Adventures with Ladda and Johann #509

Everyone knows about my wonderful neighbors Ladda and Johann. It seems daily there is a new experience, a new story to tell that involves these two intriguing and lovely versions of Glady Kravitz. And today was no different. Gladys-Kravitz-708x350

To say Johann is a military history fanatic is an understatement. He has some bit of knowledge about every conflict since the beginning of time. He consumes books like he breathes the air. He has details on the underlying cause of any war or battle, and recognizes the combat uniforms and the machinery deployed – as well he knows who sold who which piece of artillery over ever changing borders and alliances. And so, earlier this week he asked if he and Ladda could come over to watch the Russian V Day celebration on my TV as I get some stations that he doesn’t. He was already planning on watching the European memorials, but he needed access to the Russian channels. Of course I said yes, that I’d love to watch the Russian coverage of the event :) (How could I not have had this already on my agenda!)

On Friday I decided I needed to get a bit more detail on what I had signed up for.  On the 8th, the UK, France and others were marking the 70th anniversary of the ending of WWII. Johann told me that the 9th is the day that the head of Germany’s Armed Forces High Command, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, surrendered personally to Joseph Stalin’s representative in Berlin.  And so, the parade would begin at 10am Russian time Saturday morning, taking into the time difference, that would be 8am in Zurich – yikes…..did he just say he was coming over on Saturday at 8am???? Well, I’ll have the coffee and tea ready….but I can’t promise I won’t be in my pajamas.

As expected, the doorbell rang at 7:42am. He was like a kid at Christmas. Johann had already been to the bakery and the smell of fresh croissants quickly brought me to life. I had orange-crasin muffins in the oven and Ladda was happy to bring soft boiled eggs and the homemade prune jam from her best friend. And so the festivities began.

Ready for the parade

Ready for the parade

As we gathered on the couch and got comfortable, we realized that there was a 60 minute countdown on the Russian channel. It took us about 4 minutes to realize that there is no observation of Daylight Savings Time in Russia…DOH…so we were an hour early. Well thank goodness for this as Johann didn’t want to miss a thing!

And as any good news service would do, there was plenty coverage of pre-parade activities (sort of like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day pre-show prep….but different.) The best part was watching all the Heads of State arriving. Of course the commentary was in Russian, so the broadcast wasn’t much help to me, but we had our expert of all things global and political….Johann – he recognized each and every President and diplomat – sometimes he had a good head start because he knew the flags on the cars as the arrived in front of the Kremlin, and some because he recognized the wife – nothing gets by him.

3 hours later, I have to say, we had such a good time. I learned about the statue of Minin in Red Square, the naming of Sukhoi SU 30 fighter jet, the new baby of the mistress of Putin, and how to tell the difference between the KGB uniforms and the FSS. Russian V day parade 1

And with all discussions of the War (WWII), there is always expressed and unexpressed appreciation for “the Americans”. It happens no matter who I am with. I’ve written and shared stories of the phenomenon before. I don’t know if i would have ever had the same opportunity to appreciate our sacrifice and our duty in this way. I am a better American for having been in these sometimes odd situations.

Russian V day parade 2

 

I’ve learned after three years in Zurich with these lovely guardian angels as my neighbors, that sometimes, well most times, some of the best things in life come with no expectations. I have many stories to tell about my adventures with Ladda and Johann, and the best part, is that all of these stories will be etched in my memory for ever. They provide me an experience and an inner growth that has enriched my life. I am a better human, and a better American, for having opened myself up to the sometimes crazy requests of my neighbors.

My horse my hero

My heavy heart has kept this recent event silent except to a few. My steady friend, my horse, my hero, has completed his time on earth here with me. I know God’s creatures are placed in our lives as a blessing, to show us, to teach us, to comfort us, to listen to us and most of all, to be cared for by us. Any girl who has ever loved a horse knows the inner fullness, completeness and special bond that is created in this relationship. Each relationship is unique but it is extremely deep, and those who haven’t experienced it may not ever fully get it. But a horse has the ability to sense your soul and therefore see your innermost fears. You are completely exposed to a horse, much as they are to you.

Waco and I shared such a special time. I’ve been poring over photo albums and videos the last 3 weeks and I am amazed at our journey together. It was grace that brought him in to my life and with grace he left when his work on earth was done. Below are some enduring memories of the life we shared.

This is the first day I laid eyes on him, we were testing each other for “fit”.

First Date

First Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryan Rodeo 2004

 

 

And by our first performance, I was smitten. We fit like peanut butter and chocolate.We had much to learn about each other, but we were both willing and at least I was more than eager.

 

 

 

IMG_0084 IMG_0086

 

 

 

 

Luckily, there were a couple of sweeties in my life that were looking forward to the journey too.

 

 

 

 

CC Madisonville 081

Madisonville 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By our third rodeo, he and Katie had formed a special friendship :) I’m not sure if it was good luck that Katie gave him a noogie before each performance, but I think he looked forward to it.

 

 

 

Some horses are regal, Waco was goofy, and not in a comedic way, he couldn’t help it. Rarely did he take a picture that would have won any awards at a show, because his un-uniform look always shown through.

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Bryan 2007

Bryan 2007

Bryan 2006

Bryan 2006

2007

2007

Conroe 2006

Conroe 2006

 

Shrimpfest 2004

Shrimpfest 2004

 

He played so many roles in my life. He was my steady, no matter the conditions. He always was more confident that I was.

 

 

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His confidence spilled over to others easily…Taylor came to visit often

 

 

 

Bryan 2005

Bryan 2005

 

 

By our second season, he was signing autographs like a pro, loving all the attention from the oldest and the youngest. He was so easy. He made it so fun.

 

 

 

He was the calm to my chaos. Patience, he had more of it in his young years than I will ever have in my life. If you ever saw our traveling circus – girls, glitter, hairspray – you wonder he did it. Patience.

Caldwell 2005

Caldwell 2005

Conroe 2005

Conroe 2005

He was my hero. He was tall and broad. He carried me easily – shouldering all that came with me. He made me feel small, but yet, always safe. And given my track record (Carol), safety was a quality I couldn’t buy.

Helotes 2005

Helotes 2005

Thanksgiving Parade 2005

Thanksgiving Parade 2005

He was my teacher. When I think back on his patience, it wasn’t just with me. It was for everyone. You could trust him implicitly. The Waxahachie Rodeo, he met the entire family. This is LJ’s first meeting with a horse. I’m so happy it was Waco.

LJ meets Waco 2005

LJ meets Waco 2005

So sweet

So sweet

And my ranch hand Dakotta. Johnny on the spot -what ever was needed, he wanted to be right there to do it. If I had asked him to carry Waco to Dallas, I think he would have :)

And Dakotta, well, he was my horse guy

And Dakotta, well, he was my horse guy

 

Taylor couldn't get enough

Taylor couldn’t get enough

And Ashtyn was bright eyed!

And Ashtyn was bright eyed!

 

Of course Taylor and Ashtyn were growing in their confidence and enjoyment with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryan 2007

Bryan 2007

 

Even Marli and Meagan came to see him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of patience. How’s this for patience? Uncle Henry was less than thrilled but Waco never complained. I am fairly certain if I could have gotten Uncle Henry over his fear of heights, Waco would have carried him wherever he wanted.

Christmas 2006

Christmas 2006

Of course, Waco had two prime pupils outside of myself. Both Taylor and Ashtyn spent many summers under his care and guidance.

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Taylor 2006

Taylor 2006

Jeff & Ashtyn 2006

Jeff & Ashtyn 2006

Taylor 2007

Taylor 2007

Ashtyn 2007

Ashtyn 2007

Summer 2008

Summer 2008

Taylor 2008

Taylor 2008

Ashtyn 2008

Ashtyn 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was strong. To his detriment. He didn’t show pain until it was almost beyond help. Sometime in 2009 he tore his stifle, but didn’t favor it until his coffin bone almost perforated the sole of his hoof.

 

2009

2009

But the blessed hands of Dr. Carter, Dr. Watkins, Jason and Amanda eased his pain and allowed him to heal.

2009

2009

2009

2009

2009

2009

It was a long journey for both of us, but worth every single step.

2009

2009

 

Rev Kev 2011

Rev Kev 2011

Trials and tribulations allow us to reassess parts of our lives and hopefully learn and grow. Like Dorothy, Waco and I landed just outside of Oz. Bringing the whole furry family to the Blessing of the Animals at church was one of the many benefits.

 

 

2011

2011

 

He was a buddy. He was always happy to see Clyde after our weekend rodeos. And while Waco was healing, Clyde had to play the role of Wingman, which he did begrudgingly.

 

 

Austin 2008

Austin 2008

Austin 2008

Austin 2008

 

He carried me through my causes. Perhaps unknowingly as we broke a few “laws” when it came to equine access to the steps of the Capitol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And he was my friend.  Happiness is….

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2007

2007

2007

2007

I am a better woman because you were part of my life.

It is said it is the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God’s creation and as creatures ourselves.

Still riding the inspiration of SXSW

Two ladies from the multitude of SXSW artists

I particularly love the South X Lullaby series from NPR, 2am St. David’s Episcopal Church

http://www.npr.org/event/music/394458428/laura-marling-south-x-lullaby

 

 

Show your colors girl in the morning light
It’s on again, it’s on again
Recreate the world in your own good vibes
It’s on again, it’s on again

Show your colors girl, show show your colors girl, gotta show your colors girl!

I wake up thinking bout my purpose
And wonder if I’m really worth it
It’s all been sung before and you’ve all heard it
Your life is your design, so go ahead and design it.
Your star is in the sky, so go ahead align it.
Cause your forever lost, until you go and find it.
(Go, go! )
Go find it!

Show your colors girl in the morning light
It’s on again, it’s on again
Recreate the world in your own good vibes
It’s on again, it’s on again
It’s all in your head, in your head, in your head
Show your colors girl, show your colors girl

My life requires certain gears
I’m making faces in the mirror
And when it’s hard to let go of my fears
Your life is your design, so go ahead design it.
Your star is in the sky, so go ahead align it.
Cause your forever lost, until you go and find it.

Show your colors girl in the morning light
It’s on again, it’s on again
Recreate the world in your own good vibes
It’s on again, it’s on again
It’s all in your head, in your head, in your head
Show your colors girl, show your colors girl

 

Washington’s “Earnest Prayer”

george-wash

The Prayer below was written by Washington at Newburgh, New York, at the close of the Revolutionary War on June 14, 1783. It was sent to the thirteen governors of the newly freed states in a “Circular Letter Addressed to the Governors of all the States on the Disbanding of the Army.”

Circular Letter Addressed to the Governors of all the States on the Disbanding of the Army, June 14, 1783

I have thus freely declared what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your Excellency, as the chief magistrate of your State, at the same time I bid a last farewell to the cares of office and all the employments of public life.

It remains, then, to be my final and only request that your Excellency will communicate these sentiments to your legislature at their next meeting, and that they may be considered the legacy of one, who has ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his country, and who, even in the shade of retirement, will not fail to implore the divine benediction on it.

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Psalm 100 A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1  Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2  Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3  Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4  Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I have to thank Marianne Johnson for sending me the following link to a TEDx presentation. Being grateful can prove difficult in the midst of hardship, hurt, sorrow or just downright icky days. But it is often only when we see others experiencing these tough times that we realize how truly grateful we should be.

Life is for living, completely and with all of your heart and soul. Trust in the Lord and know that each day really is a gift. God has given us everything we will ever need, and I’m thankful to be reminded of the little things which are the biggest blessings.

 

In a lifetime (our video)

Link

Breathing deeply

Breathing deeply

Maybe once in a lifetime, you are part of something really really special. And if you’re super blessed, you’ll be able to recall that experience for the rest of your days.

I know I didn’t finish my daily blogs about my experience in Tanzania with my best friends – I still haven’t written about the Honey Badger! – but yesterday, I got to see the experience in film and sound like never before.

I wanted to share the film that Donnie put together for us. Today’s technology is super amazing, when you think of the video and photography we were able to capture and the artistic way Donnie was able to pull it all together. Rachel, Amy and James are wonderful photographers and you’ll see their work here. The music is moving and brought me to tears, happy ones of course. If you listen close, you can hear the excitement in the breath of the boys as they hunted and the sounds coming from the land and the animals that are uniquely Tanzania.

What you may not see in the video is the change that occured inside me, perhaps you’ve noticed it after my return, maybe not. But I can promise you it is there. I have always valued the friendship of Jim, Monty, Donnie and Rachel. I have come to love and adore Amy. And the Draegers, well James and Penny have always had a special place in my heart. But this experience, at this time, and in this place, it’s another example of God’s love and His hand in my life.

A word of caution, this was a hunt. And if that’s not for you, then this video may not be for  you. Take the humor for what it is because laugh we did, and while this blog is not the place to explain in detail how conservation works in Africa (animals, land, people), the hunt is indeed a critical part of the conservation cycle. What I hope instead, is that you get the chance to appreciate, admire and even revere as I did what a place like Tanzania represents for us all.

 

Destiny

 

Arrival

“We in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility — that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint — and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’”

Never delivered words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, November 22, 1963

 

A bright day

 

Destiny

 

Beer, Bait & Ammo….ok Champagne too

Sunrise in Jacana

Sunrise in Jacana

 

We ate breakfast and drank our coffee with new morning views today. The Malagarasi River was quiet, peaceful and reflective. The Safari teams, off on different journeys, mixed it up a bit on this later than normal morning hour. Monty & Donnie heading out with Nigel to continue the search for a Warthog Donnie could call his own; while Rachel, Jim, Amy and I were in for a fishing adventure with Johnny (or perhaps Johnny was in for the adventure.) We were pretty excited to see what these Tiger Fish were all about. So, as the good hunters/fishermen we were, we grabbed the Champagne and headed out!

Morning on the Malagarasi

Morning on the Malagarasi

And our first new animal sighting – Hippos! Right there in the river with us. They must have been pretty deep; you could only see their heads coming up for air every now and then. They would break the surface here and there and didn’t stay up long, no telling how many of them there were. We motored right on past them in search of the perfect fishing spot.

We continued to see amazing and different birds than before, like the King Fisher – Rachel took this great picture.

Malachite King Fisher

Malachite King Fisher

And of course the assorted Reed Buck and Water Buck were all along the shores.

When we did find our spot, Johnny let us pick our bait – I picked the shiny one with fringe :) but even more comical was the number of people casting while drinking. I could be wrong, but I think Jim and Johnny never really concentrated on fishing, but more on whether Rachel, Amy or I would be the first to hook one of them in the eye. It really wasn’t a question of “if”, just more of who would be first and how serious would the injury be.

Proper fishing preparation

Proper fishing preparation

Needless to say, there were no UDIs (unidentified drinking injuries), although in our excitement, we did catch a few tree limbs. We like to believe it just makes for better entertainment and surprises. Meanwhile, as we were messing around with champagne, trees and bait that sparkled, Jimbo caught a Tiger Fish!

Check out those teeth!!

Check out those teeth!!

Jim showin' us how it's done

Jim showin’ us how it’s done

We all had such a good time, relaxing with the fish with huge teeth. I decided if every morning began like this, it would indeed be a good way to start the day.

Learning from the master...

Learning from the master…

As it got later in the morning, we had to close this chapter in our journals and head back to camp to catch up with the Draegers, Monty and Donnie; Johnny reminded us that this was just a temporary stop over on our way to our final destination. I think I grumbled a little in my own mind as I still wanted to catch my own Tiger Fish, but eager for our next adventure, we turned the boat around and headed toward camp.

Camp in sight

Camp in sight

The fishing crew

The fishing crew

Not long after we got back, the rest of the gang motored up too. I think we all liked this camp and were sad that we only had half a day or so here. It was completely different than Fish Eagle and really quiet. Maybe I was just in a peaceful sort of mood, but it was really quite serene.

Fishin' buddies

Fishin’ buddies

By lunch time we were on our plane, eating a snack (you didn’t think Johnny would miss a meal now did you?)

James liked his vantage point

James liked his vantage point

James always set up front. As a former pilot, he liked to see all the controls and talk to the pilots. Donnie, Rachel and I had other concerns, we just wanted to be clear of Monty or Amy if they got sick. Jim really didn’t have any options, as a newlywed, he HAD to sit close to Amy. Monty had “issues” on our first flight, and, being the good friends we are, we all just tried to ignore by closing our ears or not looking at him. (If a bear throws up in the woods, and no one SEES him do it…) And just in case you were wondering, there is an international hand signal for “She’s going to get sick”, most people know what it is, Jim didn’t, but he does now….

Part of the frequent flier team

Part of the frequent flier team

Except for Donnie, the rest of us really had no idea where we were headed. And by no idea, I mean directionally, but also expectationally. Wow – if we had only known….

After a brief fuel stop at our favorite Tabora Airport, it’s no Buccee’s, we landed at our destination, M’Bono Camp in Maswa Game Reserve, just west of the Serengeti National Park.

Our ride

Our ride

We were excited as we had seen Giraffe and Elephant herds from the plane just before landing. So we loaded into our Land Cruisers for the short ride over to our new camp, one that we would gladly call home for the next five days. And within minutes, probably less than two, there they were, right off the trail.

Our welcome committee

Our welcome committee

Elephant butts

Elephant butts

Amy and I were practically jumping out of our seats every 30 seconds, there was wildlife EVERYWHERE! Giraffe, Impala, Thompson’s Gazelle, Zebra, Love Birds, Baboons, Superb Starling. And then, we almost fell out of our truck with Oooohs and Ahhhs as we turned the corner to see the M’Bono camp – situated directly over a watering hole. You’ll see the advantages of this later…

Watering hole in front of M'Bono Camp

Watering hole in front of M’Bono Camp

 

Campfire overlooking the watering hole

Campfire overlooking the watering hole

Happy Girls!

Happy Girls!

And, as we still had daylight, the boys were hollering “Load Up!”, so we dropped our bags, grabbed our “Salad” and indeed loaded up to see what we could find. The views were stunning. We had seen such beauty at the other two camps, but this was completely different. The terrain, the trees, the wildlife. It was really something to behold and savor and try earnestly to capture on film. The land was covered in outcrops of rocks, sort of like “Pride Rock” that you saw in The Lion King. I expected to see Rafiki any minute. This place was called Sundowner Rock and little did we know we’d be having drinks up there later.

Sundowner Rock

Sundowner Rock

The Acacia trees were unreal, but the special Yellow Fever Acacia was mesmerizing.

Yellow Fever Acacia

Yellow Fever Acacia

We hadn’t been out long when Johnny asked if we were in the mood for Guinea Fowl. Now that’s really a rhetorical question isn’t it? Of course we were! I decided rifle scopes take some getting used to, but with some practice, I did alright.

I'm not Quick Draw McGraw

I’m not Quick Draw McGraw

But I got my Guinea Fowl!

But I got my Guinea Fowl!

Maybe when I grow up, I can be good like Jim :)

Jimbo vs the Guinea Fowl

Jimbo vs the Guinea Fowl

According to the time stamp on my camera, less than ten minutes later, we were taking pictures with Monty’s monster Impala. As I recall, it went something like this…. We had moved on from our shooting gallery of Guinea Fowl when Monty spots what appeared to be a decent Impala not too terribly far off. Johnny says, Yea, he looks pretty good, you want him? Again, rhetorical. Monty hops out, had maybe been on the ground 60 seconds and the next thing we knew, Monty had his enormous trophy Impala. It all happened so fast, but that’s Monty’s style now isn’t it – no fuss, no muss, just get ‘er done.

Happy Boys

Happy Boys

Happy Monty

Happy Monty

And with that, it was time for sunset cocktails with a view. Johnny NASCAR knew just where and drove like he was qualifying for the Sprint Cup Chase to get us there in time. We climbed up Sundowner Rock to behold yet another amazing sunset. Seriously, there must be another word other than “amazing”, but nothing ever seems as descriptive. While I was learning Swahili for everything, my English had dropped to two words: Wow and Amazing. The only thing I was left with was inflection – Ahmazing, aMAZing, Wwwwoooowwww, WOW!

Sunset from Sundowner Rock

Sunset from Sundowner Rock

One of the spectacular views

One of the spectacular views

We enjoyed our brief sunset and breathtaking views and then loaded up for camp to see what the afternoon adventures had brought the Draeger safari. It had indeed been a good afternoon as James brought back a Thompson’s Gazelle – possibly the one close to camp Jim had briefly considered until Amy named him Gary. There was a brief discussion that if an animal received a name, it wouldn’t be part of the hunted. Considering we were talking about Jim, we all knew that this ploy would not save an animal’s life, but, it did seem to make Amy happy.

That night, after the campfire, as we were all drifting off to sleep, the sounds of Africa came alive again. We heard some screaming (I really don’t have a better word to describe that particular sound) and over breakfast the next morning Nigel told us it was likely Hyena’s taking a Cape Buffalo. The night sounds in Africa remind you how the laws of nature work in the absence of man and urbanization. There is a natural order to things out there and it all works in balance. And, as anyone who knows how I sleep can verify, I drifted off without trouble and continued some of the best nights sleep I’ve ever had.

Wow – what a day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

An elephant never forgets….and neither will I: Fish Eagle to Jacana

Having a great meal (chicken-fried warthog), good friends, a campfire and all the stars in the solar system as your backdrop, make for one very good night’s sleep. Our wakeup call was precise, as it had been every morning and the coffee was particularly satisfying this morning. We had been without technology for days. At this point, we had no idea what the US response to Syria had been and to be honest, it just didn’t seem important. Our lungs were full of the most perfect air and our heads were so full of memories already; the girls had all begun to journal and take notes because we didn’t want to forget a single experience.

Today, Monty was determined to get his M’bogo – that’s Swahili for Cape Buffalo. The boys were all starting to change their good luck rituals – shaving, no shaving, lucky beans, lucky rocks, M’bogo gum, Ella’s elephant…whatever it took. We each loaded the Land Cruisers and were off on our mission, serious, but smiling and excited.

I remember looking at this picture thinking Penny looked like the wife of an elected official in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Draeger Safari pulls out

Draeger Safari pulls out

Team Worley and the Replacements headed back to look for our camp M’bogo. And it wasn’t long until we got on foot and started tracking. There were four or so in this group and the trackers found them pretty quick, probably by 7:30am.

Settling in on the Camp M'bogo

Settling in on the Camp M’bogo

We got quiet pretty quickly and Johnny took Monty closer leaving Jim and one of the trackers watching out for Amy and I. They had identified an old bull and seemed like they were going to get a good look at him.

This is as close as Amy and I were going to get. If you click on the picture, you can see one of them in the middle looking over at us.

M'bogo checking us out

M’bogo checking us out

Johnny got Monty set up and, with two quick shots (Monty and then Johnny – AKA Johnny “Boom Boom”, formerly Johnny “Warthog”), the herd of four took off in front of us. Jim and the trackers kept their eyes on Amy and I and the front three as they were circling back.

About now, I formed my back up plan - climb the nearest tree.

About now, I formed my back up plan – climb the nearest tree.

They didn’t stay around, most likely they ran towards the swamp. Monty’s fell quickly and we waited quietly. It’s an odd thing in these situations in that you pray that the shot was true and everything goes as it should. And in our case, it always did. We had very sure and steady hands in our group; precise and purposeful.

When Johnny signaled, we approached the bull with caution. He was amazing. I’ve never been close to anything like it. Such a large beast. And his hide wasn’t anything like what I expected, very thin but course hair, not like our cattle. His ears were tattered and torn showing his age and roughness of his environment. His cape covered his head and you could tell he was old from the wear and tear. It was smooth in some parts, sort of like a well worn Aggie ring.

Monty's M'bogo

Monty’s M’bogo

And with that, Monty pulled out his good luck charm – that morning he had put a cigar in his pocket using positive mojo to conjure up his M’bogo. I think it worked.

Monty's lucky cigar

Monty’s lucky cigar

We asked about the meat and how we would eat it. Johnny got all excited talking about Buffalo Tail Soup, to which I promptly turned up my nose. Earlier in the week, I might have thought he was kidding, but we did learn that Johnny was almost always quiet serious about the seemingly far fetched, especially when it came to food. He also told us that the meat was far too lean. These animals exercise and run way more than our beef cattle do and there’s just not a lot of fat on those big bones. However, there would be a lot of jerky that could be made.

And so, Monty could leave a happy man. It had taken several days and many hours of tracking and stalking, but that’s why they call it hunting. And I, well I rather like that about it.

If memory serves me, it’s now only 9:30am and we’ve still got a full day ahead of us. Jim and Johnny looked for the other three from that herd, but after following their tracks, we determined they had indeed made their way into the swamp and we just weren’t going to sop through that mess for these guys.

On the road again where we came upon this guy who I just couldn’t get enough of – the Fish Eagle. He’s a lot like our Bald Eagle. Simply gorgeous when he flies.

Fish Eagle

Fish Eagle

You can get pretty philosophical while you’re in Tanzania. For instance, you spend a lot of time pondering and discussing the whole Mother Nature’s camouflage concept. Take the zebra – how on earth does trendy black and white make you so invisible against a backdrop of green and brown? It’s like the whole “what is nougat?” question. Makes you go “hmmmmm”

Black and white is the new black

Black and white is the new black

About 45 minutes into this drive. Johnny and the trackers jump out. Seems they’ve found the tracks of a large herd. Jim and Monty join them, while Amy and I follow behind from the truck. This lasted about …….oh 15 minutes. Monty and Jim determined it might be a long hike and as long as the truck was going to follow, might as well save the energy for when it would really be needed :)

The first hour

The first hour

And so, they tracked

The second hour

The second hour

And they tracked,

The third hour

The third hour

And they tracked…..

Meanwhile, we saw the usual suspects: Warthogs, Duikers, and Baboons. And, Amy and I were getting glimpses of giraffe off in the distance. We came across one group that looked like two adults and three juveniles. It might have been the same group that Rachel and Donnie had seen the day before. If you look close, you can see one of the juveniles in this picture.

Giraffe family

Giraffe family

Then a bit later, we saw a herd running across the open plains. They had been spooked by something and were covering some major ground. Their strides so big, they looked like they were in slow motion. Fascinating.

We had been at this over three hours and 10km before Johnny signaled to the truck that they could see the herd, at least 200. So, we parked the truck and the rest of us got on foot. Salad gear for all, GoPros ready, this was a large herd and we would be going deep into the trees with them if we could.

Below is one of my famous, “I know you can’t tell, but there’s a Cape Buffalo just a few feet away” photos.

After the 10km hike.

After the 10km hike.

You could hear them snorting and blowing all around. Johnny and Jim looked at as many as they could, but the herd was moving like a flowing river. They never quite settled down. Must have been deep in the trees for about an hour. Again, being this close, I had my own Plan B at the ready – found a tree that looked like I could scurry up it faster than Johnny Manziel scrambling against Alabama early in the 2nd quarter on 3rd down (whoop!)

So, did we get them?

Five hours later

Five hours later

Well at hour five, Johnny and Jim called it. They just couldn’t spot one in a herd of that size. Monty chalked it up to running out of M’bogo gum, a situation we would look to rectify. Looking at the Scoreboard so far for today:

  • Cape Buffalo = 2
  • Monty = 1
  • Jimbo = 0

So, we still had some work to do, again, that’s why it’s “hunting” and not “getting”. But the next order of business was “hunting” our way back to the truck and to camp as we were due to move to a new camp later this afternoon. Johnny called the truck, but we were so far off the grid, it took them a while to find us.

And it was still too early for beer.

And it was still too early for beer.

What happened next was one of the many “hold my beer and watch this” moments. We were a good couple of miles from any form of road – again, I use this term loosely – and we were in the middle of pretty thick brush – and this is what God created brush guards for. With Johnny “NASCAR” at the helm, we must have spent the next hour or so doing a little “brush clearing”. It would have been every seven year old boys dream to have driven that day. Just like the 12th Man, Team Worley and The Replacements stood for that hour or so, but mostly because sitting was a one way ticket to the camp chiropractor. It got to be quite comical, especially when Monty had had enough. This doesn’t happen too often but his keen sense of direction had predicted we’d be out of the forest about 45 minutes before it actually occurred.

Eventually, we made it back to camp and I snapped a few pictures of our living conditions as I plan to write a letter to management about how “terrible” it was :)

Fish Eagle Camp 1

Fish Eagle Camp 1

Fish Eagle Camp 2

Fish Eagle Camp 2

Fish Eagle Camp 3

Fish Eagle Camp 3

The Draeger Safari was loaded by the time we got to camp; they went on out so they could hunt along the route to Jacana. Team Worley and The Replacements had experienced a wonderful day and Johnny “NASCAR” was going to get us to Jacana before the sun set so we could see everything. We were cruising along at a pretty good speed, and as we rounded a corner, there they were. My jaw fell open and my eyes got bigger and bigger. Johnny stopped on a dime. We had been in Africa for six days and for the first time, here they were. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the African Elephants.

First sighting

First sighting

There must have been 20 or 30 of them to begin with. We had spooked them and they were running this way and that, kicking up dust everywhere. Many of them were running directly in front of us crossing the road. Some of the herd split and went the opposite direction. But what caught my eye, I think caught all of our eyes, was the biggest elephant I have ever in my life seen. He moved across the road in front of us and never took his eyes off of us. Johnny got out of the car and asked for his gun and no, he wasn’t kidding this time either. Everybody was watching everybody.

What a moment

What a moment

I will never forget this moment.

My guy 1

My guy 1

 

My guy 2

My guy 2

 

My guy 3

My guy 3

 

My guy 4

My guy 4

 

My guy 5

My guy 5

 

my guy 6

my guy 6

I was getting a few pictures, but Amy reminded me of what I had said earlier, that I wanted not to get caught up in taking pictures but more importantly be present in these very special moments. And this guy was special all right.

Once they calmed down and saw that we weren’t looking to interfere, they went back to doing what elephants do, eating trees. The especially like the fruit from the Marula tree – there is a liquor that Jim and Amy introduced me to, Amarula, made from the same fruit – yum-my! We enjoyed a few more moments with them and we were off again, but my head and my heart stayed there with the big guy. I was feeling like a pretty lucky girl to have seen that, in that way, in that time, in that place, with these people. Others on the trip will recall their own special moments, but this was clearly mine.

Over the river and through the woods – only the woods were infested with Tsetse flies! We looked like an episode of the Three Stooges swatting each other on the head, on the back, in the face – all in the name of helping a brother out. Monty looked more like Kenny (South Park) in his Salad suit and we all got a good laugh The Reed Buck were everywhere as were the Topi and Oribi, apparently, the Tsetse flies didn’t bother them so much. The sun started to set over the Malagarasi River as we got to the last leg of this day’s journey.

Sunset over Jacana

Sunset over Jacana

We downloaded our trucks and uploaded our boat.

Last leg of today's journey

Last leg of today’s journey

Malagarasi River

Malagarasi River

We knew we had arrived at Jacana Camp when we saw our campfire….

Jacana camp fire

Jacana camp fire

In thinking about that day, it’s hard to believe how much we did, saw, felt, experienced. And this doesn’t even cover all that the Draeger Safari – did I mention Donnie got his Cape? Our daily update shaped up like this:

  • Cape Buffalo = 2
  • Monty = 1
  • Jimbo = 0
  • Donnie = 1
  • Tsetse Flies = 1 billion in less than 20 minutes
  • Team Worley and The Replacements = Uncle!

I don’t remember the conversation at the camp fire that night, we must have been so exhausted we didn’t keep the baboons up, for once. Amy had a song for every occasion, I can’t remember what we sang on the way in, but I think “Oh What A Night” might have been appropriate.

Wow…..What a Day!