Our blog writer Beth Shaeffer, Curator of Natural Encounters and Sea Lions, and Laurie McGivern, Hoofed Stock Supervisor, finally arrive in South Africa and begin their adventure!
AFRICA!!! After another long day and night of traveling from Amsterdam to Nairobi to Johannesburg and finally to the town of Nelspruit, Laurie and I have met up and arrived at the lodge of Ngongoni. This is where the rhinos are being housed until their transport to Houston.
We arrived at the airport and after a couple of hours were able to rent a car that they had to bring from several kilometers away. It took both of us using our navigation skills to stay on the right side of the road. Wait! Make that the correct side– on the left!
At the tiny Mpumalanga “international” airport, with a runway barely long enough to land the 737 we were in, we saw the typical acacia trees that evoke Africa and are often depicted in artist’s renderings of this land. I had to try to convince myself that I was actually here. But when we were driving on a dirt road off the main highway and saw a zebra in someone’s front yard we really stared to think, wow, we ARE in Africa aren’t we?
The definitive experience, however, was when I was concentrating hard, driving down a bouncy, one-lane, rutted path that was theoretically a road and Laurie started pointing excitedly and saying “Do you see it?!??! Do you see it?!??!” Looking at the road I couldn’t tell what she was on about. As I peered and squinted in every direction, I suddenly saw something in the brush that looked slightly different than trees and surrounding grasses.
I looked up a bit, then up a bit more and suddenly– he came into focus.
The big male giraffe stood eyeing us as is to say “Yes, I am a giraffe, silly Americans, what of it?” He was awesome. I had to finally shake off the surreal feeling that I had been clinging to and admit “Yes! I’m in AFRICA!” There’s simply no denying it when there’s a giraffe on the side of the road!
Since that time a few short hours ago, we’ve managed to find the supermarket in town, stock up on some groceries, chat with our lodge bartender about the vastly different customs that still exist between our two cultures today, and even identify several bird species.
Tomorrow morning we hope to get in a quick hike before the appointed rhino meeting time of 8:00 AM. Even as we were driving to and from the grocery, we were strategizing about what we would need to accomplish with our three charges in order to prepare them for the journey to Houston. As I sit in our open-air dining room typing this, I can only imagine what tomorrow will bring… here in AFRICA!
You can read back to the start of this series by clicking the category “Rhinos” or scrolling back through these posts. Keep checking back for the next installment, as things heat up.
Written by Beth Schaefer.
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