A Lapful of Teeth

We pulled in to Wildlife Camp about an hour before sundown – no punctures, no breakdowns – we easily survived the Petauke Road “shortcut.” Approaching the office, some kind of wildlife was cavorting on the porch. Mongoose? Inside, indeed there were two banded mongoose (Mongooses? Mongeese?) cavorting with a candy wrapper stolen out of a wastebasket. The camp’s owner had hand raised these two, and they seemed quite familiar with the wrapper’s contents.

While Steve took care of the formalities, I plopped down on the porch to watch these two up close. They chirped and grunted – rather chatty critters. One gave a long trill and suddenly he was up in my lap, resting his head on my arm! Yikes – I’m not supposed to be touching any animals, according to our travel doc, let alone letting them sit in my lap! Now what do I do? Before I know it, I have both pointy-nosed, beady-eyed mongooses in my lap – two mouthfuls of very sharp, pointy teeth. Mindful of the fact that these critters are fast enough to take down a cobra, I brush both of them with the back of my hand. They are covered with wiry hair – more like broom bristles – which would work best since they burrow underground. They chirp and trill, and then get either hot or bored because I don’t know how to play their games, and scoot back into the office.

We pick a campsite right at the edge of the riverbank, overlooking the sandy expanse, soon to be filled by water when the rains come. We slide off to the bar for a cold drink (with ice!), and watch a herd of 19 elephants cross the expanse while the sun sinks into the smoky horizon. Then the hippos start rising from the pools coming to the banks to graze. It’s quintessential Africa. Rather than dash back to the car for my camera, I just revel in the moment. This is why we are here.

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