I’m supposed to be on safari now, filing my “OnSafari” reports back to you. Neither Kathleen or I can remember a March in our past when I wasn’t in Africa writing diaries before blogs, and try as I have with the overwhelming work cleaning up the mess of mass cancellations, I just can’t shake thinking I’m on safari.
Last night as I switched off the last dim light by my bed and settled into the comfortable mattress to think myself to sleep by preparing the morning game drive, I knew how important the night sounds on the veld were to my life.
The dishwasher swooned and bubbled unnaturally incessantly in the kitchen. The heat went on and off with a buzz and rattle. And the dog snored.
As usual I woke before anyone else. This was necessary clear-the-head time as I would sit by my tent flaps doing some yoga looking over the veld or into the nearer forest pregnant with activity. I’d listen carefully to the first birds for any indication of something unusual.
This morning I went immediately into the kitchen and kicked the dishwasher, and yes, it was already dead. I looked mournfully through the excellently insulated patio door into the forest behind our house. Still dark and almost freezing, I heard nothing so instructed Alexa to play public radio.
I settled into the living room carpet for the yoga, listening to terrifying news instead of crested francolin. Often I got so absorbed listening to the birds on safari that I forgot the time. Ditto, now. I had to be at The Pig at 7 a.m.! The “Senior Hour” was both a privilege and a curse of guilt.
I usually walk slowly from my tent to breakfast letting the sun bake my face and staring at the sand paths for spoor. There’s usually always hyaena, curious and stupid creatures captured by the treasure trove of smells that sink onto a safari camp in the still of night.
I flipped the light on the breakfast nook expecting by habit to see a roach or ant or something scurrying on the tile floor, but I’d forgotten that had all ended with Exact Pest. I scoured the walls for moths or Asian beatles or anything that moved. Tommy was too good.
On safari I normally get into the breakfast tent after most others are there, because I learned long ago that the amount of food available to safari travelers is ridiculous and probably contributes to their tummy ailments. This was actually the first moment this morning I reflected on safari, as I enjoyed a single half grapefruit and cup of tea. Asking for a single half grapefruit and a cup of tea from my tent staff makes them run at me with medicines.
I usually bring my bag with binocs and sling it into Tumaini’s car long before others end breakfast, so we can talk about the morning plan. “Mambo bwana! Vipi! Habari ya usiku!” God I miss speaking Swahili, and I know how bad I speak it but it’s so vibrant, rhythmic and uplifting. I stood in the door to the garage wondering if I’d forget it, now.
Finally everyone arrives so excited and talkative! Everyone’s laughing or talking with my guys and rearranging snacks and bandanas and cameras and phones and chargers as if they’re about to begin a mission to Mars. It’s wonderful to watch!
I pressed the garage door opener. The foldable steel crept upwards like a tank resetting its sites. A dull morning flowed into the cold room as I inched into the driver’s seat, having carefully laid on the passenger’s seat the rubber gloves, my wallet, my phone and the grocery list.
I never check the time when we head off on the morning game drive. The sun cuts the horizon between 6:30-6:45a year round on the equator, and that’s good enough for me. Now in my automobile capsule as I turned the key, my phone squeaked that it was 6:40a, the dashboard said it was 6:40a and Iowa Public Radio said it was 6:41a.
On safari I see all sorts of things before camp is even out of view: gazelle all over the place, raptors circling in the distance, maybe an ele far away on the road. Today I pulled the car out of the garage onto a vacant and lonely street.