We safely completed our journey, met our hosts, and settled in at the Swedish guest house. With everyone tired to the point of stupidity, we planned our first day to be restful as we attempted to overcome jet lag. We failed.
We got the morning rolling with a stellar example of parenting. Noticing the night before that the guest house had acquired a couple of “pet” monkeys, I determined to get a closer look this morning because I thoroughly enjoy my hairy brothers. I was also certain Lydia would like to be introduced. They seemed a bit shy at first and a bit intimidated by my bulk. Naturally, I crouched down and tossed a couple of sunflower seeds to one. His curiosity banished all fear with the option of free meal. He ate daintily dusting off each seed individually (after all this is Africa, no telling what you might get). As we returned to the group and announced our major accomplishment, Ginger, a bit of a kid herself, got all excited and said she wanted to see them eat too. So, armed with sunflower seeds and pistachios we returned to the monkeys tethered to a nearby tree. Little encouragement was needed to get our pint-sized primates ready to engage. Emboldened by their solicitous greeting, I ventured in closer to allow them to eat from my hand. One little rascal scampered over and wrapped one hand around my arm while he ate from my hand with his other arm. It was a beautiful Hallmark moment. I let the other monkey eat from my hand and got a very similar affectionate embrace. Delighted by the gentle and loving spirit of the little critters, Lydia wanted to feed them too. I saw no problem with this–they are such lovable little guys. They didn’t like the pistachios and were less than excited with the sunflower seeds, but it was all I had on me at the moment. So I placed a small pile of seeds in her hand and instructed her to wait until I had the camera ready. She approached the smaller of the two and held out her hand with a sweet smile. The little beggar returned to his former shyness and hopped to a different branch. Ever the willing servant, Lydia marched over and held up her hand with the treats. The little guy studied her hand intently, then quick as a wink he grabbed it and bit her. She screamed, the monkey screamed, Ginger screamed, and I stood there with a stupid expression on my face, dumb-founded by the transformation from cute and cuddly to savage and insane. I mean, who could bite Lydia? She is so gentle and sweet. The wound was minimal, but this is Africa, and it was a monkey. So after bandaging her as best we could we headed off to the hospital.
Now when I say hospital, don’t picture Johns Hopkins or the Cleveland Clinic. Picture Bubba’s auto repair at the end of a tough day. Fortunately, if you have money you get moved to the front of the line – I had money – $2.64 to be precise. That is the going rate for a “top-notch” physician. Our medical master mind studied her hand…on the wrong side, until I was able to convince him that the wound was on her palm; only minor scratches on the back of her hand. On second examination he prescribed a tetanus shot and a visit to the vet. Lydia, always eager to try new things, is now the first in our family to be bitten by a primate and the first to be treated by a vet. Boy have I got some stories for potential suiters. I won’t give you the full details of the trip to the vet in deference to those of you with a weak constitution. Suffice it to say that a shot on this continent is not like a shot at home. I did make sure that they opened new needles for the procedure for all you Moms who are holding your breath right now. Lydia was a real trooper.
After the hospital, we headed off to look for hippos and eat minnows. I’m not sure if the little fish were minnows or some other small bait fish, but we ate them heads, tails, and eyeballs. They were actually pretty tasty, and I knew Lydia was doing better by the way she dug in. I’m pretty sure the hippo we saw was a hippo, but we didn’t eat him and he didn’t eat us, so all were happy.
After the fish and hipps it was time to see the rock where Livingstone met Stanley. Our visit was not as historic as theirs, but we did have fun. One little chap had just worn himself out and was sound asleep right in front of the rock. A number of folks tried to rouse him, but he was having none of that. When children saw that white people were gathering around the rock, a crowd of them began to materialize. Ever eager to be helpful, one enterprising young girl decided that whacking the sleeping boy with a stick would move the vagrant along. Our host, David, picked the crying mass up before the beating got out of control. Satisfied that the explorer and missionary had indeed met there, we went back for some lunch.
After lunch we were off to visit the petting zoo. They don’t call it a petting zoo, but that’s the best descriptor I can give. You are guided around a small area with an assortment of critters with which you interact. This place would never be allowed in the states, but it was totally cool. First we visited the Crocodiles which are rather large and scary lumps of luggage with teeth. When we got to the largest crocodile, our guide opened the gate and asked if anyone wanted to go inside and touch his tail. Lydia and I were all over that. What could go wrong? Most of us in the group went inside and picked up the tail of the over-grown lizard and got our picture taken while Gretchen and Kim stood outside the bars giving instructions and nursing panic attacks. This old guy was so docile that some questioned if he was real – at least until Ginger picked up his tail and he gave it a little wiggle. No one questioned if he was real after that, especially Ginger who broke the sound barrier getting out of the cage. I thought I would wet myself laughing. But since wrestling Crocs is not sufficient interaction at this petting zoo, for $3.27 we could buy a live Guinea pig and toss it to any one of the crocodiles we wanted. I had my money out so fast I was approaching Ginger speed. We soon discovered that those large lumps of luggage could move really fast when a squealing rodent is present, even the big boy with the tail Ginger liked.
What could top touching and feeding crocodiles? Certainly not watching the cheetah have his lunch – a fresh goat. We didn’t see the kill, just the feast. There are no barriers, just bars. If you have the nerve, you can just reach through the bars and pet a large feline feasting on the head of a goat. None of us had the nerve. The snakes were cool, especially since they take them out of their cages and let you hold them. Lydia held them all (that’s my girl!). The most interesting snake exhibits were the ones with a large broken hole in the cage and no snake – really. But what made the trip special was the chimpanzee that was starved for fun, affection, and attention. I provided all three. She was reaching out of her cage just looking for a little contact so I held her hand, then we played patticake, hugged, wrestled, talked to each other, and generally bonded. Granted, she was very interested in my glasses and the passport carrier strung around my neck, but I think it was just my companionship she was after.
We concluded the day with dinner at our host’s home. By the time we got back to the guest house I decided to stretch out for a bit before showering and getting ready for bed. Apparently I was ready for bed because it was hours before I was conscious again. Some days are just too much fun.