Elephants and Elephants Galore!!

The Safari began with an exceptional note. The day just went on to become more and more interesting as it passed. The company we had couldn’t have been better and the guide was stupendous with his accurate knowledge. I could go on filling the entire description with superlatives, but here I stop…. The day was too great to be described. I would use the photographs for description.

The Battle of Dead Water

The Battle of Dead Water

It was early afternoon in the Moremi Game Reserve, the sun had heated the bush sufficiently for perspiration to ooze out of the skin and to stoke restlessness in the middle of an arid landscape. A lone Elephant stood in ankle deep puddle trying to stave off the heat. In those shallows dark recesses of moisture lay a wondrous wealth of cool and comfort for the giant elephantine skin under direct scorch of the sun. It was his territory and his alone. The territory wasn’t too happy either, it lay lifeless and dead, getting deader by the moment under the glaring sun. Baked bottom of once a lake alive with water creatures and birds lay exposed all over.

A dazzle of zebras peeped longingly from the bush. The sun was too hot for everyone. A chance to quench the thirst would not be lost. They crept closer through the dense bush, inching slowly almost nonchalantly towards the water. The elephant measured their infiltration with cool composure, throwing mud filled water over himself every once in a while. The Zebras galloped through the clearing to have a go, but the elephant was soon out of the mud challenging them in the big battle of dead water..

The Baby Elephant

The Baby Elephant

This was a special scene by the roadside, the reserve had not even begun yet. The countryside had plenty of Elephant herds tearing down trees with their giant strength, marking their poop all over, reaching for the soft shoots and the acacia pods with their elongated trunks. at places it was mayhem of trees on display. Here the mother and baby stood quietly as we stopped to capture the scene in our hearts…

There is a twinkle in that eye

The Naughty Elephant

Having been warned about the ferocity of African Elephants, we expected nothing less than a full blown attack by the herd when we stopped next to it. However, they chose to ignore our tiny presence and continued with their game with the acacia tree. Only when they wanted to change the taste of snacks did they move to a new tree. Occasionally, throwing a mock tantrum with the shaking of the head and then moving on… quietly laughing in their heads.

The big beasts of the day

Things we missed

Of course, the camera was not always ready and we were not always prepared for the animals to show themselves. It was only the first day of Safari. We missed the Ostrich brothers as they flashed by, the warthogs, the impalas, the buffalo, the water buck, the lechwe amongst others.

we also missed the lion by a few hours, but we were happy and could wait for the Lion to show up. We missed the wild dogs by half a day.

Things we learnt

They are far too many to recount. We realised the presence and importance of birds. We noticed that the birds are colourful and wonderfully so. It dawned on us that they have varying names and calls. It was a great day for acquaintance with the birds and a wonderful company of bird lovers to keep us occupied. Every minute of the day was wonderful. So much so that by the evening, when we saw the hippos lazing and the pug marks of Lion we could give honestly give them another day to show up.

Day One : Enthusiasm

Tea with Hornbills

As first time travellers, we landed starry-eyed into Maun, Botswana, there were no expectations yet everything seemed lovely and beautiful. The people going about their daily chores seemed exotic. The smiles of strangers seemed warm and affectionate.  Precious, the waitress at the airport cafe seemed such a bundle of joy and love, when she fished out a vegetarian dish for us even when none on the menu were available. Jacques, our own one man Botswana, till that moment, arrived with the van to whisk us away to our lodge for an evening’s rest before we began our safari.

René who runs Discovery Bed and Breakfast along with his wife Marije, met us at the gate. They have a few chalets set in beautiful surroundings which he showed us immediately after our arrival. The stars in our eyes just grew brighter. The place was lovely with large green trees and an abundance of birds.  It is difficult to imagine trees in Maun. There is only sand for soil, but everywhere you look you find it green. Most of the trees are acacia of some kind but there are others too. Also, there is very little undergrowth. We passed rest of the day soaking up the sun, the bird songs and the purr of a pet cat, who always snug up close and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Inside the chalets were walls decorated with tribal art, cosy beds, traditional bowl for wash basin and supply of hot water. What more could one ask for?

Chalet at Discovery, Maun
Charm of Africa

A little later, the sun set and the fire was up and burning. We took up the remaining seats around the fire. Dinner was announced shortly and things livened up very soon. Seated on Dinner Table was a group of four from South Africa that had driven 800 kms in a day. It consisted of visibly old people but when they started talking they didn’t appear so old but  very experienced.  The conversation began with them and they sustained it initially, but then it spread in all directions and soon everybody was talking and almost with everyone. It was a great evening, delicious food, lovely company, wonderful stories, clear starry skies overhead, a fire crackling on a winter eve, long conversations with dollops of laughter punctuated into it. We realised that these wonderful people were going to be our companions for the trip. We were looking forward to our first day at Safari already.

Travel: A Destiny

The will to travel and explore is very strong and amazing. It will take you places; make you face unknown and unforeseen dangers, yet keep you smiling in the end. What keeps it going? Why do we heed to it so much. Why it is travel means fun and frolic for most of us?  As I look back to the beginning of this travel, I do not see myself surrounded by such questions, rather I see an enthusiastic and dreamy person, looking to travel and taste the world.

So, it began a couple of months ago with web searches, email exchanges and occasional Whatsapp chats. The decision to go to Botswana was not entirely original. The seed was laid during interaction with a colleague and a talk about Africa and its natural wonders. Africa… it is an amazing word. It has come to symbolize so many things in my mind. As Hollywood and National Geographic were my only source of information, I decided to look more closely. The fact that these two were not Africans themselves seemed odd. Yet, that is a story for someone else to tell. Botswana figured as top destination in Africa on an internet search, yet I had never heard of it.

I have been trying to write down my feelings after the trip but it has been very difficult to bottle the feelings into words. They wouldn’t agree and it is nearly impossible to force them. They like to be free and the words, they don’t come easily. I have been trying to settle this tussle in my head, but it is hard. The feelings land lightly at the doorstep of the brain, mind thinks up the words but as soon as it sits down with a paper, the blank page stares back askance. The mind cannot bear such a raw challenge and a chaos is unleashed. Despair rules the roost and pen takes a bow. The paper, now crumpled awaits its flight to the dustbin.

Discovery B&B
Pietranella, enjoying her siesta

Lo! the fingers are drumming the table. Another soft landing has been heard at the threshold. This one looks friendly. This time there will be no games, no churning of the giant wheel to rattle out big words to contain such free spirits. There will be an honest attempt to let them express themselves. Here is an open invitation to memories since faded. It would be a pleasure to have your company as you wish it to be. Please come over and sit by my side as I write this.

 

To believe or not to believe

Here it comes! headlong into my lap
as I run straight into another gaffe

Oh ! gone are the days when I could trust
a book, the press even a stranger if I must

Such a decision would have taken no time
having heard the news a dozen by dime

Later, the reason would often thunder
how could you make such a nasty blunder

Insight, the wise was slow to arrive
smiling, boy!  a point didn’t he drive?

Now, the ear listens with a knowing smile
and the eyes look beyond the paper file

with dazed eyes, they look but believe
not, turning things as in a sieve

Yet, often the question comes to peeve
would you believe not or rather believe?

THE FUN OF GARDENING

It has been two months since I wrote my previous post about my intention to become a gardener. However, I must say that on the spectrum of human effort I am on the lazier side. while my determination to go ahead and purchase all the equipment required for the effort was done in a jiffy, the actual working on the ground began only after a lot of pushing and prodding. However, it did begin a few weeks after the purchasing frenzy. The tilling of the patch on the garden was done in one day. It wasn’t easy. The nature works in her mysterious ways and in middle of the garden, in the lush green patch, below the flimsy, shallow green layer appeared hundreds of stones. They were initially, very easy to work with, coming up with the hoe here, with the spade there and getting bunched up with the rake, but things turned nasty when the metal hit one of them buried underneath. Within moments, I had gone from being a gardener to a stone miner. yet by the end of the day, the patch was done and every thing seemed to be in order, except probably my back, which needed a lot of rest.

Then following the wisdom of internet I let it be and waited for the weeds to come back up, which they did slowly. The next few weeks were slow and moody. I didn’t visit very often but the weeds weren’t very enthusiastic either. The really tiny ones, kept popping up but the large ones seldom showed up. On one evening, I finally decided to plant.

I had been thinking about planting greens in the garden, but just couldn’t figure which ones. Finally, we settled on Spinach, Coriander, Brinjal and Tomato (Not strictly greens!). The book mentioned a wide row technique of planting and I decided to give it a shot. The area was dug up again and a layer of fertiliser dropped in. The book mentioned a 5-10-10 mixture, which I could not get. So I out a 13-20-20 one. The seeds were placed and next morning I eagerly awaited the sprouts. To my dismay nothing propped up.

Suddenly, a great variety of weeds began to show up. These things are extremely opportunists, with little shame. They were propping all over, requiring dedicated work each day. However, within a few days, some of them turned out to be spinach while coriander, patch still was barren. Soon Tomatoes came up followed by brinjal. Spinach has since grown rapidly to reach the optimum size for cutting, Tomato has been transplanted and has been joined by Mint, Sweet Potato and Gourds. while, we still look expectantly to the coriander portion. may be some day, it will sprout through, may be not.

till next time

START : JOY OF GARDENING

On a bright morning, sitting cross-legged by the sea-shore I was choosing what to do next.  A search on kindle yielded some options for books. as usual, I began to check reviews of each books and that is where the journey began. At least, I would like to remember it that way. I finally bought Dick Raymond’s Joy of Gardening. it promised to be a good book. it came loaded with recommendations and to top it all was the big foreword which again was a huge recommendation to read the book.

Before I continue, I am not a regular Gardening book reader. I have often looked at the gardening coffee table books in libraries. That is where it ended. however, for sometime now, I have been thinking about growing a vegetable garden of my own. Why? there are various reasons. The veggie prices have been soaring. the choices in the market are not very great and I read in another place about the vegetables of the supermarkets. It is believed that they are not the most nutrition loaded rather they are the ones with most longevity in them. so slowly, we are moving away from nutrition towards better looking and lesser ageing vegetables. Talk about cosmetics of vegetables. So, one fine morning, we looked at our lawn and decided to put it to some good use.

So, back to the book in my hand, It started off pretty well and soon I began imagining my small vegetable garden. the concepts of planting in wide rows and elevated beds was very new to me. It was only later I realised that the book was written nearly 4 decades ago, it never seemed that way while reading it. Although I came away very informed and confident about starting a new garden of vegetables, the book is written for a reader and gardener in USA. The writer frequently mentions that his methods apply in all climates and all types of soils. I only found his reference to south as being southern states of US. I became a bit sceptical about being too far south the equator to try it. Another series of searches revealed almost nil material for gardening in Tropics. It was disheartening to have only one option with me. I found a little pamphlet about the topic that was very different from revolutionary techniques of Mr Raymond.

After a little thought, I have decided to go out on a limb on the theories of Mr Raymond. I have plans to get in touch with local gardeners too. One of these I might dig up a small patch on my lawn, make my own compost and hopefully, grow my own tomato. seems like a dream!!!

To a Child

A journey of thousand miles

Isn’t a road of smiles

Trouble, from start, piles

The road awaits, my child

Things are often simple

Ain’t easy, O! People

At the glory temple

Hard work pays ample

It may not suffice alone

Distractions galore and

Weaknesses are atoned

By persistence alone

The tide is high

The time is nigh

Come my boy!

Say ye goodbye

Bid adieu and gather your best

Let’s sail away into madness

For only through the tempest

We reach the land of greatness

At Night

Find what you might

If there is no light

Lying beyond sight

Prepared for fight

Eyes as a kite

Shadows do slight

Senses feign sleight

Darkness ready to bite

Fear of the dark

Isn’t here but Hark!

Is that a spark

Amongst the bark?

Only aid is sound

It’s not profound

you’re on it, a hound

Before sleeping sound.

The Old Frame

The frame old gathered dust
A photo within laid to rest
Buried deep within my chest
People I knew; in my best

Time has long since passed
Things we had are in the past
A dark spell has been cast
Only in memories do we last

Yet in many mornings green
Joy and sorrow seem serene
A lovely day when it has been
My heart tugs me to the scene

Was it a moment or a banter
Beneath the dust lives a laughter
The moist cloth has the answer
It’s my friends, I must run after.