Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pilanesberg II: The Wrath of Kwaad

The first African safari Mr. Deep and I went on was a self drive in Pilanesberg National Park. I wrote about that adventure in this post. As we had not been back to Pilanesberg since that first trip, this past weekend we traveled there to enjoy a weekend of relaxation and game drives. We arrived Friday afternoon, sat by the pool for a bit, and then headed out for the afternoon game drive.  While self drive is fine, Mr. Deep and I have learned that we prefer a guided game drive because the guides really do know where to find the animals. When you are driving yourself you're kind of just aimlessly cruising around and hoping for the best.

We checked in for the drive and were assigned to one of the safari vehicles.  While we were waiting to "take off" we saw the driver/game drive leader of the other vehicle jump on board in a jolly and enthusiastic manner to excitedly greet his safari goers. He introduced himself and proceeded to let everyone know what a fun adventure they were in for. Meanwhile, on our bus, our driver boarded without any greeting at all. As if this weren't strange enough, when he tried to start the vehicle it wouldn't start.

At this point, Mr. Deep jumped from his seat and began offering the use of his ResQ battery to anyone who would listen. Instead of taking Mr. Deep up on his offer to save the day, our driver tried to pop start the vehicle with the assistance of some other guides. Finally, the vehicle started and we were on our way. 

We drove into the park and our driver stopped the vehicle to welcome us. When I say welcome us I mean that he stood up facing us and the other passengers expressionless and silently staring until everyone gave him his full attention. Then, without telling us his name or giving any instructions or information he mumbled a few words and we were on our way again. He did not seem very enthused about the game drive ahead. In fact he seemed quite annoyed. Mr. Deep inferred that he was angry that he was assigned to the vehicle that wouldn't start.  Since our guide never told us his name, I'm going to call him Kwaad which means means angry in Afrikaans (according to Google.) 

When on safari everyone wants to see lions. Often you will not see them as they spend most of their time lying under trees and sleeping. Shortly into the drive one of our fellow passengers started yelling, "lions, lions." Instead of being excited by this news, Kwaad stopped the vehicle (reluctantly I might add) and said, in annoyed tone "are you sure?" This was a strange reply because it can be difficult to spot animals on safari and usually people are encouraged to shout if they think they see something. As they say many of sets of eyes are better than one. Our fellow passenger insisted he had seen lions and so begrudgingly Kwaad started to back up the vehicle. While he was doing so some of the passengers were trying to guide him, as there was a lot of brush which was blocking the view of the lions. Kwaad was not interested in any critique or feedback about where to stop the vehicle. He abruptly stopped the bus, turned off the engine and began to lecture the group about how we "had no respect for each other." It seemed like he was just mad that he hadn't seen the lions first but who knows what set him off. His rant gave me flashbacks of when our elementary school bus driver used to pull over to the side of the road to yell at us. Kwaad went on to sternly tell us that "the lions were on the road earlier but since our group was late getting started we missed that." He closed his lecture with "if you want to be selfish then you should rent a private safari vehicle" because there are "22 people on this bus." 

His diatribe really seemed to come out of no where as I didn't witness anyone doing anything out of the ordinary. People get excited when animals are spotted and they grab their cameras and try to get photos. Of course there are situations that would require a safari guide to lash out at passengers, like if people had their limbs hanging out of the vehicle or if they were tossing raw meat out to the animals but in this case I am not really sure what it was that people on our bus did to warrant such a tongue lashing. And, in fairness to all of us, Kwaad never explained any rules to the group when we set out. Other guides we have had in the past have shared rules such as stay in your seats and reminded people that not everyone is going to be the correct side for viewing every single time. 

Following Kwaad's monologue, we continued our our way, spotting hippos, elephants, zebras and a leopard. During this time, Kwaad seemed to relax a bit making some jokes and acting like his earlier tirade hadn't happened. Then, about two hours in to the drive, it was time to stop for a break. We exited one of the park gates so that we could safely get out of the vehicle to enjoy a drink and a snack.  Just prior to the break we had just seen an elephant walking nearby. Kwaad told us that once we stopped we could walk along the fence line and watch the elephant drink from the water hole. Several people from our group walked up to the fence only to be scolded by Kwaad moments later for "scaring the elephant away."

At this point, Mr. Deep and I were trading glances at each other over this absurd conduct. But the craziest behavior came at the conclusion of our break.

Most of us at one time or another have been on a group tour or at a work meeting where there is a break. And if you have, you know that most people don't really observe the break time allotted and have to be herded back so that things can get started again. This break was no different. While we were enjoying drinks and snacks Mr. Deep and I began talking to a nice couple. They were telling us all about their trip across America by rail when we felt a set of eyeballs burning into our backs.  The eyeballs belonged to Kwaad. He was standing nearby, arms folded, glaring at us. We took this to mean that break time was now over. We quickly boarded the bus hoping to avoid being yelled at. 

When everyone was back on board, Kwaad announced that we had taken more than the ten minute allotted break time and that the gate to the park where we had exited was now closed. This seemed pretty ridiculous since we were standing right next to the gate the whole break time and I am pretty sure the gate was manually closed by someone working the gate. Kwaad went on to say that since we didn't follow his instructions we would have to drive around and re-enter at the main park gate to get back to the hotel. It seems like an announcement could have easily been made to say get back on the bus now before the gate closes, since we were all standing within about 50 feet of the bus, but no such announcement was made. We were clearly being punished for our earlier transgressions. It reminded me of how the airlines love to blame passengers for flight delays. "Since the boarding process took too long and there were too many carry on bags we couldn't leave the gate before the thunderstorm rolled in so now we are delayed."

As the park was now closed we ended our game drive in an unusual manner of driving the last 20 minutes along a main road outside the park in our safari vehicle. I'm also pretty sure we witnessed a car jacking while we were making our way back to the lodge. 

Mr. Deep and I found the situation amusing but I do feel badly if there was anyone on the drive who saved their money to go on safari and then spent the afternoon getting yelled at. 

And we still don't know what it was that we did wrong. 

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.