Back in NYC after what seems like a whirlwind journey to South Africa. Went to sleep at a robust 8:15 PM last night, awaking at 4:25 AM. SO also arose early, the first time we’ve ever gone out for breakfast before 1:00 PM. I now remember what it feels like to have something to do every day beyond staying up til 3:00 AM drinking wine and watching reality tv. Turns out daily responsibility is not really my cup of tea. I’ve got to slowly get back into my old routine, don’t want to injure myself after all this healthiness/wholesomeness.
Some Observations from Vacation (Vacation from what, exactly, I’m not sure, but still)
1. South African Airlines is pretty sweet. Generally my international travel has been either short trips to Bahamas, or business trips in business class with layflat chairs. We were both dreading the 15 and 18 hour coach trips to and fro. (The return trip apparently faces headwinds so you have to refuel at an absurd hour in Dakar. I was disappointed to learn this is not where the similarly named cologne originated.)
We should not have feared – decent legroom, unlimited South African wine, and personal televisions for all! Attendants were pretty helpful (no foot rubs) and the flights went by pretty quickly, all things considered. SO developed a theory that every flight of duration greater than six hours pretty much sucks equally. Mull that one over.
2. As cool as safari is, it is fucking exhausting. You get woken up at 5:30 AM daily and have morning and afternoon game drives. In between there are a few hours for breakfast and lunch. There’s a group dinner every other day where you are joined by your ranger and the other guests in your car. Alcohol is ample and contributes to your tiredness -you stop for drinks (G&T a specialty) during the afternoon game drives in some scenic setting and the wine flows freely during dinner. We were generally asleep by ten at the latest, every night.
We were seriously thinking we would need to order a couple of seasons of The Shield to make it through a week without television. We were incorrect. (Although I did read three books. I’m so erudite. That Chelsea Handler book is a literary masterwork that will be vividly remembered for generations.)
3. The job of safari lodge ranger is similar to being a pro golfer, requiring two distinct, yet unrelated, skill sets. Each group of 6-8 tourists is assigned to one ranger (and one tracker who is an expert in going deep woods to find stuff) who drives the car and essentially leads the tour. They have to know basically everything about every insect, bird, tree, mammal, amphib, song, play, car etc indigenous to the local area. They also have to really be into talking to, and hanging around with, customers/tourists all day long. It requires an outgoing personality far beyond just “I have great people skills, dammit.”
I felt bad for the guys having to go to dinner with us every other night and continue to talk excitedly about the same things they always talk about. (Although one ranger, Craig, is a huge Flight of the Conchords fan, happy to recite “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenocerous” word for word – what up Craig!) They also work a six weeks on, two weeks off schedule, which seems pretty brutal – that won’t be showing up on my potential new careers list any time soon.
4. Lions are pretty scary after dark – one of the nights we had a large male lion walk by our car at night, about six feet from my side of the (open air and feline accessible) Land Cruiser. This particular lion was one of three insane brothers that had terrorized the region, run their dad into exile, and eaten their uncle. (Those Disney movies are rooted in some reality after all, except I didn’t see any flying elephants) I really didn’t even see get a good look at the humongous bastard as I was glaring at SO not to click her camera for the 800th time as he ambled by me (our tracker had a red light that illuminated the situation a bit). Down the road a bit, the fucker started roaring. I didn’t sound like it does in the movies, was more like a very amplified version of what you would expect to hear in the dark recesses of an animal kingdom peep show – kind of an extremely loud moaning/screeching/huffing sound – very unnerving and hilarious at the same time.
During the day? All lions do is sleep, like every other fucking cat in the world. (Although we did come across a pride that was catching its collective breath after an unsuccessful attempt to snare a buffalo. Here is one of the ladies very discretely hiding in a tree about 20 yards from her intended prey)
5. People in South Africa are cool as shit: We met very nice folks at every stop – fellow safari-ers, wine drinkers, etc. The guys were pretty focused on sports and drinking, so I felt quite at home. We even had dinner with a couple we met at the winery/resort we stayed at in Cape Town. Good times.
Big plus: South African English is the closest thing to U.S. English. Even with my deaf ass, I could basically understand everyone. I cannot make the same case for Australia or England; those accents are as tough for me to decipher as a straight up nother language.
Will have a regular post up on Friday, I need to take a couple of days to figure out what’s going on here before I can accurately commentate on domestic happenings,