Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Tree Where Man Was Born

Today my delightfully witty tour client Liz Beal sent me these photos from our recent trip to Tanzania with her blessing to post them here.

All quotations are from
Peter Matthiessen
The Tree Where Man Was Born

I met no animals but the giraffe, a herd of eleven set about a glade, waiting for night. The giraffe were alert to my intrusion but in their polite way gave no sign that they had been disturbed.

All winter in the Serengeti damp scrawny calves and afterbirths are everywhere, and old or diseased animals fall in the night. Fat hyenas, having slaked their thirst, squat in the rain puddles, and gaping lions lie belly to the sun.

The gold cat eyes shimmer with hidden lights, eyes that see everything and betray nothing. When the lion is satisfied that the threat is past, the head is turned, as if ignoring it might speed the departure of an unwelcome and evil-smelling presence. In its torpor and detachment, the lion sometimes seems the dullest beast in Africa, but one has only to watch a file of lions setting off on the evening hunt to be awed anew by the power of this animal.

Until it is two, the cub is a dependent, and less than half of those born in the Serengeti survive the first year of life.

Yet for all their prosperity, there was an air of doom about the lions. The males, especially, seemed too big, and they walked too slowly between feast and famine, as if in some dim intuition that the time of the great predators was running out.

But the longing for Africa, once contracted, is an incurable condition which, like malaria, recurs again and again. It is not so much the need to see wild creatures – though their multitudes and sounds, their forms and colors, are endlessly exhilarating – as the need for our own renewal of that precious glimpse of the earth’s morning that stirred me so profoundly years ago.

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