Day 9: We're at our new and what is to be our last stop on this journey, up in the northern Serengeti. We're by the Mara River, near Kenya. This place is called the Kogakuria Kopje, named for the native tribe (Kuria) and the large rock formations (kopjes) that quite unexpectedly and beautifully complicate this landscape, dark gray boulders sitting among the four-foot tall pale yellow grasses. It is far less traveled here, and as a result the animals are far less used to the vehicles and their inhabitants. (Far less "habituated" is the word we most often hear).
Today is the day we got to add "frightened" to that long and otherwise completely happy and excited list of emotions which describe this journey. Today we were frightened in a way I've not been frightened before.
Picked up by our new guide, we drove for an hour though an area once again surprisingly rich in lions before the Land Cruiser got hung up and completely stranded on a combination of tall rocks and loose loamy soil as we tried to drive across a dry stream-bed. Three wheels spinning in the air, although the driver kept trying creative solutions it was evident to me that we weren't getting off that spot without the help of another vehicle. Perhaps because we were in a fairly deep gully, down the stream-bed probably 15 feet or more vertically below the road, the vehicle's radio also proved useless. And as I said, we were in lion country, unhabituated lion country. They lions lounged not far off, above us on the rocks, partially hidden among the tall grasses, watching with apparent interest as the wheels fruitlessly spun around and around, wheels spinning on the axles and wheels spinning in our minds.
Eventually (and I am sure that it was nowhere near as long a wait as it felt) another vehicle was spotted and flagged down. Carefully, watching the lions, the drivers walked from the trucks and attached chains which sadly and quickly and loudly snapped in two. I knew it was coming, but still I was not fully prepared to hear what followed. The free truck was going to have to try and ram ours off the rocks, and for safety's sake (safety being of course a relative term) that meant we needed to get out of the vehicle.
We probably were never in any real danger but we kept thinking about zebras, about what we learned about zebras. Zebras know to stand close to each other, the confusion of stripes blending into a larger, single mass what would otherwise be a number of distinct, smaller and more vulnerable bodies. We stood as one eight-legged, four-headed, camera and khaki-clad creature. "Tourist, tastes just like chicken" didn't get the laugh I'd hoped for.
Within just a few minutes we returned to the now slightly dinged up vehicle and continued our drive, spotting more animals (including real zebra, a quite wonderful bird of prey called a dark chanting goshawk, and our first klipsinger). However, as of yet, the feeling has not quite left me; that is, of feeling very much like prey.