Christmas Eve, 2006, Kori Bustard Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania.
“Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, had a very shiny nose...”
We are sleepily singing, sitting around the camp fire. Les has strung some battery-operated Christmas lights around an acacia bush. The stars are out. It has been an exciting day of game viewing (3 cheetahs, 11 lions, countless giraffes, hyenas, rare foxes, and more!) in the Gol Kopjes area of the Serengeti, followed by a long drive to our camp.(above photo courtesy of G. Vandegriend)
We drift off to bed in our tents, looking forward to tomorrow: sunny skies, wildlife, and a special Christmas dinner for our last day of camping.
At 2:30 a.m. I wake up and hear the patter of a few raindrops on our tent. Oh shit. We had to cross three rivers to get to this special campsite. The previous week, one had flooded in a heavy rain, stranding people in the northern Serengeti for days. But the skies were so clear when we went to sleep, it must just be a shower. I cuddle close to my Beloved, or as close as we can get while bundled in mummy bags, and go back to sleep.
BOOOOOM! KERAACK! KERBOOOM!! Sweet Mother of God! Thunder and simultaneous lightening right over my head jolts me from sleep to instant terror. A Niagara of rain is pounding on our tent. CRACK! BOOM! CRACK! again. "Holy Crap" I yell. We are camped on an open plain, with only the occasional waist high acacia bush to draw lightening away from our tall tents with metal poles. "Sweetie", I shout at B, who is awake, "What happens if lightening hits our tent?"
"I suppose we would be toast".
In between thunder blasts,we can hear a lion growl and grunt, warning other lions "this is MY territory". We have heard the roar of lions most every night while camping, but our guides Lyimo and Wellking assured us they would not come into camp. Especially with the campfire and several kerosene lamps which are put around the campsite at night. I open the tent flap and peer out into inky blackness. The wind and rain have doused the campfire and lanterns. I have to pee. It is 3:30 am, and no way can I wait until morning. Throwing a blanket around me, I put on my headlamp and run out in bare feet, hoping no cat's eyes shine back at me. The ground cannot soak up the torrential rain fast enough, so water is swirling over my toes as I scamper behind the tent.
Settled back in the tent, I realize there are rivulets running along the floor, soaking into our foam mattresses, and up into our sleeping bags. Then we both have to shuffle and move our pillows to avoid leaking spots from the roof. The thunderstorm seems to be going around in a circle, coming back overhead every 20 minutes. The downpour never lets up. We are wet, sleepless, and separated from lions and lightening only by a little soaked canvas that could collapse any second in the wind. We could be stranded by floods for days. "Merry Christmas," I mutter wryly to B. He starts to shake, and I wonder if he is shivering or crying. Or both. But no, he is giggling, then laughing out loud. He hugs me tightly, smacks a big kiss on my lips, and says between snorts and chuckles:
"Merry Christmas Darlin'."
And I realize again I found The Right One.