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Published: March 31st 2018
Suddenly I woke up from my sleep in the tent. Just like the last night, I felt a heavy breathing on my neck. It was coming from outside the tent. I carefully listened to the breathing. The animal slowly moved away to the other side of the tent, I heard its cautious footstep; they were not paws because paws have padding underneath; it was as if something was flapping on the wet ground. The animal came back again and started scratching the vinyl wall of the tent. It sure was trying to find out a way to get inside the tent. I thought about the make-believe character ‘Bunip’ in the Bengali fiction,- ‘Mountain of the moon’ where the deadly animal was cautiously surveying the tent where Alvarez and Shankar were sleeping in Africa somewhere. I laughed. That was a fiction, but this is real. Must be a hyena or a baboon. No, baboons won’t come at night, because their night visions are poor. I just had a brush with one large baboon in the morning, and I was not in a mood to start another one now. I thought for a while...Nha, let me find out what it was! Hardev and
John were in deep sleep on the other side of the tent…I didn’t want to wake them up. I checked my watch – 2:20 am. I put a T- shirt on and fitted my head lamp. Then slowly unzipped the main door of the tent and sneaked out. I carried a stick. Once I was out, I slowly zipped the main door closed so that nothing could get in there. Then I tiptoed around the corner of the tent where I had the pillow and turned on the headlamp. A black animal quickly disappeared behind a bush in the darkness. In the shade of the darkness, I couldn’t recognize what it was. Whatever the animal was, it must have been looking for some warmth and comfort inside the tent. Sorry to disappoint you, bud! I looked around. The last trace of the silver light from the moon was flooding the bush camp. The trees and the bushes were silhouette in the semi darkness. The evening dew made the grass totally wet. Sound of crickets was coming from the dense bush. An owl hooted from a nearby tree. Something made sound inside the bush…some animal might have seen me standing; perhaps
the same one that fled a while ago. I turned off the headlamp. When you want to feel the darkness, go dark, don’t spoil it with light. I looked up. The African sky at night doesn’t hide anything. The stars and planets were pouring over the vast African plain from the night sky. The stars were dazzling with their yellow and bluish colour. The Orion was so close and bright that I could reach it. I sat down on a nearby rock. My fear about the night life has faded away after my two nights in Mara. I knew I am not protected, but something told me inside, ‘you are safe…just feel the night of Mara for the last time….you may not see it again.’ I wanted to absorb this early morning beauty of Mara in every molecule in my body. While sitting on the stone, scenes from my favourite movie “Out of Africa” were sliding past my eyes; I sat down with my eyes wide open capturing the sights and sounds of Mara at night; the nightly dew on grass was sparkling in the silver rays silently dropping from the moon. I knew at that moment that this is
my Mara, my Africa, the Africa I wanted to embrace and love in my own way, with my own feelings that may not be shared by the others. This was mine, totally mine. I was sitting there in semi darkness nearly half hour. I wanted to sit longer, but I started filling the chill from the nightly dew falling over me. I went inside the tent and quickly slid in the comfort of my sleeping bag.
We finished our breakfast and folded up the tent. It was a large tent, so it needed all our collective effort to unfasten the chords, remove the pegs and fold the tent nice and compact. Once every bit was nicely packed, we sat down with a coffee last time by the riverside. There she was, the baby croc on the river bank. “Hello Crocolet, stay well my friend.’ I muttered. I gave her the name and I used to call her by that name. When I return to Mara anytime in the future, Crocolet will not remember me, but I will. And the memory stays forever.
Our Rover rolled out from the bush camp and we headed towards Naroke. We
stopped midway to grab some lunch from our cooler. Hardev quickly made some tasteful sandwich from the ingredients inside the cooler. Thy guy is organized…I’m sure I would have starved if I was traveling on my own. We crossed a colorful Masai market and soon met the junction of C57 towards Nakuru. Once at home, we unpacked everything and headed out for dinner.
I was making breakfast for three of us – fried egg, toast and sausages when Hardev woke up. “Listen, I have to take care of few things of the car before we make to Tsavo. How about you make a day trip yourself to Lake Nakuru tomorrow?” Hardev told me when I was setting up the breakfast table.
“No worries man, whatever works,” I replied buttering the toasts.
“I know a tour-guy who runs a show…a small scale…I’ll fix you up with him.”
“Cool, I’m game.”
The mini safari van arrived early in the morning. Lake Nakuru is a small game reserve as compared to Mara and close to our home. But I had a different interest. Thousands of Flamingos make the lake their home as they eat the algae.
The report is many have migrated to Lake Bogoria…anyway, I wanted to check it out. If they are not here, we decided to chase them wherever they were…they would be in one of the lakes close by.
When we entered the park early morning, the sun was just coming up. There were hardly any tourists. A bunch of wild buffalo gave us a dirty look as we were crossing them. We saw few impalas getting ready for their daily chores in the morning sun. The unpaved road turned left and Wallah! Double horned Rhinos! “Shhh!” I gestured the driver with one arm while reaching for my zoom lens. The guy stopped. Another safari jeep pulled from the other side. We were close enough to watch the rhino but at a safer distance. I could see through my zoom…what a massive ton of mass the rhino is…and look at his horn…one push upwards though the body, the poor victim does not stand a chance. There were few zebras close to him, but he was not bothered, neither were the zebras. I suppose every living creature in this world has instinct when to attack and when to defend. This is one
thing I have noticed in Mara…all games like zebras, wildebeest, impalas, hyenas, wild boars; - they all hang around together until a crisis comes. The same hyena that may be hanging around with the small impalas will go after them when it is hungry. Strange animal world!
We pulled out from there and drove through a bunch of acacia and eucalyptus trees. Some baboons greeted us in the middle of the road where we were driving. Reluctantly, they went to the side of the roads as if they were doing us a favour. Probably they were, after all it is their territory. The driver has a better knowledge of the games; he slowed down the vehicle and pulled it by the road side. I looked at him; he whispered “Lions”. I popped up through the open hood and looked in the front. Wow! Not one, two lions were lying down under a tree not far from us, roughly 10 ft from where we were. We parked our car at a vantage position so that I could get a better camera angle. “Where is the lioness? This is the mating season…must be somewhere close by,” I murmured. I asked the
driver not to move. Then came another safari jeep driven by a girl, probably rental. A safari van followed her. This happens, when one spots a big game and stops, the other vehicles know that one must have spotted something. Anyway, I didn’t move from my vantage point. The other cars also parked close by. I didn’t move my eyes from the zoom that I was resting over the open hood railings. The other cars left after a while, but we didn’t move. I was studying both the lions. Although they were resting, one lion didn’t move his eye from me. Was he waiting for my move if I get off from the car? Well, I don’t know, but he was watching me all the time I was zooming him through the open hood. The place where they were resting was close to a big lodge, protected by electric fence and heavy iron gates. Cars went through the gates when the visitors got in and I was not sure if they were aware of the presence of the two lions close by. Suddenly I heard a baboon screamed high above the cliff. I looked up. First, I could not see
anything. It must have seen something! I was scanning with my eyes when I noticed something. Bingo! There she was! The lioness was resting on a rock just above us. I could not see her well, so I told the driver to back the car a bit so that I get to see her well while keeping an eye on the other two lions. There she comes! I watched her while she slowly came down from the rock and sat down under a tree. I guess it was getting a bit hot up there in the sun and she preferred the shade of the tree. We backed the car a bit further to come close to her. I was now less than ten feet from her. She glanced at me, but then she ignored me. Ok princess, you wanted to dump me, fine… but the feeling is not mutual…I want to watch you, baby! At that moment one of the lions got up and started walking straight to the lioness. Did he think I am a contender? Nha! He walked straight to the lioness. Well, well, well….you want to have some romance, ha? Something went inside my nose right at
that moment and I sneezed! What an anticlimax when the lion was going to love the lioness! He gave me a dirty look. I am sure he was thinking, “You Moron, get the hell out of here with your camera…none of your business, you damn paparazzi.” No sir, I am not moving…click, click, click…thank God now a days they are digital, I don’t have to worry about reloading the films. His Majesty was not in a hurry, he lied down close to the lioness while the other lion was resting at his old location. I started yawning - Boring! I wanted to boo them, but decided to move on as I already invested around 50 minutes watching them. They are majestic, but lazy like hell when not hungry. Other than giving me some photo ops, they had no intentions of giving me some ‘aha’ moments. Ok bud, have fun and told the driver to move on!
Stay tuned for the next episode, - the Flamingos!
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