Friday, January 10, 2014

Mpala, the Saga Continues

Doctor’s Blog, Mpala date 1-7/8-14.

The hippo saga continues. Since we were unable to see the hippos out of water and cannot visit the hippo pool, Jackson took us down (or maybe up, don’t know) river from the pool. There, on the banks of the river, was a hippo mom and two calves. After watching them for a bit, they decided to return to the river. I can now report that at least three hippos in Mpala have legs. Visited the local school and village today. Very illuminating to see. It is also very humbling to see what the teachers achieve with so very few resources. Eva was feeling sick, so she stayed in her room.

Went to the Center in the afternoon, and visited the village where the Mpala workers live, which was also interesting. We bought some stuff (they have some really cool beadwork. Ike kids anywhere, they want you to take their photos, and then they run up to look at their photos, and then, of course they want another photo. Chuck was absolutely mobbed, much to his delight. Eva (who was feeling better) took Tanya’s camera and took photos of the kids and was immediately surrounded. They all had the greatest time taking silly photos and looking at them. Eva loved the village, and hopefully she’ll get to visit the school as well before we leave. I can’t post this because we do not have internet access on this side of the Center, and I’m too lazy to walk over to the library which may have internet access. Eventually we went back to the Ranch. Mike, the Ranch manager stayed for dinner, which was, as usual, excellent.

On the 8th, I spent the early morning trying, with some success, to photograph the sunbirds that visit the flowers outside our room. I got some photos of a female. We went to the Center late in the morning, I did this and that most of the day while people did science. Something with the baboons, I think, and something about animals with stripes and spots, and other stuff . I’m on vacation from such things, so Tanya can write about them. At 4 PM we went out on an evening game ride. It was raining so we were treated to a double rainbow. Eva pointed out that the second, paler, one was inverted. We saw elephants and gazelles, an eagle (a tawny eagle) and some species of hawk. The best part was, as we were returning, we were notified of cheetahs. We arrived after the Cornell undergraduate course. They had land rovers, while we had a modified mini-van, and we had to go off road to follow the cheetahs. However, we had Jackson as our driver. The land rovers got stuck or lost, and we came within about 50 meters of the cheetahs. We watched them for a bit until they got tired of us and went even deeper into the bush, and we went into a hole. We pushed the minivan out of the hole, helped the Cornell land rover out of the ditch, and went back for dinner before leaving on a night game ride. 

The night ride was great.  We off-trailed (i.e., went off the barely passable dirt roads and into the bush), we surprised herds of impalas, Grant’s gazelles, and zebras, and all sorts of other fun stuff. At one point, we went off-trail because Lucas claimed to have seen elephants. We could not see them, so we stopped to listen. We could not hear a thing, and Lucas was wondering whether he had been imagining things (though an elephant seems like a very big thing to imagine). Suddenly, Jackson’s sharp eyes spot something through trees, and after we drive only a little bit, and turn on our lights and spotlights, we see a herd of elephants, moving more silently than a single zebra could. We also saw a couple of honey badgers, who were not all that bad-ass, as well as a pair of jackals. We rolled in at about 10:30, and those of us who still could took showers and we all crashed. Va’yehi erev, va’yehi boker, yom shmini, or more correctly, va'yehi boker, va'yehi erev.

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