What do these three things have in common? On our recent trek to the Saadani National Park we learned a few valuable lessons. We have been in Game parks before. We usually just pay the car and people entrance fee and drive ourselves around. Its such a fun time. We let the kids pile onto our laps in the front seat and slowly drive through the park keeping eyes open for the magnificent creatures that can be found there. We have had much success with this in the past. When we got to Saadani we were told its best to get a guide to come along with you in your car. Its a small park and the idea of having a stranger in the passenger seat of our already full car did not seem like fun. Also taking into account that some friends of ours went with the “guide in car” option, got stuck in the mud, the guide left them for hours while he on foot walked back through the game park (with lions in it) to the village, leaving our friend and his companion to dig the car out with the only thing they had to use.. a child car seat. So guide or no guide we felt confident it didn’t matter much. Bruce ran into one of the very amiable guides in the park office who gave him a park map and then thoughtfully gave him a route to take using the number system that’s on stone markers. We followed this flawlessly and found some giraffes.
love the beautiful giraffes and how they stop and stare at you and almost pose for pictures. and then of course….
get mooed at by a 1 year old who thinks every animal makes the cow sound.
We had a similar problem with J when he was around 18 months old. Except the elephants were not quite as amused. 😉
So we continued on the path hoping to find some other animals. we saw some birds.
and a warthog or two..
The sun was beginning to set and so we decided to continue to follow the path marked out by the tour guide. On his list he gave 2 different routes out. So we had a moment of decision and chose one. Everything was going well until we came to a spot where the road was out due to large pockets of mud. We noticed however a path through the grass going around that area which appeared to have been used many times. We took the path which right before it joined the main road again had a smaller mud bath of its own. And so we decided to take our 4wd vehicle through the mud blemish in the road. We made it through with some prayers and little problems. After we were back on the main road just a little ways up a tree was down across the road. No way thru. We decided to turn back around and go back the way we came. The mud hole made us more nervous thinking about going through it again. The nervousness gave way to panic as indeed we became the fruit filling of our giant mud pie.
Now an interesting little side story is that 3 days before we came there was a man eaten by a lion in this game park at night. We were told under no circumstances to get out of our vehicle. The next hour gets very interesting as the sun is beginning to set over the beautiful African Savannah. I am on lion watch while Bruce is sitting in the mud trying to dig our car out with his bare hands! He is trying to shove brush and sticks under the tires to give us some traction. (Shovel.. would have been smart to pack a shovel.. or rope!) We try several times to drive out to no avail. The back tires are only spinning making us realize that the 4wd is not working. We call the woman at the park office to ask for some help to which she replies. “What do you want me to do? I don’t have a truck.” To which we reply. ” Please do something. Please find a truck!” (The kids by the way are fine. 2 older ones tuned out on leap pads and L is humming and looking through a book blissfully unaware of our soon to be camping trip). I sent a message to one of our friends who put something out on facebook for anyone who had contacts in Saadani that could help and we were met with a cheeky response from the person of the above mentioned stuck in ‘Saadani with a guide’ story suggesting to use one of the kid’s car seats to dig out. very funny.
The sun is down now and we are sitting in a hot and humid vehicle. We can’t open the windows because the mosquitoes are crazy. We turn the engine on for short periods to run the A/C and then off again to conserve the diesel because we have no idea how long we will be out there. We do what we do best. Laugh at the insanity of the circumstances we find our selves in. (There were freak out moments as well.) But honestly I thought… People spend THOUSANDS of dollars to spend the night in a game park… and here we are getting to do it for free! I thank God for my sense of humor sometimes.
Then we get a phone call. The woman at the office has managed to get a dump truck from the village to come to our rescue! It takes a little time and thankfully we knew exactly where we were in the park. Within 20 mins we see the headlights of salvation. Moments later a dump truck full of smiling Tanzanian men is roping us up to the truck and in an instant we are out. (I’m sure partly thanks to all of the bare handed digging of Bruce!) We are then led out of the main part of the park, paid to rent the dump truck and safely and mud caked to our cabin that we had booked for the night.
In hindsight I wish I had photo documented this event because it was crazy and scary and hilarious all at the same time. But alas photo taking was the last thing on my mind. After it was all over there were kids to feed, bathe and put to bed and mud to scrape off ourselves.
We had planned to do a sunrise game drive the following morning, but we felt like Saadani served up enough excitement for one trip! Lessons learned? Shovel, rope, tools, towels, are very useful things if you remember to pack them. Maybe also.. never drive through the same mud hole twice?