This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Centered In The Middle Of Nowhere

There were three couples at this camp with us.  Two from Germany, although one couple had lived most of their life in Tanzania.  The other couple that we hung out with the most were Paul and Colleen from Durban, South Africa.  Of course, everyone is on their best behavior and it was so pleasant to chat about our different lives.  It felt like an Edwardian travel book or maybe even a murder mystery dinner.  At our first meal I expected one of the servers to announce a murder that we would all have to solve as we played our characters.  

We were free to do any activity we chose.  Games drives morning, afternoon or night, fishing for Zambia's famous fighting tiger fish, walking safari, swimming, canoe trip, visiting a "cultural village" or just try and read a book while monkeys, baboons and an elephant wandered around.

We met a fellow on the river who had caught a tiger fish with his Dad.  They were ecstatic about catching a tiger fish.  It looked like a very large white bass to me.  It was catch and release after a good tug of war.  I didn't fish, but we managed to fit everything else in.

This is us just before going canoeing down a side channel of the Zambezi River.

As we paddled as quietly as possible, most of the numerous animals slowly wandered off.

There was a guide in both canoes.

We saw a couple of crocs sunning themselves.

We saw plenty of birds of all sizes and colors.
This is some sort of kingfisher.

I liked this one's big feet.

I was captivated by the bee-catchers

They live in the walls of the river banks.

Their colors are stunning.

Families of wart hogs seemed to just be puttering around.

There was a family of hippos.  We were told they will go under the water as we keep to the deepest part of the channel.  They can float but mostly walk on the bottom.  The plan of action if an emergency occurred and was to go for the nearest shore.

I am certain I would look like a cartoon victim with my legs spinning and streaking across the water.

Everyone needs a drink before they head off to bed.

The water buck is easily recognized by its "toilet seat" mark.

This was the wider part of the channel.

Lots of baboons along the way.

Giant storks

The male water buck has horns.

Always a drink and food waiting for us.

We were going on a night drive and I asked for a sunset with a baobab tree in front and of course the guides obliged.

Then finally in the pitch black dark we drove around at a pretty good rate of speed.  We now had a spotter in the front seat with a spot light that he continually kept moving looking to catch anything out of the normal.  We weren't interested in water bucks or wart hogs or impalas or elephants.  We were looking for leopards.  We had been wandering for about an hour when all of a sudden the spotter caught a flash of lighter color moving and off we went following the spot light.

He finally kept it trained on a bush.  We stopped and parked about forty feet away.  We waited and I couldn't see anything but we all quit breathing, and then out walked a leopard.

It was like he had been caught and finally he just sauntered out and lay down in the dirt.  He gave us about five minutes to take his photo.

He then walked back and marked his bush and headed out.
We followed him as best we could but soon lost him in the smaller brush.

After searching for a while more and seeing some small critters like an elephant shrew, the guide heard in his radio that there were male lions feeding on the carcass of the baby elephant we had seen the other day.  We hurried over there and as we came around the curve of the road the smell was overwhelming and there was a lion munching on elephant.

We soon realized that there were two males and their rumblings to each other was a low note vibration that was very distinctive.  It was just the six of us and I just kept taking photos.  Soon the complaints started about the smell.  The guide and spotter were sticking it out the best they could but everyone covered their mouths and noses with cloth and started to cough.  The spotter kept moving his spot light so it was difficult to time my photo taking.  Finally one of the males took a firm grip and pulled on a leg and opened up the cavity.  It was like someone had just ripped open a large gas balloon and the smell soon engulfed us.  It was so overwhelming that we all gagged and the driver put it in gear and we were off.


Apparently, lions like to let their meat age a little before they get their fill.

I wanted to go back the next day to see what remained.  As we turned the corner again there were about twelve vultures cleaning up the carcass.  They all immediately took off for the higher trees.  There wasn't much left to take a photo of.

Below are the tracks of a single elephant.

Notice that the tracks of a hippo are the two lane type.

This looked like the wells that you build up around a new tree or bush to help it catch water and let it penetrate deep.  It is made by a certain type of termite that encircles the roots.  It doesn't hurt the bush and in fact helps by loosening the soil and creating a water well.

Here our guide is showing us how to estimate the height of an elephant on this teenager's footprint.
Measure the circumference and multiply it by two and half times.  That is pretty accurate to estimate the  height to the top of the front shoulders.  I suppose that is good knowledge if you are a mystery writer and need some sort of clue.  Otherwise, get out of the way, most of them could kill you just by swinging their trunk.

We hiked through an area that had very little vegetation and had been severely eroded.  Fifty years ago a village had been on that spot near the river.  Foliage was slow to recover the land, so much of it has washed away.

We were shown where the cemetery was and many human bones that had been exposed in the erosion.

Here are many blue glass or pottery beads that were part of the burials.

This area was also used as a defense against Zimbabwe, across the river.  During Zambia's bid for independence they were afraid that other countries might try to come across and gain control.  Below are shells that remain from that time.

There is a huge dam quite a ways upstream.  It creates the Kariba Lake.  Flooding does not take place in the extreme as it did before the dam.  However, when the water from the dam is released towards the end of the rainy season, then the great Zambezi River will rise between six and twelve feet.
The banks are cut back and many trees fall into the river each year.
Here a termite mound has been cut in half and you can see a little of its makeup.

It seemed to me that the circle of life was pretty evident in the "Middle of Nowhere".
Most things feed on some smaller living thing and in turn are fed upon.

The lion doesn't seem to be threatened by anything, I suppose that is why he is called the "king of the jungle."  In the photo below in the top branches of the tree is an African Fish Eagle.  He too, doesn't seem to be threatened by any other creature.  He is the one emblazoned on the Zambian flag.

We humans have that same sort of smug pride as lions and fish eagles, by being at the top of our food chain.  What is it that eats us?  What gets us in trouble?  What can lead to our downfall?
For us, I think we need to watch out for pride, and for each other.

Perhaps in lions and eagles and us, there is that pride of independence and inability to recognize that there is a higher order to which we owe allegiance and a thankful heart.  

Lions and eagles make mistakes and it will be their doom.  Humans make mistakes but those mistakes can be paid for by another, and our lives do not end here on this earth, even if devoured by a lion.  Like lions and eagles we can become like our parents, our spiritual parents.  With an eternal perspective I  recognize my life is not in a food chain but eternally progressing.