December 25, 2006, Serengeti, Tanzania
Ho! Ho! Ho!
That is not Santa. It is a chorus of evil African Ho gods, laughing at us. Dancing in glee. Our campsite is awash, and we have been awake half the night. As the sky changes from pitch black to dull soggy grey, the rain continues. But this is not just rain. It is an ark-building, life-raft-launching, deluge. That has been pounding us since 2:30 am.
Breakfast is out of the question. We huddle in our tents, hungry and wet, trying to read soggy paperbacks, while one of our over-worked guides goes to check the level of the nearest river.There are three swollen rivers we will have to cross to get out of the northern Serengeti.
"Do you want jujubes or licorice allsorts for breakfast?" asks B, digging through his candy stash.
Suddenly D and A's tent collapses. We don't see them crawl out, so we run over to help. Turns out they were... um, ahem, naked, and are now frantically trying to find clothes. You gotta admire that. In the circumstances.
By 10:30 am. the decision is made to evacuate camp. If we can get out. We are 4 or 5 kilometres off the "main" road. Even then, we have nowhere to stay; It is Christmas day, and we were supposed to camp here tonight. Lodges have been booked up for months. But we cannot stay here, in places the water is over our ankles.
Almost three hours later we reach the road, having pushed the vehicles several times out of muck. Our driver/guides Lyimo and Wellking alternately dug us out and made wild dashes through new lakes that have appeared overnight.
Muddy, soaked, and stinky, (except for A, who was always fresh and chic when the rest of us looked and smelled like refugees from Planet Pig Pen) we pull in half an hour later to a very classy, expensive lodge. We can't stay there, it is full. Anyway, it costs almost $400 bucks a night. But they do offer us use of a couple of rooms to shower and change, and we can eat lunch in the fancy dining room. In dry clothes, with hot food and cold beer in front of us, our spirits climb. Quietly, L begins singing:
"Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry,"
and we join in;
"You better not pout, I'm telling you why"...
By the end of the song we are singing with gusto, and earn a round of applause from the well-heeled lodge guests.
But we still have three engorged rivers to cross, nowhere to stay, and the Ho gods are not finished dancing.