Sunday, February 27, 2011

Plants and Insects of the Brush

I promised a picture of this "thorn" tree and the Wait A Little Tree. They are very unforgiving. The horses charge through while we are often trying to dodge these silent defenders of the brush. Check out the spiders too. Huge webs. Again, the lead horse's head is usually covered with them like some sort of thin golden veil. The webs are very strong and flexible. The close ups are of a female and her male companions, (not a poisonous variety.)

The food is endless: gaining weight instead of losing. Not only does Gerti pack a firearm, 4 wheel across deep rivers, organize the business, train/ride horses, but she is a wonderful cook. The kitchen staff is always baking stuff too. I have seriously fallen off my usual, healthy eating plan even though there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Yes, I can say without a doubt that the consumption of white flour, sugar, and sauces packs on the pounds. Eland steaks for dinner.

A Nature Walk Out The Backdoor of Wait A Little

A little nature walk out the backdoor with the guests from Spain, Poland, England, NY, and... Gerti, of course. Take a closer look at her leading us with a sidearm strapped to her belt. We included wading in this river--wonderful warm water and soft sand. Amazing again to see the details of the surrounding landscape. Another layer refined from the Land Rover and horseback. Thorny bushes, abundant spider webs, endless ants, downed branches, thick brush etc. to experience firsthand

Morning Ride with Cheetahs

Oh my gosh, the cheetahs are so gorgeous. Nothing like riding through the thick of the brush and stumbling across two resting Cheetahs, (we had been tracking elephants.) Again, it is interesting to see the reactions of the horses: very alert and fearful at a deep level, not unlike the experience where there had been lions. The horses are still obedient and nibble on grass while we digested this remarkable scene. The cheetahs are brothers who were relocated to this reserve from an area where they were killing sheep. Thank goodness for the sheep farmer who called a wildlife relocation center rather than the usual way of taking care of the problem by killing them. One wears a radio tracking device. They allowed us to 'sneak' around them and view them from the front and the back. Our guide new the bachelor pair quite well, because he had fed and attended to them when they initially arrived at the reserve's holding area before their release. When we got a little bit too close, one of them spat at us, but made no attempt to get up and move away.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Small Zebra Herd

I am transfixed every time I see one of these animals. We came around a corner and there was a group of giraffes just blinking at us. The zebra mother was cautious, but the baby had no fear. They stood observing us in the Land Rover until we decided to proceed down the road they were standing on. The rhinos did a little head butting while we were on site. The wildebeest cantered across the rode in front of us. Monkeys scampering about in the trees. I will be curious if I will be more observant of wildlife at home once I return.

Rhinos in the Rain

Going for a drive in the rain. The trees and surrounding landscape are every bit as astounding as the animals. We think the rhinos are the same ones we saw on the ride a few days ago. Had to include the "big butt" photo so you can get an idea of their massiveness. Baby zebra is most likely only a few months old. Saw crocodile eyeballs and more.

Interesting to find out that there are breeders for some of the wild animals, so the reserves can restock their herds, add genetic diversity, etc. It is all a business process even though the heart/soul of it is animal preservation/conservation--at least at Wait A Little.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Food for thought: population

Rhinos, hippos, and ???

Hung out on horseback with four rhinos. MY GOODNESS they are large. Phillip was schooling his lead horse and they were not too afraid. Fascinating to see them not really react to the group of horses and some chaos taking place. On the other hand, the mother elephant and baby were not sticking around. Supposedly the rhino's eyesight and intelligence are not as developed as the elephant, so is that why they are less fearful?

I need to take some photos of the the very large thorns that are on the brush we ride through. Wow! Actually got hooked in the upper lip today. I don't know how the horses do it. They have spider webs and thorny bushes/trees to deal with. A lot of very large spiders and VERY large webs. There are advantages to riding in the back.

First blog video attempt

Are you tired of animal photos yet?

Yet another remarkable sunset

Varying stages of sunset. A view of our motor mount.

Out for a little drive....

Private game drive in the afternoon, very cool. Kate, stable manager, has her certification for taking people out on game drives, so she took Dehlia (the other horse volunteer from England) and I out "for a drive." In just a couple of hours, we saw wildebeest, giraffes, impalas, zebras (see photos), hippos (mother and baby--black specks in the lake photo), elephants (we surprised a youngish one and it ended up running behind us for a stretch...), owl, eagle, tortoise (photo), and another beautiful sunset.

The tortoise photos were taken of the same tortoise within a couple of feet from one another. It gives you an idea of the remarkable camouflage capabilities. The same with the zebra, (and the giraffe.) Seeing these animals in zoos doesn't do them justice. They have the incredible coloring for a real reason!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Right or Left...

Out the reserve gate--to the right or two the left (photos above) onto the public road. These are the options for 'safe' walking/jogging. The fences (very tall, high voltage wire fences) create a corridor through the open space. Fence the human in instead of fencing the animals out. Part of my curiosity visiting such huge tracks of land is to experience freedom in the physical world. Is there a place on the planet where there is true freedom? I would say no. Freedom is going to have to come from some place within my own being. Of course, those questions are looked at in the spiritual world. Two weeks into the S. Africa experience, I have answered my physical questions--now to go into another plain.

Outside My Bedroom Window

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Warm Hailstorm

Hailstorm in warm weather? Have you every experienced anything like this? Hot, sultry afternoon and then slam--maniacal rain, unrelenting lightening, wind, and hail. Remarkable to see the river double within 2 hours. I love intense shows by Mother Nature. Pizza by candlelight with lion and hyena sounds in the not so distant background.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reflections and Observations

A morning of dressage. I do love the tools and the possibilities that grow from the fundamentals of dressage. While out riding in the bush, I have been practicing my position with intention. Of course, the contact is different, but I can still work with the correct form and energetics. The hours in the saddle without contact is disturbing everything less, so the form is becoming a habit. Interesting to observe the pattern in the horses even with longish reins. This trip is really stirring the soup of my trail riding past and more current years of dressage.

On a more personal note, it is different to be taking directions and moving around as a peg on a pegboard instead of being the organizer of the peg board. There are aspects that are pleasant: less responsibility, observing someone else's decisions/outcomes, and practicing not being attached to the outcome if it was what I was instructed to do. It all feels like I am use to playing on the A for overachievers team and now I can play as a decent player on the B team--with very little effort. All of this would be more in line with my idea of taking a year to meditate and this lifestyle is the preparation. I am not being asked to use my years of experience except for in very small increments, but the awareness and connection to the horses is uncontrollable. It is such a deep sensing place of awareness that it is difficult to turn it down, so that I don't make myself crazy with what I cannot change. Clearly, it is no different than learning and observing what is in the environment around us and only being able to influence a small part.

As I reflect on the wild animals, they are remarkable but I don't feel fear. Only respect. My fear is much greater for the two legged animals called man who are rapists, murderers, tormentors etc. who inhabit our day to day living space. It feels like being killed by an animal would be a 'clean' death in comparison to the torture potential in the hands of man.

The second group of guests left today--returning to Great Britain and Germany. The next week will be without guests, but we are going to take advantage of the down time and visit several local wildlife places and go out for some game drives. I will keep you posted...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Three days of horses and wildlife--no communication with the outside world

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning off to Makilali--a neighboring animal reserve. Riding from Wait A Little to the fence line, "crossing the street", and onto the next door neighbors property. Most of the animal population is the same, but the animals are less use to seeing horses/riders, so they are more likely to use their flight mechanism when we show up. Noticeable difference, but all wonderful aspects of getting a sense of these remarkable beings. We added a couple of new sightings to the list: baboons, a lioness, and an eagle-owl.
I continue to have respect and gratitude for our horse mounts. They are carrying us over not beginner terrain with certainty and cleverness: sliding down banks into rivers with strong currents, passing through thick, thorny brush, jumping up over downed logs/steep banks, long gallops on open roads and not so open roads... It is not an easy job for a horse to have sensitivity for an advanced rider and decision making for an intermediate/advanced rider. To do these rides, the riders definitely need to have have experience and guts.

The baby elephant/mother elephant combination was lovely (see photos.) We were able to stay awhile and see the difference in the maturity of the two. The lioness sighting was exciting sense it was my first large cat viewing--large and very elegant.

The second night at the lodge, there were three or so lions that came into the space around the 'huts' (see the photos of the huts), so Phillip was out chasing them away by cracking his whip--an intimidation technique. Most likely, we were in their pathway and not a real target, but they need to be discouraged from coming into the area so there aren't any accidents. On the way out the next morning, the horses were very fearful of the area they were sleeping. You could feel that it was a very deep, primal fear of the cat's smell and presence. We didn't see them, but there was no doubt that they had been there. All of them were on their toes and in a very serious way.

From the eating area, we took a short walk up the river to see the "sleeping" hippos from the bank (see photos.) We learned that they are at home in the water and actually sleep under water. They are herbivores, so the accidents with humans that do happen are often from them returning from grazing to the water source and a human happens to be in the way. The human panics, runs, and they are chomped. Interesting sounds.

The lodge rooms were very unique (photos.) Big soft mattress/pillows, lovely mosaic tiled bathtub, outside shower, nearby outdoor rest area, and all set in a roomy atmosphere. Very relaxing and luxurious--especially with the riding combination.

For myself, it is fun to do the blog and think of everyone who touches my life. I appreciate your interest to check in with my process. I can feel all of you out there... Going three days without driving, texting, emailing, or phoning--wow. It has been a surprisingly easy transition. All of this is a remarkable time to feel into the basics of life and the core of my being. To be surrounded with nature and animals--nothing obstructing the sky or the horizon. A feeling of limitlessness in the physical world.

The view from different aspects of the safari

Amazing Hippo Viewing!

Elephants from the landrover

Camouflage--how amazing is this!

Out on a game drive