And an ENTIRE pride of lionesses.
I’m going to leave you in a tad bit of suspense as it relates to the title of this entry. I’m first going to tell you what an amazing respite I had. Don’t worry, I’ll give you the gory details in a little story time later in this blog entry.
I am so blessed. God is so good. Some of you will know how tired I was before this break. Tired and exhaustion aren’t the right words. I was on the verge of burning out. These last 2 or so months have been jammed packed and have left me stressed out, overworked, overwhelmed, sleep deprived, emotionally and spiritually fried. I knew I needed a break but it was slightly impossible and I knew the girls were coming so I just decided to stick it out another 2 weeks. Bad mistake. It just got worse. But I prayed lots and tried to rest in Him when I could. He was merciful and daily supplied me with bread, energy, wisdom, and patience. I had strength I never thought I could display. It was all from Him. I prayed this respite would do the trick cause it is possible to get so far behind that it doesn’t really help, but He has been the provider. I have seen His grace yet again. As a little early birthday and Christmas present to me from my parents I went on a 5 night/6 day respite with the girls. Here’s a little itinerary and then I’ll share stories and details:
Day 1: Leave the center at 8am and head to Lisi’s resort (10 minutes from our center), have breakfast, and then head out to Macaneta Beach and 4 wheel a little. Return for a late lunch/dinner.
Day 2: Wake up late, eat breakfast, and then head to South Africa with Chestnut lodge around 1200. Check in and then do a little sunset game drive on their game reserve. Eat 4 course dinner, and turn in early.
Day 3: Wake up, have coffee and biscotti and leave at 5:30am to head to Kruger Park for an all day safari excursion. Have brunch in the park and then have a night safari with the rangers. Eat 4 course dinner back at the lodge and crash into bed late.
Day 4: 3 course breakfast and then head to Swaziland to see some amazing scenery. Lunch at the Swazi cultural park and then be shown around a real functioning Swazi village including traditional dances and songs. Back to the lodge for another sunset game drive on their reserve, 4 course dinner and relaxation.
Day 5: Eat 3 course breakfast and then head back to Mozambique having a little city tour of Maputo on the way. Arrive back at Lisi’s for late lunch/early dinner and relax.
Day 6: Sleep in late, late breakfast, relax by the pool and then head back to the center around 3pm.
Four-wheeling at Macaneta was amazing. We spent about 2 hours at the beach, then we headed back to ferry, 4-wheeling the entire way back, and taking in some amazing scenery. I have never 4 wheeled and was slightly nervous at first, but it was such fun on back dirt roads with tons of puddles and potholes. It was very fun!
Jan picked us up on Thursday and we travelled to SA to check in at the lodge. They live in a game reserve on the Crocodile River at the border of Kruger Park. They have all of the big game except elephants. There are no fences anywhere in the reserve and the animals can walk right up to their house. They do. The first night we saw a heard of kudu just come on up to their feeders and munch away. We then headed out to the river to see what we could see….well, we didn’t have much luck, but it was an amazing view all the same. Back at the lodge, Liz had fixed a dinner to die for. This woman can cook. Seriously. No exaggeration. I’m in awe. I haven’t eaten this much food since, well….I don’t remember the last time. I probably gained 5 lbs just in the 3 nights we spent there. Anyway, we slept in blissful air-conditioning for the night and awoke bright and early before the sun on Friday. Before 10am when we stopped for breakfast in Kruger, we had seen 4 of the big 5 animals. Breakfast was at an overlook over a watering hole. We had amazing weather as it was the coolest it has been in weeks with even a little rain early in the morning before we set out to cool everything down. The middle part of the day didn’t lend itself to the best viewing of wildlife, but we did see gorgeous scenerary so it was ok. I even took a little nature break in the middle of the African bush…..sometimes, there are just no bathrooms….gotta do what you gotta do, right? Just for you who haven’t heard of Kruger or don’t know much about it. It’s huge. It’s bigger than some states in the US. There are no gates except the borders. All the animals are free to roam and feed just as they do in nature. They do not interfere at all except to keep up the few roads and trails they have as well as rid the park of illegal poachers. They do not help sick animals and they do not feed them. All animals, vegetation, ect., live as nature was intended. This being said, the animals can and do come up to vehicles, cross the roads, and hunt each other. Sometimes you need the binoculars. Sometimes you gotta get out of the way. There are some animals you shouldn’t piss off…especially if they have babies with them. Sometimes, you could (in theory) pet them cause they are so close. We saw everything but a leopard and cheetah….darn it. Oh well, they are hard to spot as they aren’t pack animals and it did get a little hot and all. The animals are used to cars and humans and won’t attack you unless threatened but they are certainly very very wild. Bottom line, it’s a super cool experience. See the next post for all the animals we saw.
On to the night excursion. Ok, so I’m just a tad cautious about things and while I’ve heard this is a cool experience I have thought things like…..being in an open air vehicle in the middle of the bush with one gun, one guide/driver, 3 hand spotlights, headlights, and 2 side lights on the truck doesn’t sound like the best idea when the cats like to hunt at night. I mean I know I’m not really part of their food chain….but it just seems a little unwise is all. I had to sign one of those casualty forms. Yeah, it’s like that. So I crawl into the truck and say a silent prayer of protection. We head off. At first we saw all the big animals-buffalo, lots of rhinos up close, elephants, giraffes, zebras, impalas, kudus, and hippos. It was cool cause it was at night, the sun was setting, and they were just finishing up their day. Then it got dark. Real dark. It was hard to see a lot since you have to SEARCH for animals with just a few lights. The animals hate the lights. Well, it got a little boring as we weren’t seeing much. After awhile, I was just cold, tired (the safari was 3 hrs and started at 5:30p…I had already been up for over 12 hrs at that point), and ready to head in for the night (knowing there was an amazing dinner for me back at the lodge and all). We were almost back to the gate when in the distance we saw this large group of animals laying on the road. As we got closer I realized it was an ENTIRE pride of lions. 18 lions including one male and a few cubs. Let me review. I have seen lions up close in zoos. I have seen them on safari. I have even seen them hunt in the wild on my last safari last year. They have been as close as about 20 feet from me. I’ve watched a lot of Discovery Channel shows. Lions don’t like to be surprised at night with cubs in their “den.” Lions eat meat. There are 18 lions laying on our path to freedom. We are in an open air truck. With 1 gun for protection and a few people I wouldn’t mind tossing overboard as an appetizer as I hightail it out of there. Well the guide gets all excited and a hush comes over the truck with a small buzz of excitement. We’re all rubbing our eyes as if this couldn’t be happening. The guide pulls up to the pride and turns the vehicle side ways about 20 feet from them and then kills the engine. I’m know looking at him like he’s crazy. Amazing. A few lift their heads up, acknowledge us, yawn, and then go back to sleep. A cub or two got up and went closer to their mommies. We sit there in utter amazement for about 20 minutes. I mean, I could have just walked out of the vehicle and into the pack. Insane. Then we all start questioning, how are we getting through them as they don’t seem too concerned with our presence and we’d all like to (eventually) get home tonight. He calmly and simply replies, we’re driving through. Now I know he’s crazy. They are covering the ENTIRE road. There are 18 of them. There are ditches on both sides of the road. There is nowhere else to go, but they aren’t moving. He responds to my thoughts….they’ll move. They’re scared of us. I’m thinking….I’m scared of them. And you should be. So he turns on the engine and just charges in to the pack around a big lioness lying on the edge of the road to our right. None of them blink. I’m not kidding, they just look up, yawn and lay back down. Then we’re stuck. Big lioness to the right, entire pride around us, male lion right in front of the truck. He hits the break and kills the engine again. I’m now cussing in my head and stopped breathing about 5 seconds ago. I’m feeling a little dizzy. The lioness on the right that is laying 1 foot from the edge of the truck now is squarely beside the couple behind me. She’s raising her head up and starting to look anxious. I’m beyond frightened. She could just stand up and claw my face off. I’m thinking over and over again….this is NOT a good idea, bad idea, stupid idea, our guide has gone mad, I need a gun for myself….what am I doing in the middle of the pitch black bush sitting amongst a lion pride? I’m going to die. Something like that was streaming through my head. I was sitting second row. The big door to the truck was to my left (no other people) with 17 lions now 5 feet from it. So recap….lioness 1 foot from my right side…I could reach out and pet it, 17 lions about 7 feet in front of me. Surrounding the truck. Now all their heads are perked up and staring at us. I’m beyond freaked out. Where’s the cages when you need them. I’m contemplating grabbing the gun from the front of the truck and quickly learning how to use it myself. Should I start writing my last will and testaments? All good thoughts. So I say a pray out loud, take a deep breath to replenish the very scarce air supply I’ve created as I still haven’t breathed yet and my heart is racing, and then I take out my camera and try to capture some pics so you would believe me when I retold this story…and maybe just a little, so I would believe it later too. It kinda seemed like a dream, but the kind I might DIE in. Did I mention the cats still aren’t moving? Oh yeah, I mean, they are but not in the friendly out of the way kinda way, they checking us out. At one point, even the male lion kinda perked up. Two of the lionesses starting pacing and even moved off into the bush…..another tidbit for you when lions hunt they surround their victim and some act as decoys while other go off way out into the bush and sneak around behind you. This is the point that I really wondered why we were still sitting there. I was anxious to say the least. About 30 minutes after we had sat in the lion’s den, our wonderful and trustworthy guide says, time to go…..He flips on every light he could find, revs the engine and starts toward the male lion laying 1 foot in front of the truck….at that he gets us, stares us down and then very slowly starts walking across the road and off into the bush. The rest timidly follow him. We high tail it out of there and arrive safely back at the gate 5 minutes later. I was still hyperventilating. I’m still scared recounting it. Our guide swears we weren’t in any real danger. I don’t believe him. I was almost eaten by an entire pride of lions.
Saturday, we headed to Swaziland and had amazing views the entire drive. This is a country I wanna visit again. It borders Mozambique and SA to I’m looking for respite places asap. It was beautiful. We drove up to pig’s peak and looked out over the valley. Gorgeous. Then we went back to the border and went into the Swazi cultural village and ate lunch. This is a place between the 2 borders (in no man’s land) that is occupied by a small family of 25 that lives very traditionally as the Swazi people have for years. They allow you to come in and see how they live, explain their culture and some of their beliefs and then dance and sing for you. It was really cool. See pics in next blog. They even got us to dance with them. We headed back to the lodge to meet two other guests. A famous drummer of the top jazz band in the US for the last 20 years and his wife (ps he also played drums on the lion king soundtrack which i find amusing as it's about africa and animals and i'm in africa and he's in africa and we're sitting around a table). That’s right. Weird but cool. They were down to earth and fun to chat with. His wife even went to Vanderbilt and has a nephew at Meharry med school doing rounds at Vandy in OB at the moment. Weird connections huh. We ate lots of good food and headed off to bed.Sunday, I had just woken up and thrown my clothes on. I had 5 more minutes to get ready before breakfast was to be served when I heard Jan screaming, girls, girls come quck to see the Zebras. Well, I love zebras and zebras in their yard is great. I run my hands through my hair, wipe the snot out of my eyes and run out my door to their porch. What do I see, a whole herd of zebras on their porch. WHAT?? I run back for my camera and when I return…there is Courtney and Katie FEEDING them out of their hands. I’m amazed…they are just standing there eating out of their hands. I want in on this action. So I slammed my camera down on the table and grab a handful of corn and dog food pellets and tentatively hold out my hand for one of the zebras. He immediately started munching away. I was in total bliss and all. First lions, now this. They are WILD animals. CRAZY. We fed them for like 10 minutes and then Jan shooed them away so we could eat breakfast ourselves and get on the road back to Mozambique. The pictures speak for themselves. I had so much fun. I didn’t wanna leave. This was an amazing experience and Jan and Liz went so much out of their way to serve and bless us. It worked. Now I’m back at lisi’s for the night to rest tonight and tomorrow before reentering the hectic life of the center tomorrow afternoon. I pray the rest and peace will follow me and last me for another month. God is so good. I am truly in awe of His creations at this moment! This is something I’ll never forget. Well, I’ll extend that to the entire last 6 months.