October 31, 2008, Category: South Africa, Travel

Day 7: Sweni Wilderness Trek

Note: I have posted a small selection of the nearly 4,000 pictures we took on the trip. You can see them here. If you didn’t start reading on Day 1, you might want to start from the beginning 

IMG_0975 I was sad to leave Gomo Gomo, even though the morning game ride was completely uneventful. In fact, I was actually dreading the wilderness trail and part of me wished I hadn’t booked it…which is really strange considering I had been most excited about it in the beginning. But, I can tell you now that I am here on the Sweni trail…there are absolutely no regrets.

Curtis and I are sleeping in a tiny A-frame hut. Mosquito netting hangs from the ceiling and surrounds each of our cots. My bed was covered in ants when I got here…little tiny ones. I must be mental to think that is kind of neat. I brushed them off and sprayed a bit of bug spray on the edges and it seemed to do the trick. I did like the luxury of Gomo Gomo, but I also really like roughing it too. There are six of us on this trail; Curtis, me, and two very nice couples from Joberg (Jannie and Christelle and Bernard and Odette). Our two rangers, Andre and Obert, seem like very cool guys, they will be leading us on the walks. The camp is small and rustic. It sits on a small hill that overlooks a watering hole right below us, and then another one in the distance. The kitchen area is right on the edge of it. As we talked tonight around the fire, the a hippo 20 yards below us was grunting, snorting, and rolling around in the water…at times only his pudgy pink feet were visible sticking up out of the murky pond. When he grunts, it is loud. I mean, he’s barely 20 yards away from us and bellows out a brusk deep grunt. We also saw a rhino walk though the plain in the distant (the first we’ve seen and the last of the ‘Big 5’ for us). Right now as I lay here, I can here hyena calling not too far away. I still have my fingers crossed that we’ll hear lions.

IMG_0927 Despite all of this, my heart is wrenching. Curtis is sick. He threw up again tonight and feels lousy, it makes me just want to cry because he has been so excited to be here. He feels lousy and I don’t know what to do for him. I wish it was me that was sick. I think it might be the malaria tablets that are making him feel like this and after talking to the rangers and the other’s here on the trip, we are both going to stop taking them. The only problem is I’ll be it takes a few days to rid his body of the side effects. He wasn’t even able to eat the wart-hog stew tonight for dinner or sit around the fire and hear the rangers tell their stories. It makes me mad. It’s like when I put my trust in medicine and got a hepatitis shot before I went to Mexico City as a senior in high school. I was the only one that had the shot and I was the only one that got hepatitis. They think I got it from the shot…now Curtis does what he’s supposed to and we get here and find out the malaria risk where we are is very very low. Apparently the pills really often don’t even prevent and even mask the symptoms so it’s misdiagnosed. Add the fact that they are making Curtis miserable so he can’t enjoy things like he should and it’s not worth it. He just hasn’t been himself at times.

They two couples from Joberg are some of the sweetest people I have met in my life. Being able to share this experience with them and our rangers is definitely one of the highlights of this trek. They remind me of the good people that I knew growing up as a child in Southern Utah. They were all concerned about Curtis, asking about him and offered up some of their medicine to try and help him out. It’s a wonderful to have ended up in such a good group.

Andre and Obert are sure cool guys. I’ve learned I can’t believe the first thing Andre tells me, he likes to tease…like when he told us we were eating warthog stew for dinner and later I found out it was really beef. They told us to make sure we have a light after dark and watched the ground close for snakes and scorpions, that wasn’t a joke. During the day we’ll walk in single file and complete silence while they watch and listen for what might be around us. They told us no matter what happens, do not run even if they do (haha, Andre again). Running will make something chase you, they said. So we will have to stand are ground and if we do back up, it will be a controlled retreat.

Two weeks ago there had only been two accidents on these wilderness trails since they began this program over 20 years ago (take that, times by 2 a week and 6 or so trails…accidents are rare). But last week a group encountered a lion with a cub and rather than a mock charge like they almost always do, she didn’t stop even after a warning shot. The back ranger couldn’t protect the one in front fast enough because the people were in between and it wasn’t until she made her lunge that he got off a shot and hit her in the lower jaw. She landed on the ranger still alive and although she couldn’t bite his neck because her jaw was mangled, she ripped him up pretty bad with claws and teeth. He lived, but was seriously hurt. So now the two rangers both go in front…which means one of us will be at the end of the single file line, doh! They did say they don’t want Curtis in the back because of his size.

I asked how aggressive elephants are and he said not nearly as bad as it used to be when they culled the herds. They stopped doing this about ten years ago and he said the aggression made a sudden drop. Interesting…but they will have to begin again soon. There are too many elephants and they are knocking down all the trees. Everywhere we go trees are mangled by the elephants.

Continued on Day 8…

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