Sometimes I wonder: Does a tour guide know right from the start which member of the group is going to be a problem?
Does he know, for example, that anyone who shows up on day one of a camping trip wearing a mini dress and Nike high tops will be utterly incapable of pitching a tent?
What about if that someone spends the better part of dinner comparing and contrasting what the rest of the group paid for malaria medication? Does it mean that she doesn’t understand the rules of polite conversation?
Let’s say someone complains at lunch the next day that mayonnaise should not be used as salad dressing and that butter should not be used as mayonnaise. Is it a sign that the person just can’t go with the flow?
I’m sure you know by now, that was all me.
Safari Week’s lone American was going to be the problem child.
But then I caught a lucky break.
On day 3, another American, “Jennifer”, showed up. Or, more accurately, Jennifer was supposed to show up and failed to do so.
Having not heard from her, the tour departed as planned at 7 a.m. that morning. Our bus was an hour down the road when our guide got the call that Jennifer was now at her campsite and in need of a ride. The bus turned around.
Well done, Jennifer. If there’s an easier way to piss off a dozen people, I don’t know what it is.
No one can be sure what Jennifer was thinking when she stepped onto the bus and saw a sea of angry faces staring back at her that morning. But what she said was, “What the fuck? Why is there a washing machine in here?”
For a second, I almost liked her. Because I, too, was wondering why the fuck there was a household washing machine sitting in the back of our bus. But before we got an answer, Jennifer moved on.
“I’m Jennifer!” she chirped, as she plopped into an empty seat. “I’m from the U.S.! I’m hungry.”
And just like that, Nova went from being the lone American, to the cool American.
Not that I didn’t have my moments. Just ask the guy who picked us up from the boat dock that afternoon and drove us to the campsite.
There were 11 people, with 11 pieces of luggage and enough food and water to last us for two days. But there was just one 10-passenger vehicle to transport it all. The trip, by the way, was 45 minutes.
“How many people?” the driver asked our guide.
“Too many for that truck,” I answered. “I think you need to make two trips.”
“No,” he said. “It’ll work.”
And it did – mostly because it had to. But he called a second truck to meet us anyway because even he had to admit that it was too tight of a tight squeeze. Or maybe that’s just how he’s learned to deal with a snarky bitch from New York who points out a botched passenger pickup.
I almost felt bad about the whole thing. Almost. Except for this: When it came time for the driver to return us to the port two days later, they sent two trucks to pick us up.
Sometimes you need to be a bitch. Bitches get shit done.
I had a few problems with our tour’s itinerary – the most notable being that it was complete bullshit.
Today we make our way to one of the larger islands for our nature walk, where we have the possibility of seeing some of the abundant wildlife.
Key word being “possibility.” Oh, the possibility.
For the second time in three days, I found myself in the middle of an open field listening to a guide describe a herd of zebras that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. He pointed out a pile of manure as proof of their existence.
Despite yet another wash of a game walk, I was happy to be in the Delta. Because it was beautiful. In fact, I’d take looking at it over some zebra any day.
On our second – and last – night in the Delta, our tour guide asked me to keep him company while he cleaned the pots and pans after dinner.
“Come,” he said. “I’ll show you how to clean a pot.”
“I think I know how to clean a pot,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Good,” he said, handing me the sponge. “Then you can do it.”
Sometimes even the baddest bitches walk right into it.
On Day 5, I finally got my wish: An animal encounter.
“There’s a good chance that there will be a hippo outside your chalet tonight,” the lodge staff member explained as he walked me to my room. “It’s his favorite spot.”
Fun fact: Hippos are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other land animal. Or at least that’s what this guy told me on our walk to my room.
“So what am I supposed to do if the hippo’s there tonight when I come back?” I asked.
“Well,” he replied. “The hippo always has the right of way.”
That’s not really the advice I was looking for, but it will have to do.
I keep forgetting: This is Africa, man.