Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Bush on Foot - Every Track, Sound and Sight Tells a Story

Each morning, we receive our incredible breakfast at a picturesque site at the edge of the riverbed. The food spread they put on here at Tanda Tula is spectacular in terms of both presentation as well as quality of food. It is both elegant in its simplicity and scrumptious in taste.

Tanda Tula puts the "glam" in "glamping" - glamorous camping  - for sure.

After breakfast this morning our Guide, Formen, took us on a "walk about" from our lovely breakfast setting down by the river bed back to our camp site. For about an hour, we walked through the bush being educated about how to see the stories of the bush through the tracks in the sandy soil, the dung deposits, the trees and its leaves and thorns, the bird calls, the monkey cackles, the plants and more. It seems everything in the bush tells a story, and no one translates it better than Formen.

As we walk, he points out the tracks on the ground....the giraffe, the leopard and how it differs from the lion, this bird vs. that bird, the rhino, the elephant, the buffalo, the hyena and how it differs from some others, and on and on. How he can see the shapes in the sand remind me of how people can see shapes in the stars.  As Formen takes a small stick laying nearby and seemingly completes or draws with better distinction each print, the tracks come to life. 
Oh, yes, now I see....
He and our tracker, Jeffrey, were masters at seeing these signs and stories in the dirt as we drive by in our Rover each and every day. They see what walked there, when and in what direction. We frequently would follow those on our drives hoping to find the author of those storied tracks at the end of the trail. At times, Formen would stop the Rover, Jeffrey and he would get out and piece together the puzzle of some of the more convoluted meanderings. They would decide how the story went, and off we would go in pursuit. Every drive was an adventure. From these walks, we could understand better what they were looking for, looking at and how the stories jumped off the ground for them.

Formen continued conveying his encyclopedic knowledge of the plants, the piles of dung and what they said about the animal depositing them. The hippo was using his tail to spread and mark which is why it wasn't in a neat pile like many of the others; the elephant digests only 40% of their meal so you can see precisely the grass, leaves and even thorns eaten (and so is also a great fire starter!); the male vs. female of this animal or that; the buffalo's 4-chamber stomach that produces a highly processed pile, etc., etc.  I now know more about the medicinal uses of the plants and which ones I can brush my teeth with, should I ever be lost out in the bush (which I hope to never need!).

As we walked, we could better hear the sounds of the bush without the motor of the Rover, and Formen would tell us the identity of each caller of sounds. If there were any questions about which sound he was identifying, he could mimic them as if he were one of them. In fact, in one case, we came across some owls that were calling out.  When Formen called out to them in their own language, they responded back in kind. Each piece of knowledge was a translation of a chapter in the story of the bush. With each step, we could read more and more and appreciated more and more of the story, as we were now a part of it. I would later that afternoon hear the stories of the sounds at my front door. 

For more information on the lodge I stayed at, see here:Tanda Tula
For more of my pictures while on safari at Tanda Tula, see here:My African Safari-Best Shots2 and here: My African Safari - Best Shots1

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