Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Camp Life

We went camping this past weekend in Akagera Game Reserve in Eastern Rwanda, on the Tanzanian border. It took about 2 hours, 20 minutes to get to the entrance, where we checked in with the rangers and gave them a lot of money. Then we drove a few hours in the park to get to our campsite. I don't know if Andrea or I have ever driven on anything remotely as rough or difficult. We really maxed out our big-ass 4X4. The park roads really suffered from lack of maintenance; in fact they often were nearly unidentifiable.

Anyway, we got to the campsite and had to hack down the grass with machetes to pitch tents. The conditions were pretty rough for a campsite; no latrines, fire pits, or picnic tables. We found a dead tree 500 meters away and hacked the largest branches off to throw on the top of our friends' truck before towing the rest of the whole tree back to camp. We had the grandaddy of campfires until late at night, then stoked it up in the morning for a short spell, and still left plenty for the next folks there. That night was the brightest moon of the year (so the astronomers say), and we enjoyed it eating good food, drinking wine and good single malt among one family we were already friends with, and another we now count as friends. And these people know how to camp in luxury, though the conditions were quite primitive. It was so bright and the fire so warm we could have stayed up all night talking. It reminded me of camping in Alaska in July.

The next morning after breakfast, we packed and drove around looking for game. We went to Plage Hippos (Hippo Beach), where we weren't disappointed for hippos, crocodiles, or waterfowl. We saw giraffes, roan antelope, cape elands, impala, a few other antelope types, a small family of baboons, and zillions of birds. We heard hyenas by moonlight, and saw spoor and tracks of elephants, but no such beasts. Maybe next time. When we returned home that night we were utterly exhausted but very pleased. Zoe has asked three or four times about the next time we go camping. I think for her it's all about roasting marshmallows, being together with friends and family, and seeing animals. Who's to argue with that?