25 February 2015

Mr. Tembo is on his way up the hill

He knows what you are thinking, and he's never, ever going to forget.
Tarangira National Park, Tanzania, 29th December, 2014
Speaking of Babar...

It's worth saying, just in case you weren't sure, that elephants are big. If there is an elephant in the room I think it's safe to say that the awkwardness is caused by you being in a McMansion large enough to house an elephant, and you really need to go elsewhere and examine your life choices.  A sustainable city thrives on mixed-use developments, city-centre apartment living with rent controls and a multi-generational and mixed-income populace. But, you know, the Irish all want to live in their big houses to show the English we're doing so much better without them, thank you very much (did you notice the elephant, loike, it really offsets the bohemian encaustic tiles we just had put in, brings the whole room together, so maximalist, roish?).

They roll around in red mud to cool down and deal with insects, taking their green suits off first of course.
Tarangira National Park, Tanzania, 29th December, 2014
But I digress. Elephants are really big, African elephants even more so. Those long term readers of this blog will know that I have a strong disdain for the notion of any mythical angry sky-father whose hand guides all things (almost as much as I have for the notion of any mythical hand of the market guiding all things, um, hmm, maybe I just have a things against hands?), but evolution sometimes throws up some pretty crazy and unique adaptions, like the way the ears of African elephants are shaped like Africa (technically, the ear, specifically their left one), and the ears (or ear) of Indian elephants are shaped, apparently, like India, just to help us tell them apart. If the aforementioned Irish Elephant was more than a weak metaphor, no doubt Broadsheet would have an auricular field day.

Slow, graceful and surprisingly quiet. Also, vegetarian.
Tarangira National Park, Tanzania, 29th December, 2014
Herds of African elephants are even bigger still. We started our safari in Tarangira National Park, and we were pretty quickly surrounded by a massive herd. I don't think anything can prepare you for such an encounter, not simply the presence of such a massive, living, breathing creature but the effect of encountering them in such numbers. They surrounded our Land Rover but took almost no notice of us whatsoever, we were just another ignorable object on a landscape that they clearly dominated.

if your house has a room big enough to fit this, you are probably part of the problem, not the solution
Tarangira National Park, Tanzania, 29th December, 2014
There is something that goes deep to our ancestral core when suddenly confronted by a mass of slow moving giants on the African savanna, a sense of what our true place in the world is supposed to be, small, insignificant and hairless apes scratching around in the dust at the edge of a dried out water hole. As Apu's wedding guest said, "you are not Ganesh, Ganesh is graceful". He was talking to Homer in a Ganesh costume, but he may as well have been talking to all of humanity.

He was probably looking for the Amarula. We washed our plates with that water later...
Ngorongoro Crater Rim, Tanzania, 1st January, 2015
Elephants are graceful. They're also pretty damn terrifying when they wander in to your campsite in the evening and start helping themselves to the tank of water you use to cook. This I know from experience, for two elephants wandered in to our campsite on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater for a few scoops and a bit of a look around, a truly hilarious experience when you realize that the top of your tent doesn't even come up to an elephant's thigh and you can't remember if they can see well in the dark (apparently, not so much).

Yes, this was exactly as terrifyingly awesome as it looks.
Ngorongoro Crater Rim, Tanzania, 1st January, 2015
There is a subconscious risk-to-reward calculation that goes through your mind when clutching a camera and staring up at something whose nose is bigger than you (you mightn't realize you have the ability to perform this calculation, it runs on junk-DNA left over from our monkey-with-a-stick days), so I was happy to stand back and let Mr Tembo make his way on up the hill.

I will also now be replacing "cat amongst the pigeons" with "elephant amongst the campers" in my lexicon of metaphors.

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