2011 (January 2011) – After Graaf-Reinet we were off to Addo
Elephant National Park for
two nights. We’d heard there might be elephants there. Turns out
the rumors are true. I saw them with mine own eyes. When the park was
established in 1931 there were only 11 of them left. Now they
estimate there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 450. Dumbo
arrived mid-morning, set up our tent near the park HQ (Addo Rest
Camp), and restocked our supplies in the ‘town’ of Addo (if a
petrol station, a market, and a liquor store qualify as a town) and
spent our afternoon exploring the park in our VW Polo Vivo (Safari
Edition). The park is roughly 164,000 hectares and split into three
sections, one of which is where you find the majority of the larger
animals. Over the course of two days we managed to see a variety of
fauna to include buffalo, warthogs, elephants, flightless dung
beetles, ostriches, jackals, a spotted hyena, lions (sort of), kudus,
leopard tortoises, zebras, and a whole poop ton of birds.
first day was not such an auspicious beginning. The closing time for
the park depends upon the time of year and duration of sunlight. On
that day the park gates closed at 6:30 pm. We didn’t make it. Why?
Well, the late afternoon/evening is the best time to spot wildlife
and we got a little caught up. I blame the lions. And we (as in me)
did something really stupid. While heading back we noticed said lions
in a clearing up ahead but believed erroneously that the area in
question was reserved for guests of a tented camp and not open to
annoyed by this was I (How dare they hog the lions!) that I
turned down a road marked ‘No Entry’ alongside the camp and
almost continued to a place near the clearing. However, it was
evident that the path was not designed with a VW Polo (Safari
Edition) in mind so I retreated. We found out later the clearing
forms part of what is known as a ‘hide’ (i.e. a place where you
can sit behind a wall and peek through special viewing slots designed
specifically for the purpose). There is a waterhole in front to
attract animals. I mistook the structure for a private camp.
if you were sitting there quietly viewing a pride of lions when you
suddenly spot a silver Volkswagen out of the corner of your eye
inching toward Simba and the gang? Wow, did I deserve to get my ass
kicked! I really have no excuse. It was an immensely douchey move.
Not only did I risk getting kicked out of the park but we didn’t
get to see the lions close up. All we had to do was park and walk
into the hide. D-U-M-B-A-S-S. Big fat stupid dumbasshole.
blame the hyena. Our progress was halted once again when we noticed a
lone Spotted Hyena walking down the road towards us with nary a care
in the world, as if it was Addo Hyena National
Park. One word: awesome. Those things look completely insane
close up, like they could go batshit at any given moment. I swear the
fucker was laughing at us. We waved goodbye and moved on.
we arrived at the gate sometime around 6:50 pm it was locked and no
one was around. Huh. Soooo they lock the gate and then leave?
Apparently. Leslie called the HQ and was instructed by the perturbed
women at the other end of the line that they would either send
someone along or we would wait until the scheduled night game drive
appeared at the entrance to open the gate. So we waited. For
fun we should have phoned again and screamed that we were being
chased by four lions, two elephants, a pack of hyenas, two homosexual
Little Pony, a hive of killer bees, two colonies of fire ants and
a partridge.......in a pare tree. But seeing as we were already the
'Asshole Americans' it was probably better to refrain.
gentleman finally showed up with a half-naked child in tow and was
none too pleased. He demanded a little something for his trouble. We
genuinely felt bad for disturbing his evening but it felt a little
like extortion. I suppose it was his delivery that chapeth my asseth
a teensy bit. We coughed up a few Rands and were on our way. Could it
be that we were the only dipshits in the history of Addo Elephant
National Park to be tardy? Not bloody likely.
we arrived back at our campsite we found an older couple had taken
the site next to ours. To make a long story short they both took
exception to my parking spot, a spot that was near their site but in
no way encroached upon the their enjoyment of the site. I watched in
awe as the gentleman erected a tent and placed it right at the rear
bumper of our car as if to say, “Get your f***ing car off our
campsite!’ His wife then made it a point to walk between the back
of the tent and my bumper while glowering at me like she was
attempting to light me on fire using only the power of her mind.
and I were a bit puzzled by this behavior. I didn’t realize there
was a different place for my car, mostly because the folks on the
other side of us had occupied the lion's share of both areas. Even so
all they really had to do was mention something and I would have been
happy to move the vehicle. Instead they both went psycho passive
aggressive on us. That’s one way to handle it. I am willing to bet
their marriage is a great success.
we finally understood what was going on I was more than willing to
sit there sipping wine while watching the Grumps gradually lose their
shit but the gentleman on the other side came over and told us there
should be enough room for us to park. He actually knew nothing about
the two children simmering next to us. Although tempted to savor the
moment a bit longer I decided it was best just to move. Mrs.
Miserable begrudgingly thanked me. You’re welcome m’lady.
likes irony? The next morning I noticed the husband had placed his
tent across the road in an empty campsite. I thought this a might
queer (as in odd or strange). They must be in the throes of marital
bliss to be sleeping in separate tents. After a few seconds I
understood. The hubby was a bit of a snorer. In fact it sounded like
he was felling an entire rainforest of trees with his respiratory
chainsaw. This made me giggle.
next day we spent 11 hours driving all over Addo. There was just
something about being able to self-drive through an area filled with
dangerous animals that really intrigued us. And the best part was
that for much of the time we were alone. Apparently, it is only
permissible to exit your vehicle at designated lookout points and
then only ‘At Your Own Risk’. Get out anywhere else and you can
get slapped with a R800 ($120 US) fine per person. Of course I didn’t
happen to notice that warning written right on our map. I may or may
not have exited the vehicle in order to photograph a flightless dung
beetle, admire a snail, confirm a lion sighting far off in the
distance, and save a tortoise from almost certain death while it was
crossing the road. And Leslie may or may not have stepped out
to get a closer look at a buffalo skeleton perched on the side of the
road. Who brought the assholes?
you may read this and deem us raging dipshits. I can understand
drawing that conclusion. The park ranger that saw Leslie
dismount the Polo clearly thought so (luckily, no fine). However, it
is not as if I got out and tried to dry hump a leopard. I never left
the road and if it is okay for maintenance crews to be out and about
in the park on a daily basis (we saw them repeatedly) I am pretty
sure a few moments snapping pics of a dung beetle falls at the lower
end of the risk scale. Many would disagree. I just couldn’t
help myself. Beetles make me giddy, especially ones that roll huge
balls of shit everywhere. Proportionately speaking I would have to
roll a ball of my own shit the size of a mini-van. Well, it would not
have to be my shit. Any shit would do I suppose. The point is dung
rolling beetles are cool.
goes without saying but I would not f**k with elephants. On more
than one occasion our car was either surrounded by a herd or was,
what seemed to us, perilously close to a large bull. They are
used to vehicles (but not people) so the danger is small but more
than once I considered what would happen if Dumbo
decided Fahrvergnugen was
bullshit and smashed our Volkswagen to smithereens. It was
simultaneously both terrifying and exhilarating all at once at the
same time together. Up close and personal with the planet’s largest
land animal. Highly recommended.
thoroughly enjoyed our time at Addo but I have to admit at times it
felt a little like we were driving inside a really big zoo. The cages
might be invisible but, in essence, they are still there. Actually,
no place we visited in South Africa felt particularly 'wild' and it
appears that every inch of land is fenced off. I believe it was
Robert Frost that said 'good fences make good neighbors.” Of
course, he meant the exact opposite. In my heart I know that
fences/zoos are necessary to protect the animals but it is that
necessity I find so troubling.
|What could be better than smothering yourself in elephant shit?
|Photo by Leslie|
|Photo by Leslie|
|Nice Dumbo. Richie like Dumbo. Dumbo like Richie. Dumbo no trample Richie.|
|Photo by Leslie|
|Photo by Leslie|
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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim