorious and magnificent display of nature.

We had to wait for the elephants to leave before we could move on. So they didn’t freak out and charge us – or knock us out with their giant penises.

We moved on to one of the smaller watering holes and waiting for us there was a giant herd of water buffalo. Bam. Three of the Big Five in one 24-hour period. Nice. We had to stay on the other side of the watering hole from the herd since water buffalo are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. And a whole herd would thereby be a LOT of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Actually water buffalo are the only mammals in Africa that will not turn away from charging you if you charge right at it. So we were all totally fine with our view from across the watering hole.

From there we headed out to the main watering hole. Hwange had recently had about a month of rain so that meant there were actually a lot of tiny water sources for the animals and they did not HAVE TO go to the huge (and manmade, I might add) watering holes. So that meant that there weren’t as many animal sightings as there would normally be.

On our way, we were sidetracked by the news that came over the radio: lions. When we got there we saw that there were two lionesses and they were on the hunt. ON THE HUNT! Come on!

Two nearby zebras had no idea the lionesses were closing in. However, the zebras were quite aware of the 15 safari trucks gathered nearby and soon fled. I’m pretty sure I saw one of the lionesses look at us and roll its eyes.

We headed back to our new resort. This place was pretty sweet. Each room was built into and around its own tree. Deva and her grandmother got one tree house and the brothers and I got a huge tree house with 4 beds and room for a few more.

And then the banana pie incident happened.

Okay, so here’s what happened. As I mentioned, Deva was quite adamant about me not eating any dessert on this entire trip. So I didn’t. There was no reason to piss her off more than she already was and I hadn’t even done anything wrong.

So we were eating a delightful meal at the tree house resort and then out comes dessert. Banana pie. I’d never had that before and as my closer friends know I LOVE banana-related desserts. Banana splits, banana cream pies, banana Fruit-A-Freeze, Chunky Monkey ice cream. LOVE THEM! Deva may or may not have known this. In hindsight it’s hard to remember whether she actually paid any attention to the little things I enjoyed so much, like dessert, music, movies or fidelity.

So there’s 15 people at these dinner tables and 14 of them are enjoying what I was told was just the most deliciousy dessert ever. I watched as people took seconds and even thirds. But I had promised Deva I wouldn’t and I knew how important promises were to her – well, at least promises that others made to her.

But the promise I made to her was in private and her brothers had no idea why the hell I would pass on this dessert that was sending people to heightened states of awareness. So Mick took a slice and put it in front of me and told me I had to eat it.

So I did. And it was spectacular. Maybe it was so amazing because it was sort of forbidden fruit. Or maybe I just love banana desserts. Deva stared daggers at me.

Fuck her. I ate the whole thing. And Deva didn’t talk to me the rest of the night. But I had gotten used to that. God forbid I should actually enjoy myself on this trip.

Hwange Safari Day 2

The next day, we set out for some more safari action. We headed to the main watering hole again. In addition to the same animals we already saw, there were ostriches and other wild birds, and a crocodile that I’m pretty sure was put there by the park rangers so that tourists could see a crocodile.

We had already seen lionesses, but on this day we saw a male lion. Damn, he was cool. Just sitting in the tall grass chilling, waiting for his bitches to bring him his food. He didn’t do anything. He just sat there. Fascinating.

Moving on from there, we stopped on one of the roads and the guide pointed into some bushes and said there were lion cubs. I couldn’t see them. The guide passed around some binoculars and when they got to me, I still couldn’t see these cubs. After 15 minutes everyone in the truck was starting to get pissed at me because I couldn’t see the cubs. And I was hogging the binoculars. But after another five minutes of looking and getting instructed by everyone on the truck as to where the cubs were, I finally saw them: adorable.

I can’t speak for everyone who has ever been on safari (mainly for legal reasons) but safari’ing is a strange and wonderful experience. You see a lot of the same things over and over and they’re always interesting because they’re always doing something slightly different and there’s times where not much is happening and there’s times when you are within attack distance of a lion or within charging distance of a fully aroused elephant. I spent the whole time in a state of wonderment at it all and even as it was happening it felt so surreal.

It’s a lot like being in love. Except on safari, if things go bad, you can have your heart ACTUALLY ripped out of your chest.

Speaking of love, this is going to blow your mind. No, really, it is. After dinner that night we headed out on a night safari looking for leopards. That would have given us four of the Big Five. Deva and I wound up getting stuck sitting next to each other in the back row of the safari truck. It was a bit chilly so the guide handed out a few blankets and Deva and I had to share one.

For some reason unknown to me, even to this day, Deva was delightful that night. We were laughing and joking and sitting close and acting the way two people who love each other act. This was the girl I had fallen so deeply in love with. Beautiful, smart and hilarious. I spent the majority of my relationship with her hoping that this version of her would come around. And it seemed to make all the other stuff worth it.

I don’t know why her behavior changed so suddenly. Maybe she realized I was a great guy and she had fallen in love with me again – this time forever. Maybe she just got tired of being horrible. Or maybe it was just hormones and she was horny.

We actually started fooling around under the blanket. I KNOW! Crazy! While the rest of the truck was looking up in the trees for leopards, Deva and I were groping each other. Deva was actually pretty adventurous in that way. When she was ready to get to work, it didn’t matter much where (or with WHOM – ZING!)

We never did come across any leopards, so we headed back to the resort. About 15 minutes away from the resort, we had to stop messing around so that I could… um… calm down and be able to walk away from the truck without embarrassing myself.

Back at the resort, Deva joined me and her brothers in our tree house. It was the first time on the trip that she spent time with me by choice. I was elated. She was wonderful all over again: laughing and joking and being willing to sit near me. All four of us played card games for a couple hours and it was delightful.

When the brothers were ready to sleep, Deva didn’t want to go so she stayed and lay in bed with me and we whispered to each other. This was the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We started fooling around a bit under the covers but her brothers were in the room so if we were going to do anything more we were going to have to go to another room. Or the bathroom!

We snuck into the bathroom, and took off our clothes. The door to the bathroom didn’t lock so I had to brace my foot up against it so no one could get in. And then we made sweet, sweet love. For reals this time.

Afterwards, she went back to her tree house room. And I got into my bed. I remember thinking how relieved I was. She loved me. This trip had fixed what was broken. Everything was going to be different. I knew it.

What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic (idiot).

Leaving Hwange

The next day was a travel day – I think by plane, anyway that would make sense. We were leaving Hwange and headed off to visit somebody’s house that the grandmother knew. I don’t remember meeting anyone, so maybe we were just picking up or dropping off. I do remember Deva and I getting along quite well. Not quite sex-in-the-bathroom well, but that’s to be expected. In front of her grandmother, I would settle for random smiles, furtive glances and an occasional touch.

We checked back into the really nice hotel in Harare again and we were flying out the next day. So now was the time to buy all the souvenirs we wanted for ourselves, our friends and family. But we did not want a repeat of the mobbing incident we had crossing the street. So the hotel got us in a van and drove us to a market that would be a lot more tame.

When we got to the street-side market, Deva’s grandmother gave us money to buy souvenirs. Very cool. So we got mini hippos, monkeys, tribal drums, elephants – small enough to not be a burden in travel. Though it’s not like we were going to have to carry them around with us the whole trip, since we were leaving the next day.

Travel tip: Always buy souvenirs at the end of the trip. I learned this lesson when I went to Europe in my late teens with some friends. We bought so many souvenirs along the way that one of the other (smaller) guys asked me to carry his bag for him. Yeah, Sean Sorensen, I’m talking about you.

Deva wanted to buy this sort of tapestry/table cloth thing so we could hang it on our wall. See, she loves me and wants to be with me forever. Anyway, I tried to haggle with the “tapestry salesman” but Deva kept interrupting and saying we would pay. I told the salesman that there was a tapestry next door that was just as good and we would buy that if he didn’t lower the price. Deva insisted that this one tapestry was THE one she wanted. So we paid full price. Granted, it wasn’t my money. And we are talking about a difference of about 50 cents American. But it’s the principle.

Going Home

The next day we were off to the airport to begin our long journey home. I was still a bit sick and I was not looking forward to the high altitude effects on me. But I sure as hell wasn’t going to stay behind.

Deva informed me that when we landed in Amsterdam she would be going off to Denmark to spend more time with her grandmother. No problem. I would make sure her brothers got back to their parents okay and then I would gladly pick her up at the airport when she finally got home.

When we were in the Amsterdam airport a very strange thing happened. When Deva and her grandmother separated from me and the brothers and we were saying our good-byes, Deva and I got very close to each other. Her eyes teared up a little. And so did mine. Then we shook hands and she went on her way.

That’s right. We shook hands. No hug. No kiss. Even her brothers looked confused.

I knew then that it was all over. We had been together for over four years and she just was not in love with me. Not even a little bit.

Her brothers and I got on our plane and somewhere over the Arctic Circle our plane encountered the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. I have to think that it was the worst turbulence a plane could endure. I mean the wings were bending. BENDING! The plane kept dropping. People were freaking out. The stewardesses were hanging on for dear life.

I tried to comfort the brothers, but I was scared to death. I did the usual: “This happens all the time.” “I’ve been through worse.” But I wasn’t much help.

When we finally got through that mess, the stewardesses had a lot to clean up. Food and belongings all over the place. And the plane stank of vomit.

We finally landed in LA and made our way through customs. It was finally over. No more travel. No more malaria mosquitoes. No more deadly crocs, hippos and/or buffalo. I was almost relieved to be stuck in traffic on the way home.

The Aftermath

Deva came in about 10 days later. She had no turbulence on her flight and had even been bumped up to business class. Awesome for her.

We put the tapestry up as soon as she got back and gave all our friends and family their gifts.

About five weeks later, just after the new year, Deva left me. I actually didn’t know we had broken up until the next day when her friend came by to get her stuff. The next day she moved in with Doug (actual name). That lasted about a month. It turned out that the guy who had been making moves on an engaged girl was a much bigger douche bag than he had been letting on. (Please note that the name Doug is actually just a contraction of the words “DOUche” and “baG.”)

But I’ll never regret having gone on that trip to Africa. I actually still have that tapestry up on my wall. For serious! It’s a constant reminder to me of how strange and wonderful it is to travel to faraway lands and also just how horrible a girl can be if you let her.

It took me quite a while to get over Deva. Years, in fact. In hindsight she wasn’t quite as spectacular as I had made her out to be in my mind.

And since then a few more girls have lined up to kick my ass. But I never traveled with any of them. And after my trip to Africa, you can’t really blame me.

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