I got up rather slowly around 3:30 and went to the drive around 4:00. Our goal now was, in Renny’s words, ‘the elusive leopard.’ Not an LLT (leopard like thing), but an actual ‘spotted-up.’ (Versus a ‘spotted-down’ – anyone know what that is?
At first I was confused, because we were headed out where no one else appeared to be. Before too long we got a flat tire. I could tell Steven was serious, b/c he didn’t say he had to check the tire pressure – he said we had a flat.
NOW, of course, Betsy says “I get it now. He must need to go,” thinking she’s got the code figured out!
“No, Betsy, we really do have a flat tire.”
“Oh. Well, I need to check the tire pressure.”
“You do realize, we’ve got like half a dozen Micato guys out there.”
“But how many safari guides does it take to change a flat tire?” she says.
“I don’t know, more than it takes to change a light bulb?”
“What? I don’t get it.”
Smiling, (she get's it, she's just playing along), I point out that it would take AAA a lot longer to get a truck out here, so this is not so bad. And at least they’re not all pointing at the tire, coffee in hand, nodding in agreement “yup, that’s a flat tire.”
Ten minutes later, we’re back off. I asked Steven why the other two Micato cars stopped behind us and waited while we made the change. It’s primarily a safety and assistance thing. And it turns out that they do an nightly inspection of every vehicle, plus a tune-up after every tour. The vehicles change out about every three years.
The guides said something in Kiswahili, about television and road 610. Apparently, their sources suggested they head out to route 610 for spotted up. Judging by the subsequent bumping and bouncing, I’d say we took a shortcut to get there.
We arrived to about 15 cars, stretched maybe a football field long or so, near a good patch of trees and dense foliage a bit away. Sure enough, up on a horizontal branch of a sausage tree, was the leopard. You can spot the leopard (pun intended) by looking for vertical branch hanging down from a horizontal branch. The vertical branch should curl back up, like the bottom of an old-style umbrella. This of course is the tail.
(In the picture at the top of this post, you can see the cat clearly. Trust me.)
Man, I had no idea how grand the leopard would be. She is a massive creature, just the picture of strength and confidence. For me, I couldn’t get enough. I could spend an hour looking at her. I think this was my highlight thus far. Alas, after about ten minutes, she let out a big sigh, and climbed down out of the tree, and into our memories. We did it – the Big Five!
We drove back for drinks in the tv room, where Renny explained that they decided to skip the bush drinks and go searching for the cat instead. We all agreed that was the better choice. Dinner was outstanding as usual, and we all went to bed knowing how hard it would be to say goodbye. (In retrospect, we had NO idea.)