Saturday, January 17, 2015

Charlie goes on a sausage hunt

'It's a great life,' said Charlie, stretching out on the couch.

'This is the life for me,'

'I don't think so,' said Granny. 'You can't spend all day sitting around.'

'Yes I can,' said Charlie.

'I think not,' said Granny firmly, taking Charlie by the hand. 'Why don't you go for a swim?'

'Chimpanzees don't swim,' said Charlie, equally firmly. 'I think I'll do some sunbathing instead. I'll just stretch out in this bush.'

'No, you need some exercise. We'll go for a nice healthy walk instead,' said Granny. 'Come on Charlie. There's a big rock over there. We can climb to the top and look out over the savannah. We might see some animals.'

'Oh, all right,' said Charlie.

Charlie climbed the rock. It wasn't as good fun as climbing trees, but it would have to do. You can't really swing on a great lump of rock.

'You're making heavy weather of that little slope!' came a little voice out of the middle of nowhere.

Charlie looked all around him. and then he suddenly caught sight of the strangest creature.

'It's a baby dragon!' cried Charlie.

'Well, I suppose it is a sort of dragon,' said Granny. 

'I'm not sure what a dragon is,' said the strange creature.'I'm actually a gecko. My name is Gordon. What's yours?'

'I'm Charlie. I'm going for a healthy walk but it hasn't been a very interesting walk so far.'

'Geckos are useful,' said Granny, who never missed an opportunity to keep Charlie well informed. 'They eat flies and mosquitos.'

'I don't know about useful,' said Gordon.' I just happen to like flies and mosquitos. In fact, I'm feeling pretty hungry. Would you like to come and eat some insects?'

'I don't think so,' said Charlie. 'I'd rather have mangoes. Do you have any mangoes on this rock?'

'Sorry,' said Gordon. 'Not seen any, but I'll keep looking. See you later.'

And with those words, Gordon darted away.

Granny and Charlie carried on. It was getting hot and Charlie was beginning to feel hungry.

Suddenly Charlie caught sight of some strange white objects. He rushed over.

'What are they, Granny?'

'I have no idea, Charlie.'

'They're sausages,' came a little voice. It was Gordon again, 

'Sausages?' asked Charlie. 'Are you sure?' 

He moved closer and sniffed. He rolled one of them around the rock.

'Of course I am,' said Gordon. 'I live here, remember. They're sausages and they grow on a sausage tree.'

'They don't seem very tasty,' said Charlie. 'They're dry and hard.'

Charlie took a bite of sausage and quickly spat it out.

'Perhaps they taste nicer if you pick them from the tree and eat them fresh,' said Gordon.

'Don't be silly,' said Granny. 'There's no such thing as a sausage tree.'

'I beg your pardon, Madam,' said Gordon, snorting. 'And what would you know about it? You don't even live here. Just you follow me.'

Gordon led the way down the rock and past the banda. They went out of the lodge and down the path. The grass grew high on each side of them.

'Are you sure this is all right?' said Granny uncertainly. 'It doesn't look very safe.'

'Nonsense,' said Gordon. 'Anyway, we're almost there.
Look, behind those zebra.'

'What are you pointing at?' said Charlie.

'It's the sausage tree,' said Gordon. 'Let's go a bit closer.'

And there indeed was a tree, with sausages hanging from every branch.

'Wow!' said Charlie. 'Yum, yum. I'm going to pick as many sausages as I can.'

'Be careful!' called Granny. Too late. Charlie was already bounding across the savannah.

It was hard going. The grass whipped at his legs, but Charlie could think of nothing but sausages.

He was getting closer.

He was nearly there.

'Watch out!' shouted Gordon. 'There's a....'

'There's a what?' laughed Charlie. 'I can't see anything. I've got grass in my eyes.'

'There's a leopard!' screamed Gordon. 'There's a leopard in the tree. Come back, Charlie!'

But it was too late. The leopard turned round and fixed his eyes on Charlie.

'What have we here?' he drawled. 'What's your name, little animal? What are you doing under my tree?'

'I'm, I'm, I'm Charlie.' 

'And what are you, exactly? Are you an antelope? I love antelope. They're delicious.'

'Nnnnno,' stammered Charlie. 

'Are you a zebra, then? You don't seem to have many stripes. I like zebra, to eat that is.'

'No! I'm not a zebra. I'm a ch, ch, ch....'

'A cha? What's a cha? You look quite juicy and tender, like a warthog.'

'No, I'm not juicy at all,' protested Charlie. 'I'm very tough. You wouldn't want to eat me.'

'Oh, but I think I would,' said the leopard. 'In normal circumstances, that is. The thing is, I've just had a big meal this morning and I'm feeling a bit full. Perhaps you could just sit down under that branch and wait. I'll get round to you soon, when I'm feeling a bit hungrier.'

'Oh no you won't!' yelled Charlie. 'I'm going back to my Granny.' 

And with that he turned on his heels and ran as fast as he could across the grass. He flung his arms around Granny.

'Come on Charlie,' said Granny. 'We're going straight back to the lodge. Say goodbye to Gordon.'

But Gordon had gone.

'Sausage tree indeed,' snorted Granny. 

Charlie kept quiet. That was the last time he'd go hunting for sausages. Mangoes would just have to do.

By the time that Granny and Charlie had got back to the lodge Abba had already started his lunch.

'Where have you been, Charlie?' said Abba. 

'Just here and there,' said Granny, looking sternly at Charlie.

'I'm starving,' said Charlie. 'What's for lunch, Abba?'

'Sausages,' said Abba. 'Would you like some?'

'Oh yes,' said Charlie. 'They look much nicer than the ones that grow on trees.'

'Grow on trees? What nonsense, Charlie,' said Abba. 'Tuck in.'

And Charlie did just that.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Charlie arrives at Kidepo

'Where are we?' asked Charlie, clambering on top of the aeroplane. 'I thought we were going to Apoka Lodge, but all I can see is grass!'

Charlie was right.There was nothing but grass for miles around.

Grass, trees.... and one of the biggest mountains Charlie had ever seen.

Charlie, Granny and Abba had just arrived by plane at the little airport at Kidepo in Uganda. The airport was in the middle of the grassland, hundreds of miles from the nearest town. 

'Get down this minute, Charlie!' shouted Abba. 'Come and jump in the car. We're setting off for Apoka right now.'

'Wow!' exclaimed Charlie. 'What a wonderful car!'

The car was like a bus with no sides!

'Oh great!' said Charlie. 'Can I drive?'

'Certainly not,' said Abba. 'Hop in the back with Granny and me.'

'Do I have to?' said Charlie.

'Yes,' said Abba firmly, picking Charlie up and climbing into the back seat.

'Why are there no sides on this car, Granny?' asked Charlie, as they bumped along the muddy track.

'Because we want to see all the wonderful animals,' said Granny. 'And anyway, it's far too hot.'

'Animals?' exclaimed Charlie. 'Cool! Where are they?'

'Look carefully,' said Granny, 'and you'll see animals all around you.'

'I can't see any animals!' said Charlie.

'That's because you're looking in the wrong direction, Charlie,' said Granny. 'Look behind you!'

Charlie turned round and there was one of the fiercest animals he had ever seen.

'Ahhh!!!' shouted Charlie. 'What's that?'

'It's a buffalo,' said Abba.

'Why's he got frilly ears?' asked Charlie.

'Because he's been in lots of fights with other animals.'

'He looks very angry,' said Charlie. 

'He is angry,' said Abba. 'I think we'd better get a move on.'

'I wish there were sides on this car,' whimpered Charlie. 'Let's get going.'

A few yards down the track, Charlie pointed to a brown animal, busily munching his way through the grass. 

'What's that?'

The strange animal came closer, so close that soon he was standing on the track right in front of the car.

'I think he's as interested in us as we are in him!' laughed Granny.

'He looks fierce as well,' said Charlie. 'What is it?'

'It's a warthog,' said Granny. 'A kind of wild pig. Can you see his curved tusks?'

'Yes,' said Charlie, unsurely. 'I don't think I like them very much. Are there any animals in Kidepo which aren't fierce?'

'Of course, laughed Granny. 'Just look over there. Can you see the antelope?'

'I can't see anything,' grumbled Charlie.

'That's because they're hiding in the grass,' said Granny.

'What are they hiding from?' said Charlie with a shiver.

'Lions,' said Granny.

'Lions! Oh no!' 

'Don't worry, Charlie, there aren't lions just here. Anyway, I'm sure lions don't eat chimpanzees.'

'I wouldn't be so sure,' said Abba under his breath.

Charlie soon forget about lions, however, for there, just in front of them were some antelopes, dark brown waterbuck.

Some of them were playing at fighting.

And over the other side of the track there were some magnificent antelopes, just behind a spiky thornbush.

'They're some of my favourites,' said Granny. 'They're called Jackson's haartbeest. But look! Here we are at Apoka Lodge.'

And indeed, while they had been looking at the haartbeest, the car had pulled up outside the lodge.

'Are we staying here?' asked Charlie, finding it difficult to believe his eyes. There was a thatched banda (cottage) surrounded by grassland full of different kinds of animals with their heads down grazing away.

'Yes, we are,' said Abba. 'And this is the bedroom where you're going to sleep.'

'Why are there big white curtains on the bed?' asked Charlie.

'They're mosquito nets so we don't get bitten and catch malaria. And look, here's the balcony. We can look right out over the grassland.'

'Can lions get in?' asked Charlie. 

'Don't worry, they won't come too close, but look at all the other animals.'

And everywhere Charlie looked he could see animals. There were lots of zebra.

Some of the zebra were standing in the shade underneath the diningroom!

There were Abyssinian hornbill...

...brightly coloured starlings...

...more antelopes...

...and even a Patas monkey. Charlie could see them all just by standing outside the banda.

'I think that's a distant cousin of mine,' sniffed Charlie. 'but quite distant. Chimpanzees like me live in tropical forests, not grassland. Still, I might make friends with him later on.'

Charlie yawned.

'It's been a busy day,' said Granny. 'Time that you were in bed. We'll see lots more animals tomorrow.'

'All right,' said Charlie. 'Make sure the lions don't get in.'

'I will,' said Granny. 'Look, I've locked the door.  Goodnight Charlie.'

'Goodnight, Granny and Abba.'

And with that, Charlie fell fast asleep.