I spent quite a lot of time on sweaty seats surrounded by the smell of biltong on the road in Southern Africa. Biltong is South African dried meat that comes in an assortment of species from cow, ostrich, and kudo to hippo, giraffe and elephant. You can simultaneously chew on a giraffe while watching one gallop across the road- how morbid. We traveled from Joburg to Kruger, back to Johannesburg, then up through Botswana to Chobe National Park, to Victoria Falls, down to the Matobos then back to Joburg- all in just a few weeks. Car naps were interrupted with two 'admissions of guilt' (tickets for speeding and a broken tail light), police questioning where we acquired the firewood strapped to the roof, a demon bug that managed to sneak its way into the car and lots and lots of donkeys and goats that prefer a classic game of 'chicken' to just scuttling off the road. The drives were more pleasantly interrupted by wildlife of all types from herds of elephants down to determined dung beetles. At one point, we rescued a chameleon- my very favorite creature of all- during a road crossing. I picked him up, he assumed the color of my skin, climbed up my face (squeezing my cheek with his tiny little evolutionarily perfect hand) and perched on my head. We moved him to a nearby tree and I couldn't wipe the grin off my face for the next several hours. Moments like that remind me just how much I adore earth's most peculiar critters.
On game drives we would turn a corner and be smack in the face of a giraffe or elephant or buck. I never expected that such giants were capable of surprising us- hiding amongst shrubs or behind horizon lines. Africa is home to the top three largest land mammals, the fastest and the smallest - elephants, hippos, rhinos, cheetahs and some adorable shrew respectably. There's no forcing the issue when you're stuck behind a herd of elephants with moms and babies and bulls fighting by the roadside- you just sit amongst the herd, wait it out, ensure you are not aggravating any of the elephants and make sure you have an escape route if one charges. Southern Africa is home to my very favorite type of traffic.