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Tales from Tinga: A Safaritalkers Safari to Zakouma


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TonyQ

A fascinating market section, and a wonderful interaction with the drinking elephant. I am pleased that @pault didn't have to leave @michael-ibk out for the lions. I am sure he was very pleased to see the photos of the cucumber. :)

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pault

Just in case you are starting to side with Michael (although I personally think his crude mocking of my red face was a major strategic error) I'd like to talk about "po' l'il me" a bit more before I get on to my version of the market visit. 

 

For this trip I had three cameras - a bit ridiculous but weight wasn't an issue and with Nam Wan heading home after Chad I could send some of my gear with her and not have too much to carry in Ethiopia). Basically I did not want to change lenses at all if I could avoid it and so I had the following.

 

My old Canon 5DmkIII with the 400/4 II which was great for the early morning, late evening and night drives, and of course very reliable for everything. This would be swapped for the 70-200/2.8 for Ethiopia and the 400/4 would head home.

My very new Sony A7RIII with a 100-400 4.5-5.6, which would gradually take over as the main lens. I also planned to try the 400/4 on this using an adaptor, as my tests before I left had been quite promising, within certain limitations. This would be swapped for a Sony 24-105/4 for the part of the Ethiopia trip when little wildlife was expected and this would be my main camera for the whole trip.

My not-so-old but now very much superseded Sony A7RII which would have the 24-105, a 55/1.8 or a 28/2 on it depending on what was needed.

 

I've already mentioned to the point of boring you that all I have from the first two days are the shots I took with the Canon on the first day. I also have my Canon shots from the third day onwards. As luck would have it, on the third day I switched to mostly using the Sony 100-400 and many of those shots are also lost as the Canon card was not full the Sony one was getting there - enough to make it the last set to be downloaded to the dying disk. that means I don't even have many wildlife shots from the third morning. That shouldn't have been much of an issue as we didn't see much, but it included the quela shots I had been working towards for a couple of days. You've seen some taken with the Canon gear, but those were a few (50+) warm-up shots before I switched to the lighter Sony set-up, which was very good for walking around. And I didn't realise that until I got home. I don't remember it, but I must have downloaded to the dying disk at lunchtime that day. 

 

Finally now, with the market visit, we return to a full set of photos, but the problems would not stop here. Because the purpose was to visit a market, I brought the 55/1.8 for my A7RIII - except I didn't. In the dark in the morning I had accidentally packed the 28/2 instead - both are very small lenses. That was a pain because I would generally be much too wide to shoot from the vehicle, but the silver lining was that it would be perfect in the tight confines of the market, and super-stealthy. I am vaguely adept at shooting blind with silent shutter - apparently not shooting at all - and that seemed to be a good plan for the market originally. New problem: Binevenue told us that we should use only phones and that we should use them discreetly. Suddenly the 28/2 was yet another disaster. So while I have some shots from this day, I am effectively shooting with a severe handicap. Mounting the 100-400 and suing 100 was an option but that would be really, really not discreet and more likely that anything to really annoy someone.

 

this isn't going to stop by the way. I'll have more "poor me" camera misery for you soon. It was incredible.

 

One thing about Jane listening to Doug and me listening to Bienvenue is that we had very different ideas about what was cool and what was not. Doug had been much more optimistic about taking photos at the market, although of course we had to be sensitive. Bienvenue was clearly rather more concerned, albeit polite and it was a bit unclear. However, what he said was to take photos while pretending to use the phone for other purposes. That is pretty tricky and would require experience so I am not sure anyone really got that message. In any case, Jane and Joel were quite openly taking photos sometimes and nobody in them seemed too upset, so obviously it is a case of mileage varies. It is a very natural and human thing, just as the whole visit was very uncontrived and at times chaotic. However, when Joel tried to snap a particular woman frying meat I thought she was going to attack him. She didn't and Joel stopped of course - he's no fool and certainly a gentleman to boot. There were also some evil eyes on Jane too when she photographed the kids. I didn't say anything because Bienvenue was sizing things up too and I believed he would know when to step in, which he didn't need to do. I only mention it because it was such an interesting experience to have no camera and so to be totally observant. It was not a big deal and I am certainly not intending to criticise my travel companions (Michael maybe, but Joel and Jane are pure! :D) who did what they thought they were supposed to do and may well have had a better understanding than me. It was a completely new experience for everyone as this was the first time a group of tourists had visited this particular market. I know Jane and Joel won't take this the wrong way, but none of you dear readers should either. There are only questions here - none of you have been to this market so regrettably your opinions are as worthless as mine. :(

 

Anyway the drive to the market was long and hot and not consistently interesting. Nevertheless I am very glad to have done it as I would otherwise be even more ignorant about Chad and life there than I still am. The wandering boys were a revelation. Sent from their homes to wander the arid, dusty plains with an Iman for some months, relying on handouts from people and from mosques along the way and receiving what I assume is pretty intensive religious teaching. I had no idea about this tradition at all - not a clue. It's of course familiar in various forms all over the world, but I was still surprised to see it here. The boys looked so solemn and in some cases surly. I imagine a number cry themselves to sleep for the first few nights and that they must be so happy when it is over - but I also believe that they most would take it seriously as a rite of passage and a duty. Have a look at the faces as they stare us down after we stopped them in the road so we could talk to the Iman and find out a little about what they were doing. I didn't hear  Doug's comment about the laptop, but it's hard to see what good a laptop would be in a place with no electricity, never mind wifi... another mystery. 

 

Not a pose to be seen - just solemnly stare at the camera, with indifference, fear or even a little bit of hate. I didn't notice these expressions at the time - only later when looking at the photo at home (42 megapixels gets you more information that you want sometimes).

 

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Bienvenue stopped a number of people we passed and asked them if we could take their photo and questioned them about what they were doing and shared this information with us. he was a very good guide for this part of the trip I thought - Doug was for now pretty much one of us tourists of course, although he asked better questions than we did and got us some excellent insight as a result - and of course as a Zimbabwean native and the most experienced African traveler there by far (including Chad) he was much more at home in the market than we were and generally a better reader of the people,

 

Bienvenue must be a charming man (well he is, but I mean even more charming than we realised) because everyone agreed to photos and even sometimes, with a smile - or is the sun just in her eyes?

 

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Bienvenue and his sidekick (for now) Doug

 

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I have to say Doug is good for this kind of thing. I mean we all know he is a fine guide for the wildlife, but he's got what it takes for the non-wildlife stuff too He'd probably be decent taking us around Provence too! An impressive man, he is

 

Arrival the market

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We got kids coming up to us. they weren't sure if they should so I made it clear to them it was okay with some peek-a boo and some mock "scary white-man children catcher gonna eat you if you don't be careful" roleplay, which they were surprisingly quick to catch on to ... a couple were genuinely alarmed at first but the older ones reassured them it was a game. I also watched the adults carefully and tried to ask for their approval with my eyes, or at least communicate that if this was unacceptable I would stop immediately. The feedback was reasonably positive, although some were a bit inscrutable and one guy followed us around for a while (one of those giving Jane dirty looks). Bienvenue seemed okay with it though.

 

Unfortunately the elders were not quite as strict as I would have expected and we got a bit too much of a crowd. I stopped any games and redirected kids back to particularly stern-looking adults as much as I could as I was worried it was getting out of hand and we were attracting a crowd. It didn't have much of an impact, but eventually a couple of adults started ordering the kids away with the expected stern-ness and we were soon relatively alone - or at least only watched by the kids from a distance. As expected, other people mostly remained slightly interested but stand-offish and dignified. it's not like they hadn't seen  white folks before - there are of course a number in the park and other tourists and NGOs are around.  I'd agree people were mostly friendly, and once we had dumped the women  decided to split up, with Bienvenue staying with Jane and Nam Wan while the rest of us went off to find the butchery section a number of men came over to greet us and shake our hands with appropriate formality, and a tiny bit of suspicion. 

 

Watching the goat skinning was an experience - using their mouths to inflate the carcass and make it easier to skin them. We stayed away from the slaughter as we were sticking together here - I don't know about anyone else but I thought that was good idea. I thought it was clear this was a place things could go downhill quickly and we had no effective French speakers without Bienvenue or Michael, We had no problems (the daggers thrown at Joel by that woman notwithstanding) and we ordered some fried mutton to take with us and taste. Of course Doug was more than an able guide for this part too - if it wasn't self-explanatory - so I'd say it was very interesting and mildly eye-opening. I certainly felt I had a better feel for the people afterwards  i.e. more than zero, but hey that's progress! 

 

The fried mutton wasn't really tasty for me - and I was worried that woman had spat a few sneaky gobs in our portion... goodness knows why she was so angry, but I suppose she had her reasons. Should have studied my French like Michael. That failure to study would be very relevant soon.

 

Nam Wan at the market

 

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Having got back to the vehicle I decided to try a couple of stealth shots from around the market edges. After looking at what I appeared to have captured in the second one i thought it wisest to stop. Maybe he just likes standing like that? 

 

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The drive back was hot, dusty and uninteresting but I was very glad we had done it. Michael was there to greet us and appeared to be much better. He'd even been out taking photos and had a good time. I was very glad and made a note never to tell him about our plans if he hadn't recovered.

 

Edited by pault
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pault
1 hour ago, TonyQ said:

A fascinating market section, and a wonderful interaction with the drinking elephant. I am pleased that @pault didn't have to leave @michael-ibk out for the lions. I am sure he was very pleased to see the photos of the cucumber. :)

 

Hahaha ... yes.

 

In fact, I think he was just happy to be whole again. I can't even imagine how concerned he must have been when his back started to go so early in the trip. 

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pault

Hmmm.... my memory may be playing tricks. Now I think Sulaiman (our regular driver) spotted the leopard and that means the incident happened while Michael was with us and was part of the original 2/10 drive. It doesn't spoil the story much so I won't change it, but in the interests of not airbrushing Michael from history, I thought I should mention it.

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pault

When we saw the elephants were at the waterhole at Leon's house everyone was really happy, except for Nam Wan, who regular readers will know is more than a little wary of elephants. "You're going to do what?" she asked incredulously. She did come with as far as the house but then stayed resolutely on the other side of it from the elephants, occasionally peeping around the corner to make sure she wasn't a widow yet.

 

We all had a go watering this big bull, who really hogged the hosepipe. I am not sure whether the others were shy of us or wary of him - he didn't seem to be big on sharing.

 

Doug showed us the way

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You know, objectively, given this is a wild bull, Nam Wan was probably the only sensible person there. But we walked towards this and not away!

 

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This is what happened if you didn't keep the flow going strong enough.

 

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And so most of us kept a strong a steady flow into his trunk for as long as he held it down there. 

 

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As Jane mentioned, we were very late for lunch and had little rest before heading out, but there was never any chance we were going to do anything else but stay there for a while.
 

The fly-camping was something we were really looking forward to, We had originally been told to bring our own tents but later were informed that African Parks had been kind enough to let us use the fly-camp for guests of Camp Nomade, although we should still bring our own tents to donate to the rangers - something we were all very happy to do. 

 

It's really funny how Jane's pictures from the drive are almost identical to mine, which could easily be crops from hers.

 

I know MIchael has this one too...

 

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Here I zoomed out and Jane zoomed in!

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And the opposite!

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There were certainly many fewer pelicans and storks than the day before, although there was still plenty of interest. Unfortunately we couldn't stay for long as we wanted to get to the camp before dark.

 

We did that, and while the others went on a night drive, Nam Wan and I decided to stay put. Having waited for this for so long we were not about to leave at the first opportunity. there was a full bar too!

 

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The pool behind all this unexpected luxury (I mean compared to pitching our own tents and borrowing a mat from Tinga) was absolutely alive with crocodiles. They were very vocal too, and there would be grunts all night , as well as the regular loud snap of a jaw closing on fish. In such close quarters there are a lot more threat and other calls than you would normally here and it really was rather wonderful, especially with a clearer sky presenting a 75% view of the milky way.

 

I'd brought my tripod for use in Ethiopia and so brought along a flash too, specially to do a group photo at the fly camp. Unfortunately it had to be taken at night, with no ambient light at all, so the flash really struggled to light the scene (I had expected to shoot at sunset but they were all out on the night drive) but it kind of worked, It was fun setting it up anyway, and it was certainly a very chilled evening. So chilled that Nam Wan started telling a slightly started Doug that she wanted to adopt a baby elephant and raise it in the house to get over her fear of them. A good plan I thought, albeit with a couple of small catches. 

 

Joel was very talkative that evening - at least until Nam Wan got going and Michael gave him a thorough grilling about every aspect of his private life, as well as about his amazing-sounding trip to Ethiopia, what he planned to do with his new whip and whether Harry Potter was a good nickname for him, 

 

Cheers!

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pault

And after a good night's sleep - it really was so cool I woke up and had to pull the covers over me - we were up at the usual time and ready to go again.

 

Good morning Zakouma!

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Which must be a cue for someone else to take over or go through what they remember? Lots of photos missing I think. 

 

I was scheduled to describe a certain incident but am not sure I should hog the report any more - so feel free to go as far as you want guys! Doesn't really matter who takes us there.

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Game Warden
11 hours ago, AKR1 said:

Thanks for a riveting report of an extraordinary place. Made even more memorable by all of you meeting on this site. @Gamewarden is justifiably proud. 

 

Indeed I am. Sitting here with my battered old lap top held together by duct tape, reading this and other reports, I appreciate you have all stuck with ST through the years and the ups and downs and how it has linked you together. It's a positive thing. Thanks.

 

Matt

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@pault

Your description of the uneventful game drive puntuated with “ occasional flashes of a Warthog bum” was hila:Drious 

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gatoratlarge

It's funny to read other perspectives of the same experience :D  Here I thought i was being entirely discreet snapping the occasional furtive shot at waist level with my iphone -- I thought I was going about my business wholly undetected (except that one rather irate lady) which was over in the meat department of the market.  Ironically, I wasn't taking a picture of her at all but she seemed to object to me taking a picture of the grill.  Moments later, two young guys seemed perfectly fine even mugging for the camera in front of their grill.  Here are some additional pics of the nomad market which I found fascinating and yes I did buy a whip here which has been alluded to in other parts of the TR.  It was pretty cool to be at a market where nothing was there for a tourist as there basically are no tourists.  If you bought something, it was something of use to the locals like a horse whip or camel tweezers...it isn't for the weak of stomach and you may see instances of rough treatment of animals.  They don't view animals in the same way many westerners do...

 

Folks along the way were very friendly---my understanding was the young boys traveling with the religious leader was a four year stint of learning the Koran and traveling village to village but I may have mis-heard that...these are the friendly faces I see and scratch my head at the "travel ban" imposed by my country :(

 

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The livestock market was fascinating to me:

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Here was the butcher shop or area (kites flying all around) and where they were grilling the meat we tried:

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And some general market pics:

 

 

 

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gatoratlarge

And the watering of the bull elephant was so cool---my favorite part was the sounds he made while drinking---total satisfaction! :D

 

 

 

And here's Andreas giving him a drink :) :

 

 

 

 

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pault

Great photos Joel. Really give a feel of the place.

 

I'll admit you were moderately discreet. ^_^ Very cool result anyway. And yes that's right, you were taking a photo of the meat at the time that lady went a bit nuts at us.That makes her surprisingly violent reaction even more puzzling, and even better illustrates the unpredictability of things. But I've had similar reactions elsewhere. I don't mean to overplay it or to suggest it's a Chad thing.

 

I'd totally forgotten about those people on and around the cart - they were really waving a lot weren't they, in a way most people there didn't.. I didn't get any pictures of them because i was on the other side of the vehicle I guess?

 

We'll have to look up how long they do that wandering for.... I find it genuinely interesting. Four years sounds like too long, but  I have no memory of a number, just a feeling of a lengthy time. 

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pault
Quote

 (I had expected to shoot at sunset but they were all out on the night drive) 

 

Michael (who pretends to be the reliable one, but it's really Andreas I think) tells me this is not the reason I was late setting up the shot. If so, then I guess it was just I forgot because we were having such a nice time. That is actually a better story, so I let down the side there!!!

 

However, I've had to warn everyone that if they keep on being so anal about linear narrative I will switch to magic realism. :D

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SafariChick

oh my lots being written while I was sleeping!  Yes, it's true, we didn't go on a night drive that night we arrived at the fly camp, we just wanted to enjoy camp. But it was almost dark when we arrived so by the time you set up the camera, it really was dark.  

 

Joel you really got some great photos of the market. It's true, the treatment of animals was at times rough and I had a hard time with that, but really glad I didn't visit the "animal side" of the market as even without that I saw a donkey get hit hard with a stick when it came over to eat some woody vegetation off the ground where it wasn't supposed to. I definitely remember hearing Bonvenue (and I am spelling it that way because that is how he pronounced it, he didn't pronounce it like Bienvenue which means welcome in French - but maybe that IS how it's spelled, I have no clue!) say that it was several months not years as to how long the boys would be away from home with their teacher. But memories are tricky, as Paul has pointed out!

 

And yes, Michael was definitely with us on the drive before the market which included the cucumber sighting!

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Soukous

It's been said before but I'll say it again. This multi authored trip report really zings along. I love the way you all have different - sometimes very different - recollections of events you were all present at together. 

 

The market narrative and photos are a nice addition. 

 

One observation I do have  - and I can say this because I've seen TRs from most of you before and know that you are above average photographers - is that the light seemed to be very poor indeed. There is an absence of the clean crisp images you guys normally post. 

Was dust a big issue?

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pault
5 hours ago, Soukous said:

It's been said before but I'll say it again. This multi authored trip report really zings along. I love the way you all have different - sometimes very different - recollections of events you were all present at together. 

 

The market narrative and photos are a nice addition. 

 

One observation I do have  - and I can say this because I've seen TRs from most of you before and know that you are above average photographers - is that the light seemed to be very poor indeed. There is an absence of the clean crisp images you guys normally post. 

Was dust a big issue?

 

Yes!! Well I have a lot missing so I can kid myself, but I have very few images that I would call clean and crisp, or would think of as among my better ones. I’d put it down to dust and poor light -either too flat or too bright. It will improve a bit though. 

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michael-ibk
On 21.4.2018 at 10:58 AM, pault said:

'd like to talk about "po' l'il me" a bit more

 

Really, do you enjoy doing that? I never noticed. B)

 

Great stuff about the market, I really enjoyed all your (very different) takes on this given that I´m just a trip report reader on this like everybody else. And of course the Elephant stuff is pretty awesome as well, but by now I´ve heard so much and seen so many pictures and videos about it and that my (highly unreliable) memory will probably soon tell me that I´ve been there as well.

 

So why did I not come? I was/am recovering from a slipped disc, and while I was generally ok after snacking on my delicious painkillers this "road" where we all did not see the Leopard but some (very pretty) cucumbers and were indeed trying to find lions was just too much.

 

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So I decided to sit this one out and spent a morning in camp. Which was actually rather enjoyable - as was Tinga in general. I really did not expect much from this, and had resigned to the fact that we would probably spend our time in Zakouma in a run-down, slightly depressing musty place with mediocre food (if lucky).  So it was a very cool surprise that Tinga is actually quite a nice place to stay at. The rooms are fairly basic but clean, the beds  comfortable, the fan a godsend and the bathroom offers everything a bathroom usually should.

 

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The premises are really nice, there are lots of old big trees which give a nice breeze, and there was always interesting stuff to watch. And one had to take care - the camp is of course unfenced, and wildlife does wander through. Baboons naturally, Bushbuck skulking around, but also a herd of Buffalos one morning just by our room when we wanted to go to breakfast.

 

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Camp Agamas

 

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Tinga was the best place to watch Tantalus Monkeys - we did not see them a lot on our game drives, and they were pretty shy there. To me it just looks like a Vervet so it was hard to get super-excited about seeing a new species. Apparently they are the largest of this savannah monkey type family.

 

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This is the Salamat river down there - already dried out here in March.

 

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Our dinner table - many extremely intellectual and sophistic discussions took place here. Food was really nice, good quality meat, often fresh salad and fruit, again far better than expected.

 

I had my morning out of action and also the short breaks between drives to explore a bit, and was very happy with my little birdies.

 

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African Grey Hornbill

 

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Western Violet-Backed Sunbird

 

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African Paradies Flycatcher

 

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Black-Headed Gonolek

 

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Black-Rumped Waxbill

 

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Fine-Spotted Woodpecker

 

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Pied Crow

 

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Namaqua Dove

 

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(Probably a) Black-Headed Weaver

 

I also had a friendly visitor while I was lying in front of my cabin, recovering a bit from the bumpy road that had taken me out:

 

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This snake just crawled out from under my cottage, and suddenly it was there, not more than three or four metres away from me. I had no idea what it was and just froze. It was probably as surprised about me as vice versa and so we entered into a no-holds-barred staring contest, trying to decide what to make of each other. After a few minutes it relaxed, diverted its attention to an agama passing by very closely, and I decided to try to snatch a few pictures, moving very, very slowly. After about 10 minutes my friend fortunately had enough of me and slithered into the fallen leaves, totally invisible once it was in. A good incentive for me to put on my walking boots instead of my sandals when I was exploring the camp area afterwards. :)

 

Later, while I was waiting for the others in the dining area, I told staff with faked placidness that I had seen "just some snake". An African Parks representative (I forgot who, not Leon) was present and after looking at my pictures told me that "just some snake" was in fact one of the spitting cobra species!

 

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So I told everyone at home with huge excitement of my close encounter with this deadly snake, and that I had not even realized that it did not have to bite me to off me. Everyone was suitably impressed and I had certainly risen up on the "cool guy" ranks.

 

Then I made the mistake to ask Doug to get confirmation on the ID. After some time, consulting with some of these crazy snake specialists, he unfortunately told me that my poisonous killer beast was in fact a completely harmless Olive Grass Snake.

 

I did not tell anybody.

 

Edited by michael-ibk
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michael-ibk

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Tinga also has a very nice waterhole, just a few hundred metres "downstream" of the dining area. While the others were out doubtlessly having a wonderful time looking at goats getting slaughtered I was sitting here under a nice cool tree and watched the comings and goings. I really enjoyed this a lot, and the serenity and peacefulness here was a huge factor why I was actually not too disappointed about not having been able to join the others.

 

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Red-Throated Bee-Eater

 

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Black-Winged Stilt

 

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Artistic license here - while there were lots of Crocs in the waterhole these guys were relaxing just another 100 metres downriver, where we crossed the Salamat to get to flycamp. Note the size difference between the monster on the left and the dwarf on the right.

 

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A juvenile Goshawk was visiting me, perching just in the tree under which I was sitting. A much more welcome buddy than the snake, I have to admit.

 

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An almost unusual picture for Quelea - normally shots are only taken of their huge flocks.

 

Mammalwise it was not too exciting down there, but a part of me was quite happy it was not getting too thrilling. Not sure if I really would have been too ecstatic about a bunch of lions showing up without Doug by my side, and more than once the sound of breaking twigs (always Baboons) made me cringe. Just to be clear, where I was sitting was still in the camp area, the next house was probably 50 metres away.

 

We tend to mostly ignore Baboons on game drives, but I always enjoy watching them interacting, they are interesting animals.

 

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Little Firefinch

 

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This Bushbuck was extremely careful, I watched it for more than fifteen minutes under the trees before it finally decided it was safe enough to walk down to the water.

 

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gatoratlarge

I'll let the other safaritalkers take us into our first encounter with Zakouma's elephants---I'll just add that my memories of the fly camp were: it was the best night of sleep of the trip, and those were the noisiest crocs in memory!  In fact, they made a growling noise that sounded like a human trying to fake a croc noise...I've been around a lot of saurians but never heard these exact noises.  Crocs are often taken for granted because they so often just lay there in the sin but they are such relics of the dinosaur age and look so fearsome, I can't help but admire them.  Here are a few crocs---one from the gathering we saw just outside Tinga Camp, and the others across from the fly camp which kept most of us from getting to close to the shoreline, but the birders risked all for the perfect shot of a hovering kingfisher!

 

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pault

Thank you for two great posts @michael-ibk, which almost make me jealous of you having the time off. Your bird shots have come out really nicely. 

 

 

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pault

Bonvenue or Bienvenue.? My instinct would be to trust @SafariChick but I never saw it written. In any case it is the kind of name that people with poor French (and we both fall into this category I think) can easily mix up. Bonvenue is Esparanto, but it also makes sense as an African name. Nevertheless, he introduced himself by saying "Yes, that's right my name means welcome" so I guess the questions would be (I) Is Paul's memory even vaguely reliable? or (ii) Does he know Esparanto? The latter is not as unlikely as it sounds given that he deals with a lot of foreign visitors and in the past many would have been on the geeky (in the nicest way geeky) end of the spectrum, and thus likely to be drawn to the strange story of Esperanto. Inconclusive. :D  You and @gatoratlarge will, undeservedly, be forever unreliable witnesses now, soiled by your association with me @SafariChick. For this, I apologise. 

 

Anyway, the following part is based on very patchy memories of our first morning out of camp. For a start the G&T's I had been making the night before were probably quadruples, so I probably wasn't at my sharpest (although not hangover level by any means). Then there are very few photos and they are from different cameras with slightly different timestamps (I really should do something about that but more often than not one camera is dominant so it isn't a problem) so I can't be really confident in them to help create a timeline. Lastly, and most importantly, I really do not care. One event totally dominated this morning and it is all that needs to be remembered really, Nothing else matters very much. 

 

We now had a ranger, a park guide and our private guide (I am a bit hazy, but I think the ranger had his own vehicle). We had a lot of masters of the bush taking care of these soft, pink, helpless babies. It was very reassuring and, despite warnings that there was really no guarantee and it was not going to be easy to find them that morning, I felt quietly confident, and suspect the others felt the same. With all this help we surely couldn't miss!

 

Of course one side-effect of having not one, not two, but three men in charge was the decisiveness this ensured.

 

"That way!" each said, decisively. Doug won for longest arm

 

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You could tell we were taking the path less travelled by the number of branches and other obstacles that needed to be cleared off the road. There would be more later but I think there were at least occasional obstacles throughout. I have no recollection of seeing anything that morning but Michael might remember a bird or two. However, we did start to get close to the elephants and it was eventually decided that we would dismount and walk into some thick bush. Nam Wan said no thank you. Looking at the path ahead, it was clearly going to be a bit dodgy, and very probably wasn't going to be a very good sighting even if we "got lucky". And indeed, while it was okay at first, with large clearings, soon it ended up rather thick. To be honest I was a bit indifferent and would have told Doug not to bother if I had been on my own, but it was kind of fun too and I never really thought about not going. I expected to be back in 15 minutes with a story of a distant flash of elephant running away from us.

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Kitsafari

@pault not being the serious photographer as you are, I can’t quite sympathise the horrifying dilemma s of having 3 (3!!) cameras. But I for sure felt your pain of losing your photosi Poor nam Wan must have been beside herself if she had seen you guys quenching the elephants thirst but I was totally envious of it. 

 

@michael-ibk tinga  waterhole looked amazing with all those birds you saw . But I was worried about you being alone there - as you said lions walk thro the camp! That snake story sure was funny!

Edited by Kitsafari
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pault

What happened next was that we actually found the elephants. They started to run as expected and all we got were glimpses of them running past through gaps in the bushes like this.

 

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On reflection the fact that they were almost filling the frame should have been a cause for alarm and a circling of the wagons, but we weren't very concerned at all ( I can't definitively speak for everyone else, but based on what I saw I am pretty sure I would have been on the "more concerned" end of the spectrum at this point). Of course by that point there was not much we could do, as we were right in there - not quite among them but at least not very far from them - so arguably unconcerned was a cool approach. I bet Doug was getting towards the "more concerned" end of the spectrum too when one of the elephants (perhaps the one above even - I could not tell you) started trumpeting loudly and then came running through that gap more or less straight at us. It stopped just short of us but it was clearly going to come again. This was a mock charge with serious intent. I wasn't sure we could heed the warning and get out of there in what the elephant would consider acceptable time, and in any case there could be elephants anywhere now. In my opinion, "concerned" was no longer on the table - the new spectrum ran from "alarmed" to "shitting myself". I like to think I stayed firmly alarmed throughout.

 

Putting the order of things together is tricky as of course everything got a bit slow-motiony and my senses were very alert. My immediate reaction (and I do think I mean immediate) was to look for the man with the gun and aim to have him between me and the elephants. At the same time I looked for cover. That seemed to work out nicely as I quickly found myself heading for the man with a gun who was next to a tree and seemed to be trying to lead an exodus. But what he seemed to be saying, in French, to us was "allons" and there were two issues with that:

1) While I remembered "allez" from my time in France 30+ years previously, I wasn't sure I remembered "allons". Now "allez or aller" as an imperative would mean we should go - get the hell out of here - but he was definitely using "allons". Not having a phrasebook with me I looked to see if Michael might be able to help but he seemed to be preoccupied much closer to the elephants than me. Okay, "allons was what - the first person plural? Therefore we! Aha... so it's Let's go - us... together. so he didn't want me to run off without him.

2) The others seemed - and they will tell you the reality I am sure - to still be looking at their cameras or at Doug - although Jane seemed to be moving she didn't seem to be getting any closer. I have no idea if that was an optical illusion. Either they were all cool as cucumbers or I was out of here alive - that elephant was going to have a lot of people to toss around like rag dolls before it got to me and my armed protector. 

 

Doug was staring down the elephant and probably wishing he hadn't got up that morning. He let out a big shout and waved his arms around, which stopped the elephant in its tracks for a moment, and at some point (seemed like quite a long time but it was probably a second or two) people were actually starting to move towards us. They weren't quite so frosty now. And then I could start the quick-walk out.... building to a jog as soon as we got out of direct line of sight of the elephant (or when I judged so!). 

 

As it became clear that we were probably going to make it out alive, Michael came over and gave me my lens cap. It must have got knocked off somewhere (or had it even been put back on?) While I really appreciated this, it is probably the most stupid thing anyone has ever done for me. Dear Safaritalkers... when running from elephants do not stop to pick up lens caps, or even plastic bags. This does not get you "brownie points" - it get's you "stupid points".

 

Nam Wan saw us straggling out of the trees in disarray and knew immediately what had happened. She laughed and laughed. Doug checked that nobody needed to return to camp for a change of underwear and then we were off again... or perhaps we just went back to camp. 

Edited by pault
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pault
56 minutes ago, Kitsafari said:

@pault not being the serious photographer as you are, I can’t quite sympathise the horrifying dilemma s of having 3 (3!!) cameras. But I for sure felt your pain of losing your photosi Poor nam Wan must have been beside herself if she had seen you guys quenching the elephants thirst but I was totally envious of it. 

 

@michael-ibk tinga  waterhole looked amazing with all those birds you saw . But I was worried about you being alone there - as you said lions walk thro the camp! That snake story sure was funny!

Michael seems to have a death wish.... see latest installment for further evidence.

Edited by pault
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Soukous
8 hours ago, pault said:

Thank you for two great posts @michael-ibk, which almost make me jealous of you having the time off. Your bird shots have come out really nicely. 

 

 

 

I was going to risk the wrath of @pault by complimenting @michael-ibk on some terrific bird pictures but, lo& behold, he beat me to it. So you don't really hate birds then? Just over excitable birders ????

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pault
6 minutes ago, Soukous said:

 

I was going to risk the wrath of @pault by complimenting @michael-ibk on some terrific bird pictures but, lo& behold, he beat me to it. So you don't really hate birds then? Just over excitable birders ????

 

Just Michael.

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