Friday, August 24, 2012

All Things Wild

When Kingsley dug into the bark of the giant cactus tree it oozed a white milky sap that can kill you or keep you alive.  Either way, it’s a good thing to know about.  It's a strong poison that causes your skin to swell up on contact, but prepared correctly it makes a kind of super glue you can spread on leaves, so that when a bird lands, its feet get stuck and you can just pluck it off for lunch. I learned that on our safari today- and so much more!  Kingsley, our guide, was very knowledgeable about all things wild.  He drove us all over the 1000-acre preserve and seemed to know every inch.

While you can see the same animals in a zoo, it was fascinating to see them in their natural habitat- the Tala Game Preserve.  We learned about dung middens and how they are used to communicate.  It goes like this:  The female rhinos make a big pile of dung.  The dominant male comes along and defecates on the dung pile, or midden, to show interest in the females.  If another male wants to challenge the dominant male, he comes and defecates on pile. Who knew a pile of dung could say so much?

We also learned something we already knew, which is that life can be very harsh.  We found a young male hippo dying on the edge of the water.  In animal groupings, males must behave submissively to the dominant male.  This one must have crossed some line, because he was attacked and sent away to die.  We met an old giraffe.  He is a beautiful creature, with dark patches and kind eyes.  We watched him use a stick to scratch his leg.  The younger males challenged him, and he lost.  Now he must live on the edge of the herd.  A wildebeest was walking deep into the bush on the far side of the preserve, far away from the others of his kind.  This is what they do at the end of their life.  They just walk away alone to die. Then there is the weaverbird, which magically weaves a beautiful house of reeds to attract a mate.  He invites her in to see the place, and if she doesn’t like it, she chops it down and flies away to find a better weaverbird.

But, life is also very wonderful.  There was lots of new life all around.  Many baby zebras and giraffes were born.  And Kingsley spotted many birds coming back that he had not seen before.  We had an amazing lunch at the preserve under a thatched roof, chatting with other racers and making new friends. 

 And, today is Meg’s 29th birthday!  We celebrated with a cake, which was much too big for the 5 of us.  We shared it with two little children at the next table, but there was still some left, so we shared it with the race officials who were sitting at another table.  No bribery intended of course.  Tomorrow is the road race.  I do not expect to be on the podium again.  My strategy is to go as hard as I can up the hills, see who's around and work together until the next hill.  One way or another, we will all be back at Alexander Park by noon.  Meg’s race goes off in the afternoon, so we will cheer her on.  Watch the results on the website-

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