Monkeys hippos hyenas

23 October 2018

It was a super start to the day. Ian and I both woke early (in our separate beds on opposite sides of the room – that wasn’t the super part!!!) to the wind thrashing the tent and the morning light shining through the curtains. Cornelia, whose mattress was right by the door and curtains, slept on through as the wind lifted the curtains up and onto her bed and back again, as if they were breathing. Ian got up to find out why they were blowing and discovered that, although the door and panel either side was glass (and therefore wind proof), each end panel was just a mosquito net, and completely exposed to the wind! Anyway, it didn’t seem to trouble her.

Ian had his shower first. It is another outdoor shower, this time protected by a high screen, presumably to put off baboons and the like! In the meantime, Cornelia woke up and read her books to her Gang whilst I started packing all the clothes back into my (now dry) suitcase. Ian set to work clearing up the rest of the sugar that had spilled yesterday that I had not managed to collect, while Bugsy and I tested out the shower. It was lovely! Warm, with water splashing out from various holes in the rectangular pipe work acting as the shower head. We didn’t spend long though, conscious of saving water, and mosquitoes, and Cornelia was feeling cold in the wind, so we wrapped up and dashed inside to dry off and dress.

By then, Ian had more or less finished and we sat down for breakfast together, before saying goodbye to “Eagle” (our tent’s name) and Third Bridge and heading off along the crazy bumpy tracks to our next spot for the night.

As noon approached, the temperature was still hanging at 17 degrees, instead of the usual 40! Of course, we are still in shorts and t-shirts, but the locals are wrapped up snugly with sweatshirts. We arrived at Xanakaxa (pronounce the ‘x’s as ‘k’) and I made a quick sandwich lunch which Bugsy ate in the car, and Ian outside. Cornelia had just been allowed her Kindle and asked to watch it during lunch, which I didn’t mind in the slightest as it meant she ate her whole sandwich, an apple and some cucumber without any disagreement. I hope she doesn’t get too used to these flexi-rules…!

After leaving Xanakaxa, we quickly spotted a mother and her calf elephant wandering in the woods. Good! We had been missing our daily elephant fix!

Before we arrived at our next campsite, we decided to do a quick detour to Dombo Hippo Pool, and were rewarded with a huge pod of hippos all wallowing in the water, huddled up together, and grunting away. We climbed the rickety wooden steps up to the Hideout where we could watch them, and there was even a little loo I could use (which was ghastly)!

We saw another pair of elephants about 500 metres from North Gate campsite entrance and a magnificent (reasonably rare) sable antelope grazing by the marsh. And obviously, we saw the usual zebras and giraffes!

After we’d checked into our campsite, we were driving to our pitch when we saw some baboons clambering all over a pair of tents. We watched in horror as they broke into one of the tents (opening the zip!) and stole a box of what looked like crisps. We yelled at them, and then saw a woman heading back having just (presumably) enjoyed a nice relaxing shower. We called to her to tell her there were baboons all over her stuff and she rushed off as we carried on to our spot.

Apart from being covered in large ants (unavoidable in Africa), the pitch was nice – overlooking the marshy pond, and we were delighted to hear a hippo grunting nearby!

Ian and Cornelia set to work immediately making a fire (one each, naturally) and I started supper. Chicken casserole tonight. Once the fire was lit, Cornelia and Ian went to the loo (too far away for a visit at nighttime, so we shall be making use of the porta potty! In the meantime, I went to the other side of the van to turn on the hot water, and suddenly heard a crash on the other side where I’d been cooking moments ago. I dashed around and found a naughty monkey carrying a baby on her tummy, helping herself to a bag of pasta! I yelled at her, she turned to me and screamed, dropped the bag and ran off to sulk on a nearby branch! Thank goodness she hadn’t taken hold of the chicken I’d been marinating or our potatoes! So, that taught me a valuable lesson about the cunning little things!

I didn’t leave the casserole again until it was ready to eat. Bugsy and Daddy found swords (sticks) to ward off the monkeys and drew flowers in the side of the fire pit to kill the time.

When supper was ready, we sat around our campfire watching out for intruders, but ate our meal without interruption. That was where the lack of company ended, however!

The hippo we’d heard grunting earlier had moved to a tree about 50 metres away. This didn’t bother us too much, as it was unlikely it would come any closer to our camp. But, as Ian was sorting out Cornelia’s bedtime, I heard a rustling in the leaves behind me. It was dark by now, which always makes things a bit more “atmospheric”, so I turned my phone’s torch light on and scanned the area. Sure enough, I quickly came across a pair of green eyes glowing in the beam. A bloody hyena was stalking our site, and getting braver and closer by the minute. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. The banging and clattering I had been making clearing up the dishes hadn’t scared him in the slightest, and I also didn’t want to terrify Cornelia, just as she was settling down. I rinsed off the dishes and dried them as quickly as I could (this was on the other side of the van), then returned to stash everything away at top speed. I slammed the sides down and jumped into the back of the van with Ian and Cornelia. He had just finished her bedtime stories so we sat and watched the hyena from the safety of our tent flap. He had come right onto the site now and was nosying around where food had been dropped.

The only problem Ian and I now faced was that both of us needed a wee and also needed to brush our teeth. I stripped my bottom half, knowing that it would be much quicker without having to fumble around with trousers and pants getting in the way. Then we shoved toothbrushes in our mouths, hopped out of the van and wee’d and brushed more quickly than we’d ever done before!! What a sight we’d have been if anyone had been watching!!

Cornelia hadn’t settled at all, despite asking to go to bed early, so I gave her a long cuddle and when I left her to return to my bed (it was only 20:30, but sitting outside had lost its appeal a little, although I’ll confess to be slightly tempted!) she fell fast asleep within minutes.

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