In one sense, I was not in Lonely for long. Several other team members sputtered and stalled on the side of the road next to me over the next few hours. Happily, though, no one was seriously ill enough to cause them to miss the next two days:a trip to Wildlife Safaris in Lewande.
A very hot and dusty four-hour drive brought us to a resort on the Shire River (pronounced she-ray, not like Bilbo Baggin’s home town) The Shire drains Lake Malawi and eventually joins the famous (“Dr. Livingston, I presume!”) Zambisie River.
From there we were taken an hour up-stream by boat to luxury wilderness camp. I’m not overstating this for blog-worthiness, my friends, this place was swank. And in the MIDDLE of the African out-back…no power, no outside communication aside from radio, BUT…
-a solar powered, gourmet kitchen ( the food was AMAZING…sorry, no pictures. I just can’t do that)
-solar heated hot water direct to your private outdoor shower
-individual chalet-like accommodations (you literally pound a drum to call for room service)
-a staff to guest ratio of about 1 to 1
-3 separate, guided safaris (one complete with tea/wine break)
-insanely comfortable beds
-and a front row seat to view every wild animal who wants to wander past your front door…or shower, or whatever.
Seriously. The place is just plopped in the middle of the wild and so the wild kind of plops in the middle of the place.
You have to step over elephant poop on the path between your room and the dining “hut”. You need to have an escort at night if you leave your chalet to protect you from…well, the wild.
From our room or the dining hall (and sometimes within only a few feet) we saw:
Countless birds I can’t remember the names of or never had the presence of mind to ask, at least one jumbo murderous spider, a perverted frog (hiding in the bathroom of one of the lady’s rooms) a fatty-lizard and a gang of geckos.
The list should also include other animals we saw while ACTUALLY on “Safari”:
5 foot long Python
…and by the time we had finished our time there, at least 100 different individual elephants.
During the river safari, we came within 10 yards of a herd grazing along the shore line. Our guide turned off the engine and we silently glided past, listening to them tromp and tear at their lunch, splash in the water, and generally be all-elephanty.
There were 9 of us in the boat, and for a solid 5 minutes, no one spoke a word or uttered a sound as the elephants looked at us, it seemed, with the same wonder we looked at them.
There were places where it seemed you could have walked across the river on the hippos.
I leave my first encounter with the classic “Wild Africa” astounded by the density of animal life in this place. Where I come from, there are animals, no doubt. But conservatively so. Animal life in the Pacific Northwest is private. Distant. Hard to see. Screened behind big trees, concealed beneath deep water and thick brush. Animal life in Africa is big, noisy and boisterous. It is violent, squishy and out in the open.
The experts say human life began here. I have no reason to doubt that theory, and perhaps find a deeper acceptance of it now that I have seen how life seems to be trying to expand and grow right out of this place. It’s like I’ve had a view of the epicenter; the point from which life is still being forced outward like a sound wave; the “Biological Big Bang”.
I think this could have been the Garden of Eden: Beautiful and bursting with life. Fallen and dangerous for, and because of man.
I felt pretty good for the Safari days, though still not well. The bus ride home included a very rare dry season rain storm, and at least one more team member down wit the A.G.D. by the time we got back.