Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Persistence

As soon as I'm able, I'll post a video I took at the end of a long day. Update: Here it is:


The schedule here is a wake-up call at 5:15, (since there's no telephone, a wake-up call consists of a guard saying hello outside the window in progressively louder tones until we answer) followed by breakfast and the day's activities. We started out with a walk. This consisted of a 5 mile drive out into the bush, followed by a walk escorted by a guide with a .427 rifle and our regular guide, James.

After returning and having lunch, I took a nap. I needed it desperately. At about 3:30 we climbed back onto the Landrover and drove to a sunset spot. A regular feature of safari no matter which place we were at was "Sundowners". We find a scenic spot, the guide pulls out the ice chest and sets the table with snacks and drinks. They're generally prepared with whatever kind of drink you favor, but sometimes my diet coke strains their inventory.

After Sundowners begins the night drive. An assistant sweeps the terrain with a high powered spotlight, looking for nocturnal animals like civets and leopards. I'm not going to try to detail all the animals we saw, because Mary Ann is likely to do that in her blog and my memory isn't that good.

But after the drive was nearly over and we prepared to ford the river to get back to camp. But then there was a cry of a cape buffalo in distress. James turned around and drove toward the cry. As we approached, a massive herd of buffalo came streaming up, away from the river. We drove down to the water's edge and the spotlight showed the sight. A crocodile had its jaws clamped on the leg of a cape buffalo calf. It was calling in distress, but couldn't pull free. Neither was the croc powerful enough to drag him under.

We watched, as the struggles continued. Each time the calf tried to make another effort, he ended up farther into the water. A couple of times his snout went under, but he managed to keep his head high enough to breathe. Other crocs circled, but just waited for the outcome. The cape buffalo mother on shore tried to help, but there was nothing she could do until the hyenas began circling. They had heard the distress calls too and were anxious to see if they could get in on the kill. But the cape buffalo horns are not to be despised, and they were kept at bay.

The guide was rooting for the calf, although it was plainly hopeless. Our fellow tourist was rooting for the croc. But it was just a matter of time.

Then, as the calf was nearly deep enough to lose its air supply and drown, there was a splash as the croc tried to shift its grip from the leg to the calf's neck. The calf jerked free and struggled ashore, if with a damaged leg. The herd was there, surrounding him, keeping the hyena's away. Everywhere you looked, there were fierce cape buffalo horns ready to defend the calf, now in the middle of the herd.

The crocodile swam away still hungry. The calf who struggled and did not give up even when it was plainly hopeless now has an opportunity to heal and survive. But those hyena will be watching, and waiting, as well.

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