Monday, November 2, 2009

Madikwe - Day 1

Gate to the Madikwe Private Game Reserve

Our lovely camp (Sitting room, fire place, our "fancy hut", "fancier room"

Eco shower (cold water into bucket, heat the cold water, shower with the view)

Weekend 10/24-10/25 Madikwe Private Game Reserve Day 1

Friday was extremely hard day at work, many things to do among them publishing my blog and demonstrating how NOT to lean in your chair… So they gave us these funny new, cheep chairs without giving us the proper warning that if you lean back just a bit too much your ass will land on the floor… Well my friends, I have done exactly that! Since it was closer to the end of the evening, I got very comfortable and sat in “Turkish Style” on my chair; someone asked me some question so I pushed back my chair and leaned just bit too much. All you heard “Ahhhhhhhhh”, “Bum”, “5 second silence” and “bursts of laughs” and next thing you know Miriam’s gracious ass was sitting on the floor with my chair upside down!!! First 5 seconds there was a silence, once the shock has passed the entire ground floor was laughing THEIR asses off! Well I turned read as a tomatoes or worst and said “Well this is one way to make the evening more fun…”, stood up and even more graciously walked off to go to the meeting…

On the top of all Friday madness my senior manager was leaving for 2 weeks and 2 hours before she left I found out that not only I am going to be taking care of my daily duties which are already overwhelming but also I’ll be stepping in and acting as her. Which meant crazy status meetings with folks high up on the corporate food chain and spending countless hours creating these massive presentation that to me had no value except that they looked really pretty but I guess to the more "privileged" ones they did...Ahhh shame! Great! No Stress!!! On the top of that our testing cycle was staring on Monday for which we have not even prepared for mad mad times. Needless to say by the time I left at 9PM I was mentally exhausted and drained….well as you all know me the best way to release and to relax is to go out and socialize. Even though I was beaten with the tail between my legs I went to the “Baron” local lounge, very cool place to hang out, with lots of interesting people actually mostly quite young! I met up with Simon and Henk and we had a beer! Finally a nice cold bubbly bear with fresh frosted glass!!! That is EXACTLY the medicine I needed after such tough day. We chatted and went to eat to local “piri-piri” chicken place, great chicken very spicy sauces and spinach but the best thing was they were playing salsa music! LOVE IT! I need to come back more often.

I truly had lovely night sleep just to wake up to birds singing and water traveling down some rocks under neath my window. It was 6AM on Saturday; I did my regular yoga routine and decided that today I’ll do my mediation outside by the fountain, near the pool, under huge palm trees. How lovely! The day was just waking up and I felt greatly energized, loved and so connected with everyone and everything around me. I felt as I was glowing with happiness. Soon after that we left for Madikwe Private Game reserve with my co-worker Simon. Lovely chap from London, quite entertaining with his stories and fun dude to hang with. 3 hour car ride was entertaining as we were both sinning to Mariah Carrey new song, and Enrique Iglesias… he he needless to say we are both quite awful singers but regardless it’s all about the fun! Ohhhhhhhh and did we have some fun! The 3 hour ride actually turned out to be more like a 5 hour ride as in Africa nothing goes by kilometers or time! On the top of that all roads are being repaired and widen in preparations for the World Coup. Hence bunch of traffic and backups! We got to the Madikwe gate at around 1PM. The day was hot, bright and svunny and how cool is this the gate is ONLY few kilometers from Botswana!!! We drove to the administration building where we were going to be picked up by the Safari vehicle as ordinary folks were not allowed to drive though the park alone. At the admin gate we were greeted by a huge bunch of beautiful baboons they were scattered all over the place. We met our lovely guide Andrew and waited for another couple that was coming from London. It took less than 15 min or so to drive to our stay for the night called “Mosetlha Bush Camp”. So this place is the OLNLY “bush camp” in this reserve. Truly when I booked the reservation with them I had absolutely NO CLUE what “bush camp” means. I looked a website a picked a first place whose name was quite appealing. Ha ha ha.. Was I in for a treat! We got greeted by very energetic owner-operator Chris. I and Simon both tired to guess his age but could not quite get it right. He looked fantastic older gentleman for sure perhaps even in his 70’s, not too tall not to short, not a speck of fat on him, great built body and not a wrinkle on his face, just bunch of white teeth glowing from his sun glazed face. Happy fella but he reminded me of a ping pong ball. As he never stayed still he was up and down, left and right, directing, re-directing, organizing and who know what else.. But for sure he was never still! The Bush Camp was actually a set of open aired cottages sitting on the stilts 1 meter of the ground, lovely opened aired dining area, with long beautiful wooden table, and comfy benches, great sitting area around a stone circle where they had fire going in order to collect the coal to grill the meats for lunch. The camp can hold only 16 people at the time and we met with everyone as we all sat down to a late lunch served family style. We met a Leah and her mom from NJ, USA. Leah is a doctor/pediatric working in Botswana with children HIV positive. Her mom was invited by some kind of tribe whose king decided to invest into education for his people and she was assisting the king to set up a program for his people. Then 2 couples from UK, what is up with those Britt’s??? Like they are all over the freaking place he he he… I guess they just love to travel! Another 2 couples from South Africa with whom later on we had great conversation. We exchanges stories who we are and where we are from and since some of them were there already longer time they told us about their gaming experience. We were shown to our lovely cabin that was completely open aired the ONLY thing that separated us from the wilderness of this park and the reality of having bunch of wild animals roaming free around us were 4 stilts, ½ walls made form some kind of thin wood and a cute straw roof…Man! The room was comfy though and the cabin was welcoming and had very warm feel to it. Later on Andrew showed us how the “eco showers” worked…. First one for me as well. I had to pour cold water in the bucket, empty the bucket to this heating “unit” that was fired with real wood on one side, and by pure magic or law of chemistry the water came out on the other side as hot as it could be! I was amazed by this pure geniousness and simplicity. The HOT water was then mixed with cold to make the perfect temperature and pored to another bucket that was tied by rope in the “outdoor” showers. Very simple and effective. The showers and toilets were tiny cabins also made from wood… Just loved it. Let me just reiterate that the camp was in the middle of 74,000 hectares of pure wilderness where the most amazing creatures roam free. The camp was surrounded only by 1 electric wire sitting high up to keep the elephants out, other than that we were part of the nature. So now YOU tell me how would you like to be taking a shower and a looking out a wilder beast of buffalo or whatever else may have wondered around? I know I loved that idea!

At around 4PM we sat in our large Safar Range Rover vehicles to go for a evening drive. As soon as we left the camp we were greeted by bunch of giraffes and elephants crossing the road. The giraffes are such amazingly graceful creatures. Despite the fact they are so tall and look kind of clumsy they are actually incredibly graceful, intelligent, VERY TALL and gorgeous looking animals. On our trek though the park we met other Safari vehicles and our guides always stopped, shook the hand of the other driver, said few nice words to each other and off we went. The atmosphere was amazing…so pure…so free…so loving…so rugged! Our guide was also using walkie talkie to let the other guides know what we seen and where the animals are and vice versa. We got to see rhinos’, baboons, giraffes, LOTS of elephants, lions, jackals and many many amazingly colorful bird species. In the middle of our drive we stopped and our guide pulled out refreshments onto a small table attached to our vehicle, took our drinks out and we chilled and relaxed in the bush drinking cold beer, watching the most amazing sunset to display a ray of colors and magnificent spectaculars over toll and rocky mountains in the background. I have never seen such gorgeous sunset EXCEPT in Tamarindo – Costa Rica! Once we got back we went to a different location just to see huge lions laying lazy right in front of us! There were few, but these 2 were so spoiled and lazy that they did not even bothered to open their eyes to see who the visitors are… we were probably 2 meters from them (5-6 feet) and one of them got up and walked away as we must have entered his personal space. But he only got up walked few yards and as he was collapsed back to the grass not to move again. At this time the darkness started to approach and we entered a water hole area… Just to experience the most amazing spectacle of my life! A herd of 40-50 elephants just crossed our path to go to the water hole. Huge and tiny ones, mothers with their less than year old babies and the teenagers. 2 HUGE elephants stayed behind and one of them walked toward the other cars, pushing them out and guarding his herd. The cars had to put in reverse and leave; we got lucky as we got in first. But the problem was that the 2nd big elephant was blocking us in, as we had no road to escape backwards! So on one side is humongous animal pushing the other cars out, on the other we have a waterhole with bunch of happy elephants and against us yet another humongous creature! Well at this time even our guide got bit nervous and started to drive us out of there through the bush avoiding the big chap in front of us….it was an about the time. As 3 of the big mama’s realized we were there and started to chaise us out, the driver put in high gear to speed up. It was quite a rush to be chased by 3 big mamas and at the same time it was hilarious to see the little one to run after his mama! It was so adorable and frightening at the same time! I turned around and saw the other elephants were in the water bathing each other, splashing one another, playing and knotting their trunks and just being KIDS in the water. I have never seen anything like this before and the small danger we were in a little while ago was well worth the site we got to see…Our night drive ended by running into a large rhino on the way to the camp.

As soon as we entered our welcoming home turned to a magical world! Since there is no electricity the entire camp was lit up with gazillion little petrol lanterns flickering their fire out to the bush. I stood there in amazement! The entire camp turned to a fairy land, with little fire lanterns around that only trolls carry when they go look for crystals, the big fire was happily burning in the stone circle, the night voices of the bush were so strong and so close at the same time. In the background we hear a lion roar….My love for this place only increased as I poured a nice glass of delicious South African red wine and sat with others by the fire to await our dinner. Got to chat with Andre our guide for the day. I did not know but he actually had to go and study to be a guide in this park. He actually started in Kruger and took him a year to get his license as he had to study the geology, minerals, animals, bird species, plants, behavior, dangers and many other things in order to be qualified to drive us around. Wow I was very impressed. Very lovely fella. Once the rest of the folks arrived we all sat down behind our huge wooden table lighten with lanterns, to be served the most freshet and amazing dinner cooked right in front of us. We were all so happy exchanging stories of the day, the animals we saw and just happily chatting with each other. In deed this place was very magical not only for me but for everyone around me. After me and Simon killed a bottle of wine we retired to our luxurious cabin to find it lighten with little lanterns as well. We did not even needed to use the mosquito net as the night was very cool and crisp. Let’s just say that I was failing asleep bit nervous from all the noises happening right behind my head, thinking of my beautiful and most beloved animal “cheetah” hoping she will find her way through my window to lay down with me and purr me to sleep… well that stayed the dream for that night! J I was also hoping that the traitorous visitor from last night, big ass honey dodger that was trying so desperately to get to the food in the kitchen, breaking bunch of glasses and tearing the small roof and thin wall down to get to the coolers. I have never seen one so I though well for the experience I’ll give away my breakfast to him… but he never showed up that night.

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