Access-A-Hut's Blog

December 1, 2011

Warthogs, and kudus, and elephants, oh my!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 1:44 am

I went to the Addo Park on a game tour today with Calabash.  I was the only one on the tour–it was special for me.  Nelson, the guide, said that it was because I have a special relationship with the tour company now.  I think it is also that they have never met anyone as crazy as I am, and were a bit frightened… if I would do such crazy things as ask for a party in a township for my departed love, what else was I capable of? Let’s give this crazy woman a tour right away! Nelson, by the way, is famous, according to Anda, the other guide. Nelson says he is not famous, but he was named after Nelson Mandala–when BaBa (Father Troublemaker) was still in jail.  So… you get an idea of politics and personalities.   Apparently, you must say “BaBa Nelson” and hit the ceiling of the car with thanks every time you say the name.

To say it was a magical experience is to say the Grand Canyon is a bit of a ditch.  MaJe was with us the entire time, and was obviously very excited at the whole thing.  We saw the game boards as we started out, and they said there were very few animals out.  Undaunted, we set out. First, we let a dung beetle (threee would fit in my hand–but no more than that) cross the road.  These are flightless beetles, and we would stop for quite a few more, as well as millipedes (about the length of my hand).  Within about 3 minutes of starting, we saw a zebra right up on the road. Nelson said he had never seen one that close on any of the trips.  Ooookay.  But this was quite definitely a male zebra.  So… about 10 minutes later (after glimpsing the curved horns of a Kudu and wishing to see it close up), we saw an entire family of female zebras on the road.  And we stopped then to watch and *be* with them.  That was intense–just listening in the green bush to their breathing, their chomping.   So, twice, with something the guide had never seen? Riiiiight.  Of course, those of you who knew MaJe well, are nodding. MaJe would not be satisfied with a male anything.  We had to see the real animals, the females.

(And my wish for kudus came true–we saw them on the side of the road three times–again, something Nelson said was quite rare–so I did get to see these magnificently turned and twisted horns up close–and the kudu were closer to me than any deer I have ever seen.)

Then we wound up the road. The park was enormous, but only carved out of 5 farms (where the white settlers just marched in, took the land, and farmed it…ownership being a foreign concept to the natives–sound familiar?).  This was scrub oak (actually, thorny acacia) country, green in their spring/summer.  We saw an kudu up close on the road, and I admired the twisting horns. Then we saw the warthogs and hartebeast in the distance. The hartebeasts’ horns are shaped somewhat like hearts.  The warthogs are funny–MaJe would say they walk with a flaming walk as their rumps go up and down somewhat independantly of their legs. I told Nelson she would have loved the way they walk. So naturally, we saw about 20 more warthogs along the way, just walking with their flaming style.  And we laughed each time.  And, no, you usually only see one or two if you are lucky.  Riiiiight.  Ooookay.

We stopped at the first watering hole, and saw our first elephant–a young male by himself. He waded into the pool, disturbing the three  tiny warthogs who had  been there. The warthogs pretended to be more interested in grass than in water, but then they started circling the elephant as the elephant drank his water and splashed himself with his trunk.  When the elephant went to a mud hole (for his sunscreen bath), the warthogs suddenly did lose interest in drinking, and went back to grazing.  Silly things–they should drink when they have a chance.

We continued up, and saw a tortoise about 10 feet  from the road, but I couldn’t see it well, and I love tortoises.  So I said, oh, I wish I could see one up close!  And sure enough, we saw five of them on the road after that (each popping up unexpectedly, and each time we stopped so I could take a photo–at least THOSE pictures may come out, as the tortoises stayed still long enough!).  After we simply decided that the tortoises were female, we only saw onemore.  But SHE was well worth seeing, as she had her entire flipper/feeet out and was sunning herself so completely .

So, so far, we had only seen one male elephant.  Well, that wasn’t good enough for MaJe.  We ran into an entire herd, mostly female.  And we saw the dominant matriarch leading her charges off to the next place.  The dominant male is only good for sex and protecting the herd, so the matriarch leads the troupe.  MaJe must have approved of this arrangement, because we saw three more herds, each being led by the mother.  Each of them were also on the road.  Oh, we stopped carefully and stayed for quite some time with the first herd, because one of the smaller females was blocking the road about 5 feet in front of us, calmly chomping her way through an acacia bush.  We were not about to disturb her or to scare the little ones.  So we watched, fascinated, as she took each branch in with the “fingers” of her trunk, stripped the leaves, and tossed the bare branch away–with the same calmness as someone rooting through a box of chocolates and simply tossing the wrappers on the floor.  One car did pass us slowly and go up the road, but the baby elephants set up a cry of distress at this. So the mothers circled round the kids and glared at the rest of us (innocent!!) cars.  We simply stayed where we were and the elephants calmly crossed the road and then we were clear to go.

We then went up the road  and stopped to watch a blue-gray heron, magnificently elegant, sip at a new watering hole. The warthog she replaced was not so silly, and dove in to drink the moment the heron stepped away.  There was a dead jackal in the bush by the side of the road, and we wondered what happened to it.  We saw lots of red earth termite hills, and I wanted to see an anteater, but none appeared.  Sigh.

We saw more eland on the hillside. While these are the largest antelelope, we did not see them up close, so it was hard to tell.  Still, they were magnificent, resting on the sunny grass of the open hillside.  I told Nelson of the time when MaJe felt well enough to go on a picnic, and we had gone to the Crown Hill Cemetary and we followed a coyote and a fox down the road in our car. So after that as we  drove to another watering hole, and we saw a jackal up close–again, a rare occurence.  The jackal did not follow us, but again greeted us at the side of the road as we came back from that watering hole (which had been empty).  We saw the back of something black–the other tourists in another car said it was a black rhino, but Nelso said, no, it was a buffalo. Whatever it was, it was big and lumpy and only a small bush about 20 feet away separated us.

Then we found ourselves alone on the road. And up ahead was an ENORMOUS male elephant, about twice the height of the van, with tusks about three feet long. And sharp.  He sauntered up the road very slowly, in front of us.  We stayed back about 30 feet, but again, there was nothing between us and this elephant.  He stopped.  We stopped. He looked at us.  We looked at him.  He was in musth, and we could see the discharges down his leg and ear.  As wikipedia says “investigation of musth is problematic because during musth even elephants that are otherwise placid may try to kill humans.”  We then saw his “fifth leg” out, and he finally obligingly posed for some porn star photos.  But he then came a bit closer to the car, and we did not dare drive even slowly back or forward, as any action on our part would have spurred aggression. (Remember, this elephant could easily crush the van, as easily as walking over a bench would be for us.)  He stopped about 10 feet from the car and started elegantly stripping acacia bushes on the side of the road, his body easily blocking most of the road.  Nelson said that the elephant would not be bothered by our voices or the camera, but we talked in low whispers.  We decided it would be ok for us to eat a banana as we waited–if we had the windows up so the elephant would not scent the food.  So we carefully rolled up the windows.  The elephant looked at us.  We looked at the elephant. I took my pornstar pictures.  We decided that this was probably an annoyed elephant away from his group momentarily, as he was not wounded. If he had been a dominant male challenged by a younger male, then he would have shown some wounds.  So, no, this one was in his pride and glory.  Just off for a walk to annoy those silly little car animal things that kept on encroaching on his territory.

He then sauntered up the road in front of us.  We waited, giving him room.  We started, slowly. He stopped.  We stopped.  He looked at us. We looked at him.  He then moved back toward us.   He stopped in front of us, showing off his long, sharp tusks.  Very sharp tusks. Very nice tusks, we assured him.  No, we were not going to fight him. No, we were not going to move forwards or backwards for him.  Yes, he was king of the road, we assured him. We would be nice and submissive and give into his ego.  After all, we didn’t have three-foot long sharp tusks to defend ourselves with.  We only had a thin sheet of metal between us and those long sharp powerful tusks.  After about 10 minutes, the elephant decided we really did mean it and that he could continue as king of the road, unchallenged.  So off he went, still on the road, still swaggering about as if he owned the road–which he most assuredly did.  Then he moved off, and we saw “his” herd on the hillside.  He joined them, and we went on our way.

Next, we saw a herd of elephants in and about the road. In the midst of them was a tiny blue car, dwarfed by the gray thick hides, the swaying large ears, of a herd I could not count.  We stayed to the side of the road as the herd slowly thundered by.  One of the baby elephants trumpeted in fear again–even though the babies easily matched the size of the blue car– and the mothers stopped to hide their children and glare at the tiny blue car–as well as us.  But the elephants simply moved on after a bit. After the elephants had gone, we talked to the people in the blue car–a young college couple.  They still had completely blanched white faces–whiter than the screen you see this on.  Much whiter.

By this time, the fog had set in-another unusual circumstance, Nelson assured me.  We gave up on seeing any more, as the animals would be hiding from the weather.  And we went back.  And another day, when I’ve had a chance to think, I’ll talk about the MotherWell township and long commutes walking and poverty.


  1. Dear Aunt Deena,
    We really liked your story and we looked up all the animals we did not know. You saw some wonderful animals. Especially all the elephants!! You saw so many animals, Sydney’s favorite animal is giraffe. Too bad you did not get to see any. Sophie thought the jackel was cute! We love you very much.
    We hope you have lots of fun and get a lot of work done on Marble Springs.
    Love, The Foureste Girls

    Comment by The Foureste Girls — December 1, 2011 @ 11:48 am |Reply

    • Thanks girls!

      Comment by accessahut — December 1, 2011 @ 12:51 pm |Reply

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