Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our Amazing Little Safari

Here at last is the rest of the story regarding our mini vacation in May. After our day at the ranch, we headed for the wildlife preserve....

Excerpt from Ethan's Journal, May 2009

After a hearty breakfast of eggs, leftover steak, and potatoes, we headed for Dinosaur World. This was sort of an outdoor museum with over 100 life-sized dinosaurs in a life-like setting. Seeing these massive creatures up close was striking. On a few of the displays, I could squint my eyes and imagine that the dinosaurs were real.

Ethan Running from a Fierce T-Rex

You pointed out little facts about many of the species, and you were able to identify some of them without reading the brass name plates. You were especially excited about the ones you recognized from the Jurassic Park movies, such as the beloved velociraptor.

Despite my oversized sun hat, Allyson's face was crimson from the heat; the humidity in the sweltering air was like a blanket. Nana was worried about her and sponged her down several times with wet paper towels. Allyson didn't seem to mind the heat, but she was a bit on edge. She understood that the dinosaurs were "just pretend," but she still kept asking us if we were scared. She told Nana not to worry, that she would "betect" her. When she posed with these velociraptors, the anxiety in her expression was genuine:

After a half-mile walk in the muggy heat, you and Allyson did the fossil dig. You had ten minutes to sift through some sand and find fossils which had been planted there. Then you could choose your three favorites to take home. (You ended up picking five.) They were mainly ancient teeth, and there was also a piece of amber.
Of course, you had to spend all your money in the gift shop. Nana bought you a replica of an iguanadon claw--which you used to terrorize me, Bill, and Allyson for the rest of the trip. You used your allowance to buy a polished slice of geode which was studded with amethysts.

Next, we drove a couple of miles to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Preserve, where we "camped" in two safari tents. Each tent had cement floors, two twin beds, air conditioning, a ceiling fan, and a pretty bathroom with a tiled, glassed-in shower. The camp overlooked a large watering hole where scores of animals gathered each morning and evening.

We moved into our tents and sat in our wooden porch chairs until the deer, wildebeasts, and oryx had dispersed. Then we drove into town for some barbecue, followed by the most divine banana pudding.

Allyson, Nana, Ethan

After dinner, we sat on the common deck area and witnessed a breath-taking display of lightning. It was so far away that we could only faintly hear an intermittent rumbling. It reminded me of the boom-boom of the approaching T-rexes in the first Jurassic Park movie, when the water in their cups was trembling. I told you about my impression, and you shivered with pleasure. The electrified fence around the perimeter added to the effect. We imagined the velociraptors methodically testing the fence, searching for a way in.

The lightning had begun to fade when we turned in at 9:30. I wondered if we'd have trouble falling asleep that early, but it wasn't a problem.... You were asleep in minutes. Allyson, however, kept the rest of us awake. She said she wanted to sleep alone on the mattress between the two beds, but she soon changed her mind. She wanted Daddy to sleep with her, then she wanted Mama, then she wanted Daddy again. Poor Bill was crowded onto a corner of the tiny mattress on the hard floor, but you and I were quite comfortable in our twin beds.

We woke up at 7:00 to find a huge gathering of animals at the watering hole. It was cool and overcast. We had French toast, eggs, and hashed browns in the glass-walled pavilion, and then we sat in the observation area and waited for the tour bus that never came. You were terribly frustrated by the wait, but I enjoyed basking in the sun as my goosebumps gradually melted away.

We picked up our bag of feed and drove through the preserve in our rented Kia minivan. We all enjoyed the experience immensely, and I can't imagine how the private tour could have been any better.

Within the first few minutes, an ostrich poked its head through your window, and I captured your hilarious shrieks of terrified laughter on video. [As soon as I get a chance to edit that video, I hope to post it.] We fed an endless stream of deer, wildebeasts, oryx, addax, and mountain goats.

Despite the posted warnings against hand feeding, the animals obviously expected it. Any animal that could reach thrust its head in a window. You and Grandpa fed many animals out of your hands. This proved to be an issue with a very assertive mountain goat. It seemed determined to climb in through your window. "Go! Go!" you shrieked when it clunked both front hooves against your door.

We followed the narrow, winding road for miles, often climbing and descending steep grades that took my breath away, especially since you were standing with your torso hanging out your window, your arms spread wide. You said it felt like you were flying. Allyson said it was like a roller coaster.

The animals we most looked forward to were the giraffes. These were the only ones we were offically allowed to hand feed, and they were Nana's favorites.

The giraffes didn't disappoint us. One very tall mother giraffe put her head right inside the van, practically laying her head on our shoulders. We held out flat palms, and her velvety lips slurped up the pellets. We ended up with giraffe slobber on our hands, but it was worth it.

All this time, Allyson--who was ecstatic to be free of her carseat during our 3 mile-per-hour trek--jumped from one side of the van to the other. (This caused a bit of argument; you didn't mind having her on your side if there was a giraffe or a rhino there, but you didn't want her in your space for no reason.) Allyson had been eagerly anticipating her chance to feed a giraffe, but when the moment finally arrived, she cowered in the back row with Nana.

I was so enthralled with the giraffe that I didn't notice the zebra whose nose was brushing my right shoulder. When I turned around, I almost jumped out of my seat. "Well, hello!" I said once I recovered my speech. I felt bad for ignoring this cheeky zebra, so I fed it several pellets.

When we finished our drive, we walked through a little park area where we fed the rest of our pellets to a cantankerous ostrich, some algae-covered turtles, and a school of shimmering silver fish that made the water churn as they devoured the food.

I couldn't believe how much fun we managed to squeeze into three days. I'm sure we'll remember our little vacation for years.

1 comment:

Mindy said...

I remember going on one of those safari car rides when I was younger, those are such a blast! Looks like y'all had a great time there! I bet Ethan loved the dinosaur exhibit.


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