Thursday, October 20, 2016

Wild Thing 2

When you put a bunch of strangers together for four days - you never know what the result is going to be and I always applaud myself on my courage to venture off into the unknown as a solo traveller joining a group. Driving to Pumba was no different - I was excited by the prospect of three days of wildlife, nature and photography - my biggest concern were the other animals I may meet - the human ones! Experience and my work has taught me a lot about group dynamics and we were a text book case of Brian Tuckman's four stage theory of group development - Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing!

We all arrived quite promptly on Thursday and sat down to lunch where we ate and engaged in polite small talk with one another - exchanging basic information and sharing travel experiences. We were a group of 6 - five females and one male - plus our ranger/host/photography expert and so the day panned out and more pleasantries were exchanged during the game drive and over dinner that evening. We were all on time the next morning and out again at sun up. We were forming!
There was a little bit of storming the following day as I sensed tension between two of the ladies - nothing major but definitely some eye rolling and a pursing of lips and the odd sigh of irritation. It all started with an empty dish of baby marrows - a large serving spoon - an embarrassing comment and all of a sudden there was an elephant in the room!
By that afternoon, though we were back on track literally -  sharing funny stories, fleecy beanies, alcohol laden coffee and even the odd jelly baby. On that particular drive I disclosed that in all my time in Africa I had never seen a leopard, truly in the wild - the depressed leopard that I once saw in an enclosure at Pumba several years ago didn't count. I then endured several leopard sighting stories and promptly declared that if we spotted a leopard (excuse the pun) then I would arrive for dinner that evening in my leopard print pyjamas. That exciting prospect fuelled by the alcohol laden coffee suddenly set off a flurry of leopard spotting (again sorry). "Oh look there's one by the watering hole with her cubs." "If you look in that tree right over there - there's one - posing in the branches looking straight at us!" The only problem was I couldn't see any of them ........some desperate people will say anything to see me in my pajamas!! I had to add a codicil to my promise that stated that photographic evidence must be supplied. I enjoyed supper in my jersey and jeans. We were norming!
The next morning though I decided that I had been on  my best behaviour long enough and appeared for the morning drive in fleecy leopard jammies to a round of applause and one cat whistle! It was a lovely morning - crisp and clear as the bush calling birds welcomed the day. The horizon was green - fifty shades of green topped with some purple capped hills and all of a sudden in the foreground one bright cerise pink bush! "What is that and how did it get there?" asked Ms Baby Marrow. The ranger pulled over and we all admired this splash of  random pink. "I am not sure." he said. "I know", I heard myself saying as 6 heads turned my way to witness my floral expertise. The ranger looked worried as I started to explain,"As you know, I came here several years ago and if my memory serves me right this is the location we stopped on a game drive back then - I needed the loo and this is the exact spot where I relieved myself," I continued. "Usually an English rose in pink flourishes on the spot when that happens, but the night before I was drinking local wine, so obviously this beautiful pink indigenous bush was the result!" The bush resonated with the sound of humans laughing like hyenas - the ranger shook his head. Even if I say it myself - it was funny!!!! "OK lets get on with our photography," he said. " Last night we did the light metering module - set your camera on IS01600 and point your camera at Sue's bush!" More laughter and several camera clicks in my direction and I had to issue a strict warning that if anyone posted photos of my bush on the Internet then I would sue. More hyena laughing - we were in hysterics - we were performing,
Another day and we would have been a real team but that was our last drive and it was back to the lodge for breakfast and goodbyes. I brought back some wonderful photos of the weekend but just as important for me was the laughter and just recalling these special moments brings a big smile to my face and my heart is laughing like a hyena!

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