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!

 

 

 

Animal Noses and Chicken Fried Warthog

So, the ritual had been established:

  • For me, up at 5:30am, everyone else 6am,
  • Porridge and coffee at 6:15am,
  • Load the trucks by 6:30am and on the hunt.

Before the sun was up we were already at the airstrip looking for Cape Buffalo.

Hunting at sunrise

Hunting at sunrise

This time, the trackers spotted a group of about eight just out on the plains to the east of us. We parked, already “salad’d up” and started our tracking.

Tracking the Cape

Tracking the Cape

 

Looking for their tracks

Looking for their tracks

I think we tracked this group about two hours – up this way and back that way, coming back to some spots. These Buffalo were not standing around waiting on us. They were smart and we were upwind. (I promise, I left all my smell goods at home!) Finally, the first score for the morning was

  • Cape Buffalo = 1
  • Team Worley and the Replacements = 0
Sneaky sneaky

Sneaky sneaky

Moving on, we came across quite a few Monkeys, Topi, Water Buck, Reed Buck, Mongoose, Duiker, Bush Buck, Oribi and my new favorite, the Warthog. When they run, their tails go straight up in the air like an antenna. Made me laugh! Wish I got gotten video each time – would make for a great “cheer you up” reel.

run run run!

run run run!

Not hanging around

Not hanging around

Look at that hair! We called her Tina as in Turner.

Look at that hair! We called her Tina as in Turner.

Tina and Ike

Tina and Ike

And, had we known how hard it was going to be to find Hartebeest later…….it was this guy’s lucky day.

Hartebeest

Hartebeest

And, as our luck would have it, we came upon another group of Cape. So, out of the trucks we climbed, but this time, we decided to do an end around and get downwind of the herd. I refrained from wearing my Channel No 5 that day, but these animal noses are extremely sensitive. The fact that they can smell us before they hear us is indeed quite remarkable considering the entourage that encompasses Team Worley and the Replacements.

We got pretty close

We got pretty close

My view - bringing up the rear

My view – bringing up the rear

Getting Monty set up

Getting Monty set up

But in the end, this wasn’t the herd for us. So, we called it and made the track through the “grass” back to the truck. I use the term grass, but this stuff is eight feet tall at least, it’s like walking through a corn maze where you don’t want to lose sight of the person in front of you or you might not make it out.

  • Cape Buffalo = 2
  • Team Worley and the Replacements = 0

While I was finding new joys in Warthog spotting, the boys were quick to remind me those tusks weren’t for hanging jewelry on…..

Nice accessories....

Nice accessories….

Next up was a watering hole full of Baboons.

King of the Water Hole

King of the Water Hole

We got to watch Nature’s version of The Bachlorette, except there wasn’t a rose ceremony. Clearly there was one female and about 20 would be suitors. It was all her current “date” could do to hold her attention while defending his turf.

Trista and....I don't think this was Ryan

Trista and….I don’t think this was Ryan

She looked a little disinterested and perhaps this guy was not going to get a rose in the final ceremony.

but baby wait!

Baby, wait!

But, he stayed in hot pursuit, sort of reminded me of the Draegers :)

And with that, Johnny’s tummy told us it was lunch time and he had a surprise for us – CHEESEBURGERS – it was indeed like paradise!

Happiness is a Cheeseburger in paradise!

Happiness is a Cheeseburger in paradise!

And here’s a view of our campfire during the day. You can see how the view of the stars would have been incredible.

Firepit

Fire pit at Moyowosi

Tea and Coffee before the afternoon hunt

Tea and Coffee before the afternoon hunt

I think eventually, we began to “grow” on our PH’s (Professional Hunters)……

Johnny "enjoying" our company

Johnny “enjoying” our company

Nigel telling us what really happened

Nigel telling us what really happened

Rach in a brief moment of NOT crying while laughing

Rachel in a brief moment of NOT crying while laughing

Penny was always ready to go!

Penny was always ready to go!

Jim daydreaming of Cape

Jim daydreaming of Cape Buffalo

Amy dreaming of anything BUT Cape!

Amy dreaming of anything BUT Cape Buffalo!

Monty's been so lucky, he's dreaming of Vegas

Monty’s been so lucky, he’s dreaming of Vegas

Donnie's dreaming of.....well we all know what Donnie's dreaming of....

Donnie’s dreaming of…..well, we all know what Donnie’s dreaming of….

So, with full tummies, we were ready for the afternoon adventures.

Lights, camera, ACTION!

Lights, camera, ACTION!

And very quickly, we got our adventure. We had gone looking for those camp Cape Buffalo again

In search of....

In search of….

but imagine our surprise when the trackers spotted these cubs,

you can see 2 of the 3 "cubs"

you can see 2 of the 3 “cubs”

 

Just hanging out

Just hanging out

and their Momma.

Hi Momma

Hi Momma

And the most common photo I took all trip – Zebra butts. They weren’t big on photo opps.

Zebra Butts

Zebra Butts

But wait – I got more butts:

Sable Butts!

Sable Butts!

And with that…. we called it a good day and headed back to camp for another wonderous sunset and probably our favorite meal of all time – Chicken Fried Warthog!

Wow – What a Day!

Sunset at Moyowosi

Sunset at Moyowosi

 

 

 

1,000 miles from nowhere – FishEagle to all parts north

If I could remember half the crazy songs we came up with, we’d have one heck of a playlist. On this particular day, Dwight Yoakam came to mind.

Sometime just after 6:30am we were ready to roll again. The camp Topi herd seemed to give us a send off: “Have a great day”, “See y’all tonight”, “Have fun, but be safe.” And within a few minutes, we were again surrounded by new and strange wildlife.

Where's Waldo?

Where’s Waldo?

I like to use this photo (click for larger image) as a shining example of what happens when you combine my photographic skills and Mother Nature’s gift of camouflage. If you can find the monkey in this picture….turns out, most of my photos from the first week are about like this. It became comical. I think I’m going to publish a children’s Seek and Find book.

Here’s another one for you:

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

Okay, now do you see him?

There's Waldo!

There’s Waldo!

And then, things got interesting. Far far far in the distance… Let me repeat, Far far far in the distance, Johnny and the trackers caught sight of a herd of Cape Buffalo. Someone on Team Worley and the Replacements jokingly asked if we would just stalk them from here. Johnny had them stop the Land Cruiser and we had our answer. At least from this distance they couldn’t hear use clamoring out of the truck. So, we saladed up (yes, it’s now a verb), the boys got their GoPros ready and the great 1000 mile stalk began.

To say we were shocked that no one broke a leg or an ankle during this stalk is an understatement. The terrain was ridiculous. At first sight, it looked like miles of open, flat plains with tall grass (about 7 feet high) just behind the herd.  But those open plains were broken, hardened land with 8 inch drops and 10 inch hills. To be honest, I never looked up at the herd, just down at my feet and the feet in front of me. I think Johnny said we stalked almost a mile. And he wasn’t kidding (Amy and I found out he never did). Donnie had told us the day before that the Cape were very smart and if we stalked in a straight line, they would figure us out. We were given a demo on how to stalk as a tight group. I just the Cape are less scared of a mound of salad moving at them than a salad caterpillar. So, Amy and I did as we were told, put our heads down, squeezed like Ol’ Army and moved slowly en mass.

I don’t know how long we were out there, but we seemed forever and we got pretty close and then, in an instant, they were gone. I looked up and asked what happened. The herd had spooked and they disappeared into the tall grass as if they were figments of our imagination. It was almost eery.

And with that, Johnny’s tummy rumbled, because we were way past his 11sies – meaning his mid-morning snack, so we hiked back to the Land Cruiser and found the first big shady tree to have our brunch.

Loved this guy too, he’s called a Lilac Breasted Roller.  They are gorgeous in flight.

Lilac Breasted Roller

Lilac Breasted Roller

For the next bit we saw Water Buck, their hides look more like coats and they are magnificent, although apparently very oily and therefore not much will eat them. Yea Water Buck! Amy got great at spotting things – Monkeys, Reed Buck, Duiker. Still in search of our Cape Buffalo, we drove past some watering holes to see who might have been through there the last few days.

Searching for Cape Buffalo tracks

Searching for Cape Buffalo tracks

We didn’t see much and instead turned our interests to lunch. And if we thought dinner was impressive, lunch equally phenomenal. No vienna sausages here folks but coffee and tea afterwards, because, well, it’s proper.

Lunch a natural

Lunch a natural

Amy and I were starting to get the program – and this whole sleep when the animals sleep – we could get used to this…

Nap time

Nap time

On the Road Again, where we saw Batala Eagle, Zebra, Yellow Baboons and Horn Bills. We were told about how the Beaucarneas palm tree seeds germinate – only after they’ve passed through an Elephant – if you know what I mean…

An elephant was here

An elephant was here

We went to another watering hole where we came across a couple of Warthogs “hamming” it up in a mud bath.

What's not to love about a face like that?

What’s not to love about a face like that?

And again, Mother Nature’s camouflage – do you see the Roan Antelope?

Over Here!

Over Here!

We stalked another Zebra herd, but goodness, they are tough to sneak up on. Mostly, all I recall from the Zebra stalks are Zebra butts. I have quite a few pictures of those.

And least you think riding around all day in the Land Cruiser is posh, I will remind you of the terrain and I also use the term “road” loosely. However, the ride home made us very thankful for those “roads” as on this evening, we took a new route – as in one that had just been created and never driven on. We were all hoping that at least we may be burning some calories while we got to know each other very well – we’re quite a close group now.

As as reward for all of our efforts, tonight’s dinner was none other than….Jim’s Topi. And Topi steaks are Wowza! Delicious! We were all sending props to the chef as we patted our once again full tummies at the firepit and remarked “Wow….what a day.”

Getting our feet wet – Fish Eagle Camp to Vundu Fly Camp on the Malagarasi River

The wake up calls came about 5:30am, before the sun was even breaking the horizon of the wide plains to our east. We gathered at the dining tent for a warm breakfast on a chilly and damp morning.

Coffee was ready and appreciated

Coffee was ready and appreciated

We joked that Donnie’s adamant statements about how “it never rains here this time of year” are surely what brought the rain shower the night before during the Dry Season. Johnny and Nigel (our Professional Hunters) explained how it might change where the animals would be given the change in water supply over night.  But our hearts and heads were filled with excitement at the prospect of what we might see.

After coffee and other forms of caffeine, the girls were ready!

After coffee and other forms of caffeine, the girls were ready!

Team Worley and the Replacements were off by 6:30am in one direction and the Draeger Safari in the other. I had no idea what the day would bring, I just wanted to be invisible and do as I was told – after all, Big Game Boys Monty and Jim were serious and committed to the hunt, so Amy and I would have to Ooh and Aww in silence (ok, that didn’t last long.)

We had been less than 2 minutes from Camp when Johnny and the trackers spotted our first thrill – two Cape Buffalo. They were bigger than I could have imagined in my mind and now I understood their name. Their horns covered their heads like capes and scrolled out from their heads into sharp and fierce points. They huffed and off they ran much quicker than their size would suggest. Amy and I simultaneously whispered “Wowwwwww” for the first of one zillion times that day.

Next up – Topi. I will quickly run out of adjectives to describe all of the animals we came upon, but the Topi has the most marvelous hide. At their shoulders, they stand taller than their back end, so they seem to always have their chest out, large and proud. When they run, they change direction like a cutting horse, the front end goes down and they spin around on a dime.

You may not have an appreciation for the conservation of the species that hunts like this can provide. Even growing up hunting in Texas, I was searching for answers in how all this could justifiably work for the betterment of all, and I not only gained knowledge about how the ecosystem works for the prosperity of the land and the animals because of efforts like this, but a huge amount of respect for those that have the passion and commitment to ensure the survival of both. In Tanzania, the rules and regulations are designed very specifically around the sex and age of an animal that may be hunted. I saw ethics, morality and compassion play out in the hearts and minds of all involved, from the trackers, to the game wardens (who were with us at all times), to the Professional Hunters (who were our guides, and our protection and who judged the appropriateness of the animal to be hunted), to the camp staff, to our own hunters. Each one respects God’s creations, the Laws of Nature and concept of hunting over and above taking of animals.  It was calming to see this all in harmony.

We saw the Laws of Mother Nature at work on that very first hunt. Jim got an older Topi and moments after, the next male had already taken charge of his herd. We watched as he pranced and snorted, our eyes wide as we watched it play out. Here he is.

Ready to take over

Ready to take over

Who knew by 8:30am we would be back at camp already? It had been a busy morning. But after a quick snack (Johnny’s tummy was already rumbling, something we would start to anticipate each day), we were back in the Land Cruiser to our next stalk.

We decided to track those Cape Buffalo close to the camp. So out of the truck we climbed. I think for most professional hunts, you’d probably feel a little loud with 4 guys walking around – imagine our clown car – 1 Professional Hunter, 2 trackers, 1 game warden, 2 hunters, 2 wide-eyed girls, and 1 guy that Johnny just liked to have around. Johnny wasn’t messing around though – he always made Amy and I “Salad Up” – which meant we wore camo that looked like a bowl of salad all day, every day. Amy went by “Guacamole” Salad, and I went by “Taco” Salad. You can see we took everything seriously.

Since it had rained the night before, things were a little wet, but I think it made the tracking easier and we found our Buffalo. We stalked as quietly as a gaggle of 9 people could do and got pretty close. They led us into the swamp and we followed them a good way. Sloshing quietly – no one told Amy and I to bring rubber boots……At one point, we were staring at them face to face, when the game warden pointed out an onlooker to Amy and I. A couple of Hyenas wanting to see what all the fuss was about. (I think these were the guys hanging around my tent the night before.)

Eventually, the Cape wandered off further into the swamp and we called it. We sloshed back to the Land Cruiser and off we went again. And talk about Noah’s Ark – I think we saw a million animals just that first morning:

Northern Carmine Bee Eaters  – simply the most spectacular birds I have ever seen;

Northern Carmine Bee Eater

Northern Carmine Bee Eater

Fish Eagle – alot like our Bald Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle – humongous nests! Tawny Eagle; Lizard Buzzard; Coppery Tailed Coucal; Guinea Fowl; Black Bellied Bustard; Zebra; Giraffe; Oribi; Warthogs; Gray Duiker; and Roan Antelope just to name a few and I think that was all before lunch.

We drove all the way to Vundu Fly Camp where we had lunch and a siesta – as long as the animals were sleeping, we thought we would too.

Looking fabulous in my "Salad" at the Malagarasi River

Looking fabulous in my “Salad” at the Malagarasi River

We learned alot about efforts to stop poaching on the leases we were on – more about that later – but importantly – we learned that it’s not just the poaching of animals that are a problem, but even that of trees like this one – the African Mahogany is endangered because poachers can make a years salary by selling just one tree. This is a rare old one and we had a lot of fun gathering it’s “magic beans” – anything to bring good mojo.

giant African Mahogany

giant African Mahogany

On the way back to camp after a very long and adventurous day, Monty got his Warthog. It was my first experience with this creature up close and I was amazed at how prehistoric he looked. Nothing seemed quite right, as if from another planet. Bumps in places you wouldn’t expect, strange hair like an old man as his mane. And strangely enough, over the next several days, these scary looking and extremely aggressive animals would find their way into my heart and make my tummy shake with laughter every time I saw them run.

Team Worley and the Replacements

Team Worley and the Replacements

The sun set as we were making our way back to camp to join the Draeger Safari and compare stories over a campfire and great food. Wow – what a day…..

Arusha to FishEagle camp at Moyowosi

Ready for our Safari

Ready for our Safari

And away we went….shuttled off to the Arusha Airport

Departures "Lounge" at the Arusha Airport

Departures “Lounge” at the Arusha Airport

While the boarding procedure was pretty simple, I STILL had to take my shoes off at security :)

While the boarding procedure was pretty simple, I STILL had to take my shoes off at security :)

We had a pretty good distance to cover to get to Moyowosi, which required a stop over for re-fueling at the equally luxurious Tabora Airport.

Pitstop for all

Pitstop for all

When we arrived at FishEagle, we knew we were officially on Safari. These Land Cruisers were to be our transport for the next 12 days. Probably the most heavy duty brush guard you can equip a truck with, two spare tires and dual fuel tanks for a very good reason, but most importantly is a small metal box welded just above the back rear tires. This is for Elephant Dung – yep – and when you light it on fire, it’s the best mosquito repellant on the planet – who knew?!?!

Official transport complete with elephant dung burners

Official transport complete with elephant dung burners

We were whisked away to camp where we were greeted with shouts of “Hujambo!” (Swahili for Hello) from the staff. Again, cold towels and welcome beverages, smiles and bright eyes from everyone. And Wow*, was I surprised to find such amazing accommodations. (*Wow quickly become the most overused, but completely appropriate, word during our Safari – you just couldn’t believe what you were seeing and living.)

We sited in the guns and they even let us girls have some target practice (later known as “You Girls…” said with a sigh).

Master Instructor Donnie

Master Instructor Donnie

Just like Charlie’s Angels…..but different…..

Charlie's Angles, soon to become....Johnny's Nightmares

Charlie’s Angles, soon to become….Johnny’s Nightmares

After a long day, the second of our adventures, we had a fabulous dinner and retired for the first of our nightly rituals to the campfire under God’s gracious blanket of stars. And on cue, the thunder rolled and we heard the rains in Africa. Lots of unfamiliar creature sounds throughout the night, many of which not only sounded like they were at our tent doors, they most likely were. You are quickly reminded why you don’t go for a morning jog or an evening walk out here. Not unless you are surrounded by a security detail even the President would envy.

Everyone had put away their cell phones and the only electronic equipment in sight were in the shape of cameras and camcorders. Even on the few nights we pulled out the ITunes, it didn’t last long as Mother Nature’s music was far better than anything we could have produced. We all slept well that night and it would be needed as trucks would pull out at 6:30am the following morning.