Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Last Game Park

Hwange National Park; The largest game reserve in Zimbabwe, but also the last park for Miki before departing the continent. It was a bittersweet thing, but with the promise of many animals to be seen, we pushed the ailing van to perform once more.
Arnie wheezed into the park and we set up our campsite. The poor van was showing the wear and tear that we had suffered upon it during our overland adventures. We had no speedometer, the putty we had slathered on the muffler did little to abate Arnie’s noisy complaints, scratches were evident from the game park roads we had explored, as well as the beginning signs of rust from our salty ocean-side drives. The starter motor was a distant memory and a steady gas leak meant frequent petrol stops. The most recent woes that had begun to beset dear Arnie were a decided lack of get-up and go when the gas pedal was engaged, and the failure of our slider door to seal properly when closed. We found ourselves having to slam the slider shut  two, three times, or more. It was irritating at best, but Arnie still got us where we needed to go.
As we knew that the potential for game viewing was best at dawn, we settled in for an early evening in anticipation of the myriad animals we would hopefully spot the next day. There are over 105 different mammals that live in the park, as well as 400+ bird species. I had my check list handy, as I drifted off to sleep.
The sun was not quite nearing the horizon, when quiet rustling noises roused me from my sleep. Reflexively, I crunched my eyes tighter shut, not willing to accept the fact that it was a new day yet. Remembering that we were in search of animals that day, I peeled an eye open to inspect the interior of the tent. Still dark, but I could faintly see Miki’s eyes looking back at me. Neither one of us were great morning people (heck, it was still dark!), so no words were spoken in our early hour greeting. The sounds outside our tent were of Brett and Oliver preparing to leave for the game viewing. I pulled the blankets up over my head in protest, but started to stretch fingers and toes in anticipation of movement. Miki appeared to be attempting likewise.
The squeak of one of Arnie’s doors quickly had me emerging from my blanket cocoon.
I started to sit up, as Miki said, “What are they doing?”
We both stared at each other, as it become obvious exactly what they were doing. The soft crunching of Arnie’s tires on the earth let us know that the van was in motion. Brett and Oliver were quietly pushing it away from the camp.
“They’re leaving us!” I exclaimed in shock.
Miki scrambled to the door of our tent, just as Arnie’s engine sputtered to life. I sat up, stunned. She watched them drive away, then crawled back to her sleeping bag. In disbelief, we stared at each other, before a fury of words spilled out of our outraged lips. It was Miki’s last park, and they left us behind to go on a game drive without us. “SEXISM!” screamed in my mind, as we decried their selfish actions. It had been brewing, but we could not believe that they had actually went without us. Sleep was forgotten, as we cursed, questioned and plotted how to handle this turn of events.
By the time that Brett and Oliver returned, Miki and I were both up and dressed, clad in scowls for our friends. Our displeasure plain, we informed them that we would be leaving them. We all needed a brief respite from each other. No amount of apologies or explanations that “we would have been too long in getting ready”, could appease us. A brief mid-day game drive was undertaken, but Miki and  I were packed and headed towards Victoria Falls before the day was done.

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