Africa 2011, Part 10 and finished.

In the last few days of my trip I did two things that are very out-of-character for me. One was riding an elephant. It’s totally terrific. They move very calmly and you can acclimate yourself to the rocking motion they have while they’re walking. Then you can let go of the handles and look around. This particular elephant ride was unique because the guide-fellow decided that the scrub-brush was too dry and uninspiring, so we ended up walking through a series of small islands. I was also pleased with the lifestyle these elephants have. They only do two one-hour walks a day, and the rest of time they are free to graze across the street in a natural reserve. They can come and go as they please, but because they are herd-oriented animals, they come home together every night to a big paddock. They sometimes go a bit rogue. One day, one of the females saw some wild elephants that she liked, so she went off with them. She showed up again ten months later and was pregnant. And a different time the herd came home with an orphan elephant that had been abandoned. He’s part of the herd now too.

Three people ride on one elephant – the handler and two guests. To get up onto your elephant you have to go up a set of stairs, like the kind they have for small planes.

All of us walking through the islands. The Moomins and Drea rode on the promiscuous wandering-away elephant named Mashimba, the one I mentioned above, and Cricket and I rode on a large, 35-year-old male named Marula who has a soft spot for babies. He’s the one the orphan follows around all day. It’s just precious. Mishi rode on the teenage love-child of Mashimba.

To get to the islands, we had to go through water. The handler said, “Give me your legs,” so I wrapped my legs around his waist and that water came right up to my pant leg. If you look in the second picture, you can see the little orphan elephant holding on to our elephant’s tail. Awww.

The handler has a bag of horse snacks, and don’t think the elephant doesn’t know it’s there all the time. Marula kept flinging his trunk over his head and pinching his prehensile nose-fingers at the handler, like, “Gimme snacks! Do it now!”

Here’s what things look like when you’re on top of an elephant.

Here’s a great shot of Cricket and me sitting there looking like Hannibal crossing the Alps. We would make excellent royals based on this photo.

This is Mishi giving the little orphan snacks from the snack bag. Awwww.

After you ride you get to feed your elephant, which might be my favorite part, because you really get to feel the way the trunk works. It’s surprisingly delicate and precise for such a large, heavy column of fleshitude.

And then we got to pet the orphan elephant! So sweet! Drea’s favorite animal is the elephant, so she very quietly had a meltdown while petting the little guy. He was covered in wiry bristles all over and I could have pet him all day forever. Here’s Drea standing next to her elephant trying not to poop herself with delight.

The other extremely cool thing we did was swim in Devil’s Pool. What’s Devil’s Pool, you ask? Well, when Victoria Falls is in full water capacity, the water pours over in a great rushing way. However, when it is the dry season, the water quantity ebbs and at the top of the falls is a pool of water, right near the edge, that you can swim in and cheat death. Here’s a diagram I made to help.

I won’t lie – I was scared. But then when I got there, I realized that in order for me to die, I would have to exert quite a bit of effort. There’s a four-foot wide rock shelf right before the edge, and I would have had to climb out of the pool, walk over that and then fling myself into the crevasse. So as long as I followed the guide’s instructions, I would be fine. First, he had us paddle out to a little rock outcropping in the middle of the river. Then, in order to avoid the current, we had to paddle in a specific line right to the Devil’s Pool because if we drifted too far to the right, we would get washed off. Here we are swimming. Mishi likes this picture because we all look like ducks.

First the guide jumped into the pool to show us how it’s done (how it’s done: jump into the middle). I want to point out that he is wearing a bathing suit bottom, he is not going commando.

And everyone jumped in…

…except me. I slithered down the rocks on my ass, because I am a hero.

It was amazing. The water was rushing over us and around us and it wasn’t cold, but it was refreshing. I could have stayed there all afternoon.

The guide pulled us up by our armpits so we could sit on the inner edge of the rock ledge.

And then he held our legs so we could look over the scary falls into the water.

Here’s a video I found of some other people’s Devil’s Pool experience. It’s pretty much identical to ours.

That was all the crazy risk-taking I needed for, well, for ever, really, so the next day when Cricket, Mishi and Drea went rappelling and bungee-ing and swinging in an enormous gorge, I went as support and took pictures for them. The first time Cricket jumped with the combo-bungee-swing, he didn’t scream. When he got back to the top I asked him why and he said because it wasn’t really scary (!). I told him that made me sad, so he said he would do another jump and this time he would scream his nickname for me, which is Bucket. Drea videotaped it. My favorite part is when the pendulum part begins and the harness gets right up in his giblets. You can hear the tone of his scream change dramatically.

Alright, I think that covers everything. It was a fantastic trip and I highly recommend going to Africa to anyone. If anyone has any questions or wants to see any of the other 1,000 photos that were taken, please let me know and I will happily share them with you.

Leave a Reply