Thursday, 13 June 2013

Elephants with no money

Hitchhiking into a national park is probably one of the most impossible things to do, so I settled with the bus, which runs once a day, the time unspecified.  The few white people I saw at the bus station were, as I correctly predicted, also heading to Mole.  We waited all day for the bus and when it finally set off it had broken down within ten minutes of travel.  We set off again once fixed but had to make a short stop because the driver then wanted to do his prayers.  Three words: typical African transport!

Naughty baboon playing in the hotel grounds

We finally arrived in the park at around midnight.  As I was coming to the very end of my supply of money, I had to look for the cheapest option available.  To pitch a tent in the campground was almost the same price as taking a bed in the dormitory.  Except the dormitory wasn’t pitch black and waterlogged. I struck lucky as the Finnish girls I had met on the bus offered me a place on their hotel room floor.  To get the ‘included’ breakfast in the mornings, I tried my hardest to confuse the hell out of the waiters and succeeded mostly due to their kindness in turning a blind eye to my changing room number each day.

I used the very last of my money on a safari walk, where we saw plenty of monkeys, antelope, warthogs, and birds.  A group of people collected together to take a jeep safari, which would reach further out into the park and improve the chances of spotting elephants, and after hearing my situation they let me jump in on their jeep tour.

Within ten minutes of driving we were climbing off the top of the jeep and following a huge male elephant through the trees.  Compared to seeing an elephant in a zoo this was something special.  It was an incredible feeling to see this wonderful, giant creature pushing its path through the dense greenery and being completely at peace in its natural home.

Hitching into the park may have not been possible but hitching out was.  A military car was making its monthly food-supply trip from Tamale to its isolated destination in the north-western region of the country and had to pass through Mole.  This proved to be very lucky for me, as when we reached their destination they used their superior attitude to easily convince the driver of a public minibus to take me to the border town for free.

I say for free, but I ended up working for the cost of my travel.  The young woman sat next to me got tired of her baby falling asleep in an uncomfortable position, so she just handed him to me.  No words were exchanged. Typical Africa; someone has handed you a baby so just deal with it.  Five hours later I handed him back to her; we had reached the woman’s final destination.

I tried to catch some sleep at the border town, where I had a little trouble but was taught a very valuable lesson by a very wise man.  I don’t want to go into details here because both the situation and the resulting lesson feel very personal; but I will tell you that, sometimes, a plain old human being can make it very easy to believe in angels.

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