Thursday, January 17, 2008

elephant x-ing.

Its 9:40pm. The sun has set and the dinner dishes have been washed. Auntie anne is in dreamland to my right, and through the open window on my left the air is filled with a symphony of sounds from the animal and insect kingdoms.

Today was another day filled with exotic animals, beautiful scenery and scorching sun. not bad at all. Early this morning (okay, early-ish), and again on our friendly neighbors’ advice, we shunned the group tours offered by the park, and decided to drive the paved trails ourselves. Inching along at around 30 kms per hour, we weaved through the park. On this journey we saw countless elephants, in the most up close and personal ways. At one point, a family crossed the road we were on, so close to us that if we had reached out of the window to try and touch one, we could have (we didn’t.) such beautiful animals. And so many babies! buffalo, zebras, ostrichs, warthogs, kudus...the list goes on. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see one of the three lions that live in the park – though given that it is a … acre property, with only 20% of it accessible by car, and given the fact that lions apparently sleep 80% of the day, we didn’t feel so bad. Nor did we see any of the 4 black rhinos on the property or one of the hyenas, but given our close encounters with SO MANY elephants, we didn’t feel badly at all. Once again, took a ridiculous number of photos.

Back to the chalet for lunch, then some relaxing in the hothot sun while billie holliday sang softly in the background.

Went back into the park in the afternoon and hung out with the elephants, this time with me as the driver. Driving standard on the other side of the road is definitely something that will take some getting used to. But what better place to practice than in an elephant park, non? Cannot get over how cool they are. So large, yet so elegant, as they move across the land ever so steadily. The only time we saw them pick up some speed was when one mama made a beeline for our car and her two youngstas followed at a speed. I suppose it is worth mentioning that just prior to this, auntie anne and I may have disobeyed park rules and gotten out of the car to take some photos of them. May have. Moving on…

Tomorrow is auntie annes birthday, and our plan is to leave at 7am (!!), and be back in cape town in time for a celebratory dinner. The drive is about 9 hours, but on the way and time permitting, we are hoping to detour to Cape d’Agulhas, the southern-most tip of Africa, and where the Indian and Atlantic seas meet. Most exciting.

A few interesting facts about the park and its elephants: Currently, and unlike the game farm we visited in plettenburg bay (where they will feed the lions a cow every five days or so), this park and its animals are self-sufficient. The law of the jungle rules supreme, and although the vast majority of the animals here are herbivores, the aforementioned lions most certainly are not. As in the wild, they hunt for their food. According to archie and cathy (such a wealth of knowledge those two!), kudus are most often their prey. When the park first opened about 100 years ago with only elephant residents however, those who ran it did not know if they would be able to subsist off the land, and used to feed them oranges. This practice has long stopped, but as a result, no one is allowed to bring any citrus fruits into the park, out of their fear that some of the elephants may remember the smell, and charge any car that may be carrying the fruity goodness. I guess its true about them never forgetting, huh?

Finally, we also learned that elephants cannot lie down. Because of their weight, if they lie down, their own mass will crush their internal organs. This makes transporting them especially difficult, since they have to be tranquillized yet propped up during the process so they are not harmed. Apparently this task can take the strength of 8 men. AND it means that they spend pretty much their entire lives standing, even when they sleep.

Speaking of which…

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