Friday 6 February 2009

Day 3: Safari

Being at the park in time for sunrise was my bright idea, and it only seemed like a stupid one for as long as my shower. It was still dark when we arrived at the park, and Francis was annoyed that by the time we were let in, the sun had risen well into the sky. But in fact, the timing was perfect. There was enough light for photos, and everything was bathed in a warm, golden glow, complete with a silky cloak of early morning mist. Like guests congregating on the stairs at a house party, the animals seemed to like hanging around the road, as if human spotting. I’d thought we’d have to work hard to find the animals, but in fact, they seemed to want to find us. And I wasn’t at all prepared to see ostriches hanging around with zebras and giraffes, all gazing at us inquisitively. I had never really been that bothered by going on safari, seeing it as a tourist thing, the definition of the beaten track, but it was completely and utterly bonkers.

We didn’t see any lions, although Francis swears blind he saw one, and we did see a bunch of big deer type things suddenly gallop off as if they’d sensed one, but I was more than satisfied by the giraffes alone. We got to tick off the lions at the orphanage near the entrance to the park. A fellow visitor had been getting a little brave by approaching one lounging near the cage bars, and when it let out a long rumbling growl, it sent grown men jumping in the air and giggling like children out of sheer, primal fear.

Just as we were leaving, Bill rang. Instead of calling to arrange a place to meet, he was actually at the park, although it took another 20 minutes for us to find each other, people who’d never met each other before and who’d forgotten to ask about distinguishing features. Finally, we met, introduced ourselves and straight away, Bill fulfilled his promise to take us to Kibera, Africa’s largest slum.

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