Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Naked, or wearing funny hats

And as regards the freshening up part, all the cottages have outdoor showers. You go through the bath, and then outside again, into a little shower enclosure. There’s a tree overhead to provide some dappled shade, and there you are, having a fantastic hot hot hot shower out of doors. The sunlight is making a beautiful and brilliant circular rainbow, the wind is playing in the leaves above, and suddenly you’re back cavorting naked in the sprinkler in the garden, age four, all over again. Simply.... a “plih-zhah”.

Later, after having thoroughly enjoyed this, our friends told us that on a previous visit, a guy had been showering and a SNAKE dropped out of the tree onto him. Gad! He probably needed ANOTHER shower after that. Boy. I can just imagine the girly screams you’d hear across the veldt!

The afternoon looked like it could be stressful. Not! Changed into a swimsuit (bathing cozzie) and lay down by the swimming pool in the sun. Slathered on sun cream, put on the sunglasses, got out the book (“The B-----d on the Couch” -- highly recommended collection of essays by guys on being guys. Very enlightening.. and who knew they could even think, after all, much less write?!?)

Anyway, by the time I got all set up, and the waitstaff came by with drinks orders (is it 5pm yet? ... hmmm, yeah, maybe in India... oh all right then, twist my arm....) I realized that SPF15 or not, I was going to fry to a crisp in the African sun. So I slipped over onto a sunbed in the shade after all. Why get melanoma the very first month you’re in Africa?

The very wonderful thing about the pool area was that it also overlooked the watering hole. I heard a huge snort nearby (has Mr. D fallen asleep on his sunbed again?)... no, it was the hippo, surfacing from the depths of the reedy pool. This hippo came up for air and paddled around, slowly, here and there. The third time it surfaced, it had a huge heap of water grass on its head, which it proceeded to wear as a headdress for the rest of the day. (You know all those children’s books, where Harriet the Hippo pops on her hat and goes off to the market? Well, it really looked like that!) In fact, hippos, like humans, can get very dry skin, so this is the beauty treatment they adopt to avoid cracked and peeling skin.

Hippos, in spite of their friendly, roly-poly appearance, are extremely dangerous. In Africa, they cause more human deaths than any other animal. Easily angered and very territorial, they attack unpredictably and fiercely. There are loads of photos of boats simply bitten in two. And of course, because humans and hippos frequent the same places (river banks, watering holes) they cross paths too frequently, with unfortunate results ... for humans.

This hippo might have been happier had he had some friends to play with, and it’s not like the lodge owner hadn’t tried. Earlier in the year, Robert had purchased and imported into the park two more hippo, with the hope of starting a small family herd. Unfortunately, the two must not have liked their new digs, so they took their grass hats, wandered off to the river, and swam off to ... well, nobody knows. Now there’s a unfortunate loss... to the tune of about £150,000!

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