29 December 2010

Considering how many times the jinx has followed me, there is absolutely no excuse for what I did yesterday. Maripet, our scout, and I were going to run over to the ranger post in the landcruiser work truck to pump some water. When he had prepared the car and came to meet me at the office, I stood up, glanced at my camera, decided against it and headed out the door.

One hour later my phone was ringing, but the reception was not good and all I could hear as we stood at the ranger post was, "...wild dogs...Katisunga plain...hello...hello...Mark?" The camp managers from our distant neighbors in the park were trying to give us a heads up because they knew we have 8 guests at the moment and that we would love to see this rarest of predators. Even I and Kristen have never seen dogs in this park, despite a scattering of sightings by the guides and guests.

Not having very specific information, but knowing Katuma camp had no guests which made it unlikey they were out in a vehicle, Maripet and I assumed the dogs would be near their camp. We wanted to find them and see if they were stationary enough to radio the guides to bring the guests. Breaking some park speed limits, we reached the edge of the plains and started scanning. Maripet has at some point in his life undergone surgery to have binoculars surgically implanted behind his eyes, or so I have accused him, and despite his denials I still think I am right. For this I was very thankful, since I had made the conscious unforgivable decision to leave my binoculars hanging over the back of the same chair in the office where my camera bag was hanging.

So I think you're getting the idea here, that this blog will be pictureless, despite its subject being about my first ever wild dog sighting in Katavi. I am cringing as I write it, because there is absolutely no reason in the world for me to have ever left that camera behind. It has been ingrained in me for years. I even advise guests on it, and joke about the karma of it. For example, if one guest decides to stay in camp, there will be a great sighting on a game drive or walk. If you leave your camera in camp, we sometimes joke with the leopard-hungry visitor, you will see one. If you carry an umbrella, it will not rain. Is this called Karma, or does it have another name?

It is eerily consistent, this phenomenon of special sightings sans camera. Leopards, marshal eagles hunting, elephants and giraffes mating (on seperate occasions, not with each other), cheetah chasing a young zebra, all events witnessed when out on an errand or for some camp task, having made a conscious decision to leave the camera behind. Perhaps we might devise a way to fool karma by having another car trail at some distance, carrying my camera in case of anything. All this is moot, however, because the decision has been made: the camera goes everywhere, every time, from this day forward, forever.

So we found them, or Maripet did, then about a kilometre later, so did I. He was smiling away like, "Yep, I told you." To top off the situation, and I promise you this is not made up to enhance the story, the five wild dogs were lying right beside the track and behind them in the distance a rainbow stretched across the sky. A perfect picture. There we sat admiring the view, with my camera hung over the back of the chair, an hour's drive away.

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