Memories of Africa Poem

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Feb 27th, 2006, 09:03 AM
  #1
tshelto
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Memories of Africa Poem

I only recently discovered this website, and I am hooked. Now I'm starting to plan our next trip, this time to East Africa.
While my wife Linda and I were in Southern Africa in March 2004 (our first trip to Africa, mostly in Botswana), I I decided to write a memoir of our trip. As it turned out, I became so "inspired" that I ended up doing so in verse. I am going to take the liberty of posting the first of a dozen "chapters," which is my description of the "Daily Grind" we experienced while on safari. We visited (in order) Johannesburg, Mashatu Tented Camp, Savuti Camp, Victoria Falls, Little Vumbura, Tubu Tree, Little Mombo, and Cape Town, and I have one chapter about each of them, plus a few more of a more general nature.
Talk about "vanity press" -- if I get a positive response on this chapter (I have skipped a couple of introductory chapters), I'll post some others. If not, I will slink back into anonymity. Fair warning -- there are a total of about 500 four-line verses in the 12 chapters. I doubt that the content will be especially informative, but for those other people who have fallen in love with Africa, perhaps my writing will stir some fond memories and feelings of your own.
Here goes --

The Daily Grind

Life in the bush is so grueling.
They keep you going both night and day.
Just listen to our daily schedule.
Would you ever want to live life this way?

“Knawck, knawck,” someone says in the darkness.
It’s 5:30 when we open our eyes.
At six, it’s juice, biscuits, and coffee,
As the sun’s rays start to tint the skies.

At 6:30 we’re off for our morning game drive.
What awaits our yearning eyes today?
Antelopes, predators, or birds of prey?
A troop of cute little monkeys at play?

We bounce through the bush for hours,
Until we stop for snacks about nine.
Coffee, tea, and cookies to refresh us.
This day is coming along just fine.

More game viewing for another while,
Then back to camp around eleven.
A lavish brunch awaits under the thatch.
This could be pretty close to heaven.

Then it’s free time for a few hours.
Shower, read, hang out, maybe catch a nap?
At 3:30 they call us for tea time.
This bush living is pretty much a snap.

Before we leave for our afternoon drive,
We have to make a critical decision.
They insist that we choose our sundowner drinks.
This much pressure we didn’t envision.

Fransen Street, Wieselburger, or Castle?
St. Louis, Birkenhead, or Windhoek?
So many new beers, and so little time,
But we vowed to do whatever it took.

This afternoon we might see wild dogs,
Or maybe kudus, or bright-colored birds.
The beauty of the beasts and the landscape
Is impossible to describe with just words.

The jeep stops at the top of a kopjé,
As the sun starts to set in the west.
The view across hills and savannah
Has got to rate up there with the best.

Of course Tom has to take more photographs,
As the sky’s brilliant colors reach their peak.
Anyone who’s known him for very long
Knows that Tom’s a hardcore sunset freak.

So it’s G&T sundowners with new friends,
Until the sun has sunk down out of sight.
Then a spot-lighted drive back to the camp,
Seeking nocturnal beasts out at night.

We are greeted with smiles and bright torches
As we arrive back at “home” in the dark.
We have only a half-hour ‘til dinner.
This bush life is no walk in the park.

But first it’s drinks around a low campfire,
Too many stars than one ever could count.
The Southern Cross, Milky Way, Venus,
As our hunger for more starts to mount.

After savoring this peaceful moment,
We go to the boma for dinner, at last.
It’s not just a simple meal for the weary,
But a most sumptuous jungle repast.

We all take our seats at the table,
The cook recites the menu for the night.
The buffet is groaning with gourmet fare
As we partake under soft candlelight.

Hot soups, bobotie, braais, lentils, and pap,
More food than a battalion could eat.
Of course Tom’s just aching for dessert.
For bush chefs, chocolate tart’s no big feat.

Then Amarula to round out the evening,
As we gaze up into dark, starry skies.
If this liqueur can make the elephants drunk,
Imagine what it can do to us guys.

At last they escort us back to our tents,
We need sleep, so we’re in bed by ten.
‘Cause even if lions’ roars keep us awake,
At 5:30 we start all over again!



 
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Feb 27th, 2006, 10:17 AM
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very cool!
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Mar 11th, 2006, 05:21 PM
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I love it. Please post more. It makes the ready so much more fun
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Mar 12th, 2006, 06:41 AM
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I can hear the "knawk knawk," taste the lavish lunch and the Amarula, feel the bounce of the vehicle through the bush and see that African sunset!
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Mar 12th, 2006, 04:07 PM
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Tshelto:

Very creative way to document your trip. Loved reading the poem, more please.
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Mar 13th, 2006, 07:05 PM
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safariguy
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Interesting concept.
 
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Mar 14th, 2006, 09:23 AM
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Hi Tshelto,
Just post all 500 verses. We’ll be impressed.
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Mar 14th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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tshelto
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I had almost forgotten my original post. Having now received even the slightest bit of encouragement (you know who you are), I am going to post another couple of chapters. I don't think that either the Fodor's system nor its readers would be able to handle all 500 verses at once. I will skip the chapters on Johannesburg and Victoria Falls and go straight to our "bush" experiences, since it seems to be safaris that most interest posters on this board. Some of the verses, as you may be able to tell, rely on a photograph that accompanies them in our album, but since I can't really insert the photos here maybe your imagination will recall the feelings. This was our first trip to Africa, and perhaps our remembrances will bring back some memories of your own first time (trip to Africa, I mean). And of course this is merely my own usually light-hearted "take" on our experience, certainly no offense to anyone else or their preferences is intended. I'll try to post the chapters on Mashatu and Savuti, and see if it works. Here goes --

Mashatu

The rustic Mashatu Tented Camp,
Was our first stop in the African bush,
It’s in the remote Limpopo Valley
Far away from any maddening crush.

The Limpopo Airport actually has a building,
And the runway might be a whole half-mile.
We didn’t realize when we landed
This would be our last real airport for a while.

They picked four of us up at the airport,
Got in the jeep for a one hour ride.
Down the dirt road only a quarter mile,
We saw a wildebeest just off to the side.

Storm-trooper Paul and Botswanan Elaine,
An Afrikaaner and a girl of the world.
They were to be our hosts at Mashatu,
Where our bush adventure first unfurled.

Although it is by no means rough or bare,
Mashatu’s more rustic than some other camps.
Here they have fireside dinners in a boma,
And kerosene to fuel the simple lamps.

David and Lisa were our game drive mates,
Two Oregonians with a love for the bush.
When it came time to go look for game
These two certainly didn’t need a push.

Animal biologist and zoology pro,
For better companions one couldn’t ask.
From spotting birds to impala jokes,
This couple was well up to any task.

They could tell that my sense of humor
Didn't require jokes with any real depth.
"How can you tell what the lion had for lunch?"
"Easy -- You can smell impala on its breath."

There are seven tents at Mashatu.
That’s great, more tales to be heard at the bar.
There’s Swiss couple Eric and Tamara,
Driving across Africa in a car.

Plus four wealthy Canucks on their own time,
With their own plane, of course, what were we thinking?
They even had brought their own pilot.
He’s the one wearing epaulets, and drinking.

Our very first game drive was a huge thrill,
Already a leopard up in a tree!
When sitting just ten feet from such a big cat
You start to question your own sanity.

Four jeeps circling a languid leopard,
What is so exciting about that?
But rest assured that out in the bush
Even a bored leopard’s still a scary cat.

Yellow eyes shining in the dusky light,
It’s beautiful coat a sight to behold.
“Don’t stand up, it might think you are prey.”
Twice we sure didn’t have to be told.

The guides and the trackers amaze us,
Spotting birds two hundred meters away,
While the tourists scan the horizon
Hoping to spot an elephant herd at play.

“Stop! Go back!” cried tracker Morgan.
What amazing sight had he seen?
Speeding through the darkness he had spotted
A ten-inch chameleon, dark green on green.

A few minutes later Morgan scored again.
His night vision at high speed was unreal.
This time he had spotted mopane worms,
Little caterpillars that here are a meal.

We visited Mashatu Main Camp one day,
Tom wanted a hat from the curio shop.
We thought we’d see how the other half lives.
And it was way too far over the top.

Its lush grounds were carefully manicured,
The rooms sure weren’t tents, more like the Ritz.
Those campers’ idea of roughing it
Is when their jacuzzi goes on the fritz.

Mashatu is called “The Land of Giants,”
And watching the huge elephants was a treat.
A young one had lost its trunk-tip in a snare,
So it used its front foot to help it eat.

The variety of game was astounding,
Zebras, impalas, kudus, wildebeests.
A tiny steenbok, even a unicorn,*
Plenty of prey for the predators’ feasts.

*actually, it’s a gemsbok with one horn broken off

Vultures so ugly, guinea fowl so fair,
Saddle-billed cranes at least three feet tall.
Tiny birds in a huge communal nest,
Blacksmith plovers, and woodland finches so small.

The showers at our tents were outdoors,
The water flows down on you like rain.
But when a baboon threw its poop at a guest,
She had to shampoo all over again.

I saw a lizard in the outdoor loo
At our Mashatu Camp tent one day.
It gave me quite a start because I was
In no position to run away.

This was no ordinary lizard,
It was at least nine inches long, I swear.
But I was not going to be deterred
From the purpose for which I had gone there.

The lizard didn’t seem to notice me,
As I sat there, trying to get started.
But the gecko’s presence had affected me,
I couldn’t “go,” so I just departed.

Mashatu has a “hide” near a waterhole,
Where animals gather in the dry season.
But since there had been so much rain this year
With water everywhere, there was no reason.

Some of the animals amused us,
“Bella” warthogs and baboons made us laugh.
Of all of the funny sights that we saw,
One “high”-light was a goofy-tongued giraffe.

The next two days we saw many animals,
But no predators, many birds instead.
But all of a sudden, what did we spot?
Two lions asleep in a riverbed.

A mother and her six-year old daughter,
Guide Richard informed us, as we looked on.
The pair was clearly not impressed by us.
The mother was so impolite as to yawn.

But make no mistake, when she opened her jaws,
Her mouth was spectacularly full.
Incisors no less than three inches long,
In jaws strong enough to crush a zebra’s skull.

The lionesses had been heard calling at night,
Seeking a male, but their cries were for naught.
The speculation was that the two local males
Had crossed into Zimbabwe and been shot.

After a while we had stared (and clicked) enough,
As a jeep from the Main Camp was approaching.
Richard had radioed our location
And the uptowners came along, “poaching.”

They were dressed in their safari finery,
Accessorized with Burberry plaid.
If a baboon had flung its poop at their jeep,
It would just have been so incredibly sad.

We spotted another chameleon
In the ruts of a Mashatu road.
Since it was trying to hide in plain sight
Its steps were excruciatingly slowed.

Next morning a few of us decided
To take a game walk instead of a drive.
Richard guided us, Morgan drove the rest,
We all hoped that we’d make it back alive.

There actually was no real danger,
Although Richard did carry a gun.
Just walking around in the bush on foot
Really turned out to be a lot of fun.

We saw bugs up close, and millipedes, too,
Even a wildebeest’s evening lair.
He had marked this spot as his territory,
And there was a pungent scent in the air.

We saw wildebeest bones, a buffalo skull,
Elephant dung surrounded by pink flowers,
A big termite mound, and fresh green grasses
Which had sprouted from wet season showers.

The third night we were driving back to camp,
In the dark, still looking for more game.
As we drove down to cross a riverbed
Richard’s and Morgan’s voices said the same:

“Leopards,” they each whispered quietly.
How they recognized them so fast we don’t know.
All they had glimpsed in the spotlight’s beam
Were four yellow eyes, shining, all aglow.

It was a mother, lying on the black sand,
And her young cub, hiding up in the grass.
It was really too dark to take pictures,
But this chance was just too good to pass.

The leopards didn’t flee, but just stared at us.
Richard turned off the engine -- just a hunch?
Then what did we hear from the riverbank?
That noise was definitely a loud crunch.

We all strained our eyes in the darkness,
Was it possible that there was another?
Yes, look, over there, in the tall grass,
The young cub that we’d seen had a brother.

We couldn’t see much, but we listened,
As the third leopard was eating a bone.
He chewed and he gnawed, and the bone cracked,
And before too much longer he was done.

The three day were too short at Mashatu,
But you probably can never get enough,
Where the game and scenery are awesome,
And the tent living isn’t all that rough.

Our time at Mashatu was wonderful.
Great scenery, great views of the setting sun,
Great animals, great weather, great people,
Great place – don’t we look like we’re having fun?

Our first bush experience was special,
As our first stop, it sure passed the test.
For the rest of the trip to measure up
Was going to be difficult at best.

------ But it did. ------

Savuti

Savuti Camp is in the Linyanti,
A game reserve of quite some reknown,
The Savuti Channel has been dry for years,
So here there is little chance that you’ll drown.

Guide Dennis picked us up at the airstrip,
And the drive to the camp wasn’t too long.
When we arrived we were joyfully greeted
By the camp staff singing a native song.

Famous guide Benson, his lovely wife Noreen,
With (like Roy Rogers) their faithful sidekick Pat,
Along with new arrival Tlamelo,
This happy group laid out the welcome mat.

Ermano and Raphaela
Were our Savuti game drive mates.
Our khaki and drab green bush gear faded
Next to these Italian fashion plates.

The tan and beige blandness that clothed us
Must have been as bad as we had feared,
For as you can see from the photo,
Tom had actually disappeared!

Raphaela was a travel agent,
Ermano was the “impala of man.”
His beach volleyball and tennis pastimes
Went along with his white teeth and dark tan.

Why the “impala of man,” you might ask?
To Ermano it was perfectly clear.
“Because everyone wants me,” he boasted,
Just like the big cats want that tasty deer.

We were ready to drink up more wildlife,
Our first taste had been just a whetting sip.
We had no way of knowing at that time,
That this was just the next stop of a great trip.

“Lllong-taillled starrrllling, lllong-taillled starrrllling,”
Was Dennis’ oft-repeated refrain.
His redundant calling was helpful because
To our ears his Swetsana brogue was a strain.

We often would see groups of frrrancolllins,
A hen and her chicks, walking down the road.
These little brown birds are like roadrunners,
They’re “African marathoners,” we’re told.

“Rrred-billled horrrnbilll, rrred-billled horrrnbilll,”
Dennis repeated each animal’s name.
But even after five days of viewing
The red and yellow hornbills still looked the same.

One pretty bird stood out from all the rest,
Our favorite bird of all those we had seen,
‘Twas the apt-named lllilllac brrreasted rrrolllerrr,
To see it up close we were quite keen.

When what ‘fore our straining eyes did appear?
One of the birds that we had been seeking.
It was sitting on a branch right by the jeep,
We didn’t even have to do any sneaking.

Later near dusk we found three cheetah brothers
Fast asleep in the grass, cheek by jowl.
But their slumber ended in an instant --
An impala’s presence stirred them to prowl.

Their beauty and grace were amazing.
The three’s movements appeared to be one.
But the impala then sensed their presence,
And its quick flight brought an end to their fun.

One extra plus came while at the cheetahs.
A Duma Tau jeep was there at the same time,
So we got to see David and Lisa again,
Shared one last sundowner, G&T with lime.

The three-cheetah sighting had thrilled us.
We deemed this game drive a success.
But our evening proved not to be over.
Another predator sighting, no less!

As we drove back toward camp in the darkness,
Sets of yellow eyes appeared in the road.
Two lionesses were coming right at us,
Our return to camp now was on hold.

And look! Behind the first two were two more,
Month-old babies were following their moms.
Our hearts were beating like timpani,
And, he admits, none faster than Tom’s.

We moved out of the road to give them some room.
The mothers gazed at us as they went past.
Now it seemed we could breathe easier.
But, to our great excitement – not so fast!

Looming larger than life just meters behind
Was the patriarch of the pride.
We again caught our breath and felt our hearts beat
As he stealthily strode close by our side.

It was too dark to get any clear pictures,
So we have no good proof that it’s really true.
But if we had recorded our EKG’s
We wouldn’t have trouble convincing you.

A few minutes later the rain started to fall.
No problem, we’d had just about enough.
An African wild cat on the way back to camp
Was so boring – its competition was too tough.

It rained and it rained at Savuti,
But stalwart Dennis didn’t seem to be fazed.
He kept shining his light through the darkness
While we sat under our ponchos, wet and dazed.

We’ve all seen the pictures of safaris,
With blue skies, great sunsets with skies aglow.
We bet the picture of us in our ponchos
Won’t quite make the travel agents’ slide show.

When we got back we went straight to dinner,
Got out of the rain, and under the thatch.
We didn’t even pause to go to our tent,
An omission that would cost Linda much “scratch.”

The “mozzies” are fierce out here in the bush,
So we’re provided with bug spray and lotion.
But it only works as long as it lasts.
You have to re-apply – what a notion!

We spray “Peaceful Sleep,” replete with DEET,
We wear long shirts and long pants when we can.
But that night’s rain washed the repellent off,
And confounded our mosquito-free plan.

While we ate dinner that night after dark,
The mozzies bit poor Linda, toe to tush.
It’s not just the itching that’s a problem.
Mosquitos spread malaria in the bush.

Scratching is one thing, disease yet another,
But fortunately she wasn’t infected.
And for some reason Tom wasn’t bitten.
Only Linda was mozzie-selected.

Her legs were covered with mosquito bites,
We’d left the calamine at home to cut weight.
But the camps’ first aid kits had the lotion,
Which Calamine-ity Jane used to sedate.

The next morning the rain clouds were gone,
Lions roared, birds sang, the bush seemed alive.
Warm breezes and blue skies were quite welcome,
And a bright sun shone down on our game drive.

Even Dennis said “Oh!” as we drove by
An Egyptian cobra by the side of the road.
“We don’t want to get too close to this one.”
We certainly didn’t have to be told.

Carrrmine bee-eaterrrs swept by our jeep
As our passing by stirred up grasshoppers.
Wings flashed in sunlight as we witnessed their flight.
Their bright colors were brilliant show-stoppers.

They would swoop past the jeep at warp speed,
“They’re too fast for a photo,” Tom would mutter.
So he pointed his camera sideways,
And just kept on clicking the shutter.

In dry spells many animals gather
At waterholes, seeking the scarce resource.
Though heavy rains had overcome the drought,
They’d made driving more difficult – or worse.

The jeep got stuck in the mud that morning,
As we sped cross-country seeking a cat.
But when Ermano stripped down to his skivvies,
Linda thought it wasn’t as bad as all that.

Dennis and Ermano jacked up the jeep,
Put logs under the wheels to raise the truck.
Finally Benson came along with a chain
To extract us up out of the deep muck.

Savuti was fun, despite all the rain.
The staff was great, the wildlife abundant.
Three cheetah brothers, the lion pride at night --
But even more lions wouldn’t be redundant.

That would have to wait until our next stop.
We’d have to fly, you can’t get there by LandRover.
We were headed to the Okovango Delta,
A place that is famous the world over.
 
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Mar 14th, 2006, 12:13 PM
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Great mix of imagery and humor!
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Mar 14th, 2006, 03:20 PM
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Posts: 19
Don't stop the verses. Keep them coming. I can't wait to hear the rest...Especially Little Vumbura and Little Mombo. We will be there in Sept!!!
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