Saturday, November 15, 2008
I'm back to the blog, and ready to go forward on the stories of my African adventures. You'll probably laugh, but I actually members of my family are suddenly checking the blog. They say I tell all of you more than I share with them. :)
Before I go on with the stories, however, I want to make a quick comment on the camera I chose for the trip. Many, many of you have remarked upon the great quality of my photos, like the one to the left. (Botswana, the savannah, at sunset--remarkable, huh?) As most of you know, I was no photographer before this trip. In fact, for most of the last ten years, I took what few photos I wanted to take with a disposable camera. That's right; a disposable camera. That was really the full extent of my experience. This is perhaps why its taking me so long to organize my new digital shots. I really don't understand the whole process. But I was going to Africa, right, land of stunning sunsets and magnificent animals. Even I knew I needed a camera. So I did what I always do: I began researching. I spent literally months psyching myself up to buy one of those tricky digital SLR cameras with some mondo lens. Then a friend turned me on to an article about the "rise of the megazooms." No, it's not about dinosaurs. These are digital cameras, with an attached lens, that zooms out to pretty darn remarkable distances. After MUCH research I chose the Olympus sp-570uz. You can check it out at Olympusamerica.com. With this little baby, I went from a lazy, who-cares kind of photographer to someone who took more than 1300 pictures in a month. And you know what, almost all of them were at least in focus and a lot were flat out great. I'm not one for product placement in this blog, but I can't recommend this puppy highly enough. Really, I should be their spokesperson; if I can figure the camera out anyone can. :)
So now, on with the show. We arrived in our first "bush camp," deep in the savannah surrounding the delta in the mid afternoon. The time of day is relevant because of the temperatures. Believe me, mid afternoon is when you do not want to be traveling. I thought Debbie and I were going to pass out in the small plane that flew us from Chobe to the camp. I was fanning myself like crazy, and staring down at a landscape that was like nothing I had ever seen before. Africa from the air is just mesmerizing; round mud and thatch houses, round cattle corrals, dry riverbeds, and elephants walking through burn zones where every single tree is black as ash. Our camp, called Lagoon Camp, turned out to be a collection of elegant tents (not an oxymoron, surprisingly) and a main eating hall/library/bar/game room area. We drove up in our open air safari vehicle and were greeted by a nice young man who had a tray of cool drinks and a basket full of cool, wet towels. Heaven!
That evening was our first real game drive. The four of us loaded into the truck (I brought everything short of a defibrillator) and off we went. The roads were terrible--not even roads, really, just rivers of sand--but from the get go, it was magical. We saw jackals and zebras and lots of water buffalo. In fact, here's one of my favorite shots from that first game drive. We came around a corner and there was a small pride of lions, rolling around in the tall grass. As I said earlier, cats are cats are cats. I love this picture because he seems to be looking right at me.
We sat in the truck for a long time, just watching the lions--lions!--hang out and play and finally fall asleep. So about seventy two photos later, we headed back out, and by now the sun was beginning to set and I was about to experience my first African sunset on the savannah. See photo above. Magnificent experience. Then the driver and the tracker (he's the guy who follows the animals' tracks in the dirt and finds them), pulled over beneath a gorgeous old baobob tree and we had wine and appetizers out in the open. If I had known then that my camera had a flash, I would have photos of this for you, but oh no, that would have required reading the booklet, which I was too busy to do. So I lived in the moment but didn't capture it for you. I'm sure you can imagine it, though... and it will probably appear in a book someday.
To the right (yes, I learned how to move the photos in the blog--thanks, Kim!) is my last photo of that first day. It is sunset obviously. I found sunrise and sunset particularly shot worthy. I don't know if it was because focusing could be optional or because I loved the colors. Either way, this is a water buffalo in the tall grass.
And that's enough Africa for the day. So here's the news so many of you have been waiting for: the Sisters essay contest starts on Monday. We'll be collecting your essays--no more than 250 words, please--about your sister, or someone who is like a sister to you. The winning essays will be posted on the website for everyone to enjoy; and the best of the best will receive advance readers' copies of True Colors. As promised, two of these will be earmarked for fireflies, so be sure and identify yourselves. :)
Can't wait to read them!
Aloha for now,