Lions, and Tigers, and Chocolates…Oh My!

I’m sitting under yet another whimsical umbrella at a dainty cast iron table while alternating between sips of rich Americano and nibbles of tiny, decadent chocolates—vanilla ganache, caramel truffle, and a drunk cherry. Only now, after my arm has been twisted tighter than when I played the game ‘Indian rug-burn’ as a child (what a horrible name), have I caved in to all the chocolate shops. I finally accepted coffee and chocolate as a well-balanced breakfast—sporadically of course.  Two weeks in and I feel very comfortable in this holiday lifestyle. It was tough accommodating, but I managed.

This past Saturday we went to the Lion and Rhino Nature Reserve.  We went on our own little safari and had an absolute blast! Although it was a park, I felt more in Africa during those few hours than I have felt in the last two weeks. The hills were rolling with  rich green carpet.  Birds that I’ve never seen before shadowed over the hills, moving like a large cloud only to temporarily block the sun over the land they flew above.  The minute we entered the gates, we saw tall giraffes welcome each car with a slight drastic nod.  I was slapped with a such a view only after a 45-minute drive from Jo-burg. Overwhelmed, I took out the camera and started taking pictures of EVERYTHING. Brian had to remind me to conserve the battery for things other than the small purple and red flowers along the rutted dirt roads.

 I held a snake!  I’m not talking about one of those measly little garden snakes that can be mistaken for a discarded Slim-Jim, I’m talking about an anaconda! Unfortunately, I forgot his name.  It was soft and friendly-like Willy or Bert.  Afterwards, we meandered our way to the African-style petting zoo. We pet lion and tiger cubs along with a full-grown cheetah named Eddie! Apparently he is famous in South Africa and has been filmed in several adverts. He was completely docile. We were told he has arthritis which as we all know, tugged at my heart-strings a bit.  The lion and tiger cubs were SO adorable.  The lions were brother and sister and snuggled together while they napped. Their paws were ginormous which indicates they are going to be very large creatures once they are full-grown.  In all honesty, I felt bad for them. They just wanted to sleep and be left alone, whilst every five minutes, animal-obsessed people like me entered their gates screeching a high-pitched squeal that probably promised them early-onset deftness. I couldn’t help myself though, they were lion cubs! Anyone who has a heart would find it difficult to contain their excitement when given the opportunity to gently pet a wild animal, right? We ended the petting experience with a tiger cub named Milo. He was my favorite. Even though he was tired, he had a charming personality. He would hide under my legs or face his rear-end in our direction silently giving off the “pet this” vibe. He had a sense of humor. The two young ladies who kept Milo company ended our five minutes with news that had turned my emotions from elated to incredibly sad. I could see Brian in my peripheral searching my eyes for the first tear drop, and he found it. They told us that his friends were sold to other zoos that day so he was sad and lonely. REALLY? After all the cuteness I soaked up, you’re going to leave me with THAT? I’m sorry- that boarders rude. I politely thanked them for allowing me to pet Milo, and leaving me with a broken-heart, and told them I’d send them my medical bill…joking.

Afterwards, Brian asked a park director for advice on what to do next—we could witness the lion and wild dog feeding, or get lunch. With those options, I’d much rather feed myself than watch a poor animal be fed to a lion. I’ve come to the realization that I’m too soft for the wild kingdom.  Once we finished our mediocre lunches of chicken sandwiches and salad, we drove around the park and witnessed wild dogs and a lone white male lion tearing apart what’s left of a bottom-half of some animal— an antelope maybe? I have to admit, it was pretty cool to watch. Strangely enough, the lion gnawing at the remaining prey reminded me of Holly gnawing on her raw-hide. The contentment in the lion’s eyes was oddly cute and purposeful (even though the chump didn’t have to move a paw for it). We ended our day in Wonder Cave, a cave discovered by the Italians in the late 19th century who were searching for minerals and gold. Although the gold was a bust, they used the copious amounts of limestone for a booming business. It was stunning and reminded me of the Jeita cave in Lebanon, but on a significantly smaller scale.

We left the park with our eyes satisfied and our hearts full of excitement. As we exited the gates, I belted out The Circle of Life
I only got to the middle of the second verse before Brian slowly increased the volume of the radio. Now that’s funny. A wonderful day ended with laughter and another fantastic experience under our belt.

We are traveling to Victoria Falls this weekend. We’re excited, for it is the seventh natural wonder of the world. We are doing a canopy tour and grand zip-line adventure.  I know marriage is all about compromise. Therefore, when Brian asked me like a child begging for ice cream or a new pair of rollerblades if I would bungee-jump off a bridge in Victoria Falls, I told him no. When he asked if I would swing over the gorge while hanging from a bungee cord and a harness resembling the same knotted sack a stork would use to transport a baby (I’m guessing a lesser form of torture), I said no. However, I did agree to zip-line our way through the park like a bunch of monkeys. How bad can it be? Famous last words. In all seriousness, I’m excited for this experience. It’s a wonderful and exciting blessing to be married to someone who challenges and brings me out of my comfort zone. But so help me if anything goes awry…You’ll be reading about it next week.
Thank you for checking in! Until next time                                                                                               Cheers!

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