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.