Not all those who wander are lost - but I'll be disappointed if I don't get lost frequently!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Walking With Game

Unfortunately, Hell's Gate National Park was closed due to flash flooding, and we were unable to cycle through the park as originally planned (sad face). Luckily, Crater Lake Game Reserve was just up the road, where we were able to go for a guided game walk through the reserve. Yep, we got to walk amongst zebra, giraffes, eland, gazelle, olive baboons, and water buck. I even spotted the tail of my first ever mongoose! Before you start to worry, the reserve didn't have most of the more dangerous animals that will either try to eat you or charge you (lions, elephants, rhinos), but it did have hippos (we saw footprints only) and leopards. The largest predators we saw today were a pack of bat-eared foxes. Still, very cool! How often does one get to say they took a stroll with zebras and giraffes?

After a couple of hours traipsing around in the reserve, our guides drive us down to a small volcanic lake, home to a large flock of pink flamingos and lots of hippos.
Most of the flamingos were Lesser Flamingos, but there were a few Greater Flamingos in the mix - the difference being that Lesser flamingos are smaller and pinker than their Greater cousins. By this stage we were absolutely starving after an early start and long morning walk, but we still had a boat trip around the volcanic lake to spot hippos before lunch.

We all hopped into two long wooden boats (more like oversized canoes) and went for a hot lap of the lake. The lake was also a bird watchers paradise, full of lots of different species including Egyptian geese. It wasn't long until we came upon our first of three hippo families bathing. Our boat driver got us really close, in fact scarily close in many cases! He would back the boat in close to the hippos, then start revving the boat motor to make them angry. It meant we got some great shots of the hippos yawning (a warning signal), and one hippo even splashed its way out of the water and ran off up the bank. They move surprisingly fast! However, when there's only a few meters of open water and a flimsy boat between you and the animal responsible for the most deaths in Aftica, your heart starts racing a little. It even stops for a moment when a hippo submerges and bubbles start coming towards the boat! As we got in close, I told myself that the stories I'd heard of hippos flipping boats and crushing people were all myths (they aren't).

Now ravenously hungry, it was off to the Geothermal Club for lunch (pork chops, mmmm) before heading back to camp. Amy, myself and a few of the guys decided to spend the afternoon playing a friendly game of soccer under the acacia trees. It was great fun, and a fair workout for most of us. The soccer ball became a casualty of a thorny acacia tree, and progressively got flatter over the course of the game. My team was getting thrashed about 7-1, so to even up the game my team decided to trade me in for me Ed eho was on the other team. I crossed the pitch and joined my new team. The flat ball worked to my advantage - the fancy footwork of the guys didn't work so well with the flat ball which left them open for easy attack. Bad luck for my old team - I ended up kicking three goals for my new team! We ended up playing for about two hours, until my team won scores 20-7. Not a bad effort!

A few beers were in order before dinner, so we left Team Easy in charge of whipping up dinner and headed to the bar. When we went back down to see if dinner was ready, Team Easy were under a lot of pressure - with not a single cook amongst them, everything seemed to be going wrong. What was supposed to be hamburgers went awry, but with a bit of direction from Susanna, it was turned into very tasty sloppy joes. Susanna had also made chocolate brownies for us over the camp fire dessert... She is my new favourite person! They were amazing, but when a recipe consists mainly of chocolate, butter and eggs, it should be!

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