Friday, July 16, 2010

The African Experience Part 2

“Coming down the mountain!” as Perry Farrell says of Jane’s Addiction. We make our way back to the Kia and set out on another long drive to Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Park {pronounced ShlooShloowee Umfolozi}. As we get closer and closer to Durban we begin to see the Indian Ocean. It is a must stop for us. I had not seen the Indian Ocean before and I know mSqwearl had not either. Our minds were made up an we drove on looking for a small village to turn off into. We miss one turn off and decide on Zinkwazi. A small little beach community that looked perfect for a quick 10 minute stop. We park and walk out onto the beach. We stand looking at the 2meter high waves crash on the beach as the tide is rushing in at our feet. While standing to capture the moment with me compact Olympus waterproof camera the waves rush over my feet. Still wearing my Gortex shoes I get soaked as a father and his children capture it on his video camera. We laugh and move up the beach. Standing in the water knee high, mSqwearl is relaxing in the cool rushing water of the Indian Ocean. Ken and I are talking about something as we hear a scream and yell from the distance. With is back turned to the water Ken makes a run for higher ground thinking the waves are going to crash into him. I bolt the opposite direction and run toward the water. I see a bobbing head being pulled along the beach. The head belongs to one of the young children who was with his father down the beach. A large swell came in to the beach too fast and was too powerful for the child to run from. The water grabbed the small boy as if it wanted to take the child to the great blue. However, fate had something else planned. As with us missing our turn a few miles back forcing us to choose Zinkwazi for our stop. The young boy would not be taken by the great waves. As I was running to the water to grab the boy, he was brought to the waiting arms of mSqwearl. He had been standing in the water relaxing as the same giant wave rushed into him chest high. All mSqwearl had to do was reach out and grab the frightened, yet calm boy, by the shoulder. As the father came running to make sure his son was safe, mSqwearl passed the child back to his father. And he thanks him as a caring father would do after watching his child be swept away.

Jasper, the father’s name, would invite us back to his home for coffee and to allow mSqwearl to shower and put on clean clothes. Soaking from the neck down after racing to save the boy , who for certain would have been swept over jagged rocks, mSqwearl, Ken and I all drive to the house up the beach. There we meet the whole family. Jasper introduced us to his wife, mother and father. His father, Jasper Sr., was a retired sugarcane farmer. In the recent years Jasper Sr. has been making trips to schools to talk about nature and wildlife. He felt that many children now a days don’t spend enough time outdoors. So, he brings the outdoors to the children. Doing so takes place in many forms. It could be live animals, plants, flowers or even animal bones and skulls. David, the young boy who was saved at the beach asked his father to get some of the animals out to show us.
Jasper kindly abides and leaves to room and comes back with a large box of treats. He first pulls out a massive skull of a warthog. He talks about how the large tusks are used for digging and foraging and the smaller tusks are used to defend itself.

The second animal he pulled out a small bag came with lots of items in it. First he brought out a tiny skull and placed it on the table in front of us. We tried to guess and determine what it was. To help us out he brought some long quills out and we immediately knew it is a porcupine.
He talked about the different quills and told us which ones are the most dangerous and how the porcupine defends itself. He told us that when a porcupine in cornered by a lion or other predator it will charge them in hopes to jab the hard quills into the animal’s face. Lions can’t resist the taste of porcupine, Jasper said , because porcupine is one of the lion’s favorite meats to eat. But, porcupines are no push over and have been know to kill lions with their quills.
As the quills get jabbed into the face of the lion by the porcupine, the lion will force the quills in deeper as it tries to dig them out. I had no idea that porcupines protected themselves that way. I love learning something new. And that day I was going to learn even more.

The third thing he took out of his massive box was a large lioness skull. He showed us how lions grab onto the face of is prey or the next. To prove his point he too his massive hands and placed them on the neck of Ken, who was sitting next to him. He grabbed and shook Ken then grabbed his own face to show how and where a lion would grab a man.

The fourth animal he showed us was a baboon skull. It was white and shiny with large fangs. Jasper said the getting into a fight with a baboon would be a bad thing. The have large front fangs but they are used for puncturing the meat. the teeth you have to worry about are the bottom ones. As they rub against the top long fangs they get sharpened. Almost to a razor sharpness. I touched them and could feel the edge, much like a knife.
We were amazed by the animals and knowledge of the grandfather. Yet, we were not finished. The children and parents all were not satisfied with impressing the Americans. They asked their grandfather to “bring out the fun stuff”. So, once again Jasper the retired sugarcane farmer now turned naturalist leaves the room. This time he returns with a plastic bag. We could see it had been in the freezer as cold air permeated through the air. He opened the bag and pulled out a whole baboon head. Still containing the hair, eyes, tongue and teeth. Ken and mSqwearl leaned back away from the beast. .

I reached forward and asked if I could hold it. He kindly passed it along to me and I admired its powerful and strong features. This baboon had come into the village and was tormenting people and killing animals. It was threatening the lives of many people and need to be killed. Jasper was asked to come to the village and dispose of it. He did, but decided to keep the head for his teachings. I am glad he kept it otherwise I would have never been able to hold it.

Out plan to stop for 10 minutes soon turned into almost 2 hours. We were asked to join them for fish curry and stew. But, we kindly denied as it was getting late and we needed to check into out huts at the game park. We did however enjoy some birthday cake leftover from the afternoon. We kindly said our thanks for hospitality and moved out the door. Once again, we are shown that people are the greatest keys to vacation and travel. Meeting this family was a pure pleasure and one I will never forget. This day has been one of the most amazing days of my life. I began the morning atop a mountain plateau in the small country of Lesotho and I finished it in the sitting room of a South African family looking at animal skulls and holding a baboon head while hearing the Indian Ocean pound it’s powerful waves on the beach of Zinkwazi.
What kind of life am I living? I ask myself this question many times. I guess I am living my dream.

Part 3 of the African Experience will show you the animals you have been waiting to see. The BIG FIVE!


Ken said...

dude..... I NEED your photos!!! this whole set is missing from my collection!

and.,,,... let me know when you write another african entry as I love reading these :)

Ken said...

c'mon Murph..... BIG 5... you promised!!!!