Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Vacationing... So You Don't Have To!

I love my job, but there comes a time when a man/woman/tranny needs to step away from the Intense Tech Writer Grind and commit some serious recreating.

I'm writing this on 3/4/09, and on 3/6/09 I'm flying to L.A. to hang out in Hollywood, pee on the big Scientology building there, and board a cruise ship to Mexico. I'll post the occasional picture or quick anecdote, but my net access will be limited. I may end up just baking in the sun while cruising past some panoramic vista, wishing I could get my hands on a mouse instead of a cold glass of something pineappley.

Although this cruise is sponsored by the JREF, I'm not really going to do any serious critical thinking. And as much as I'm looking forward to seeing my friends, that's not my primary goal either. I'm going because the farther you get out of your normal routine, the greater the chances for hilarious moments.

Last year, for example, we went with the JREF to Alaska, where I got attacked by wild sled dogs. Check out this insane carnivore:

Also, we got stalked by a ferocious grizzly.

Actually, salmon were running through that stream. That bear couldn't have cared less about me. Who knew bears were related to house cats?

Being in a floating resort hotel en route to another U.S. state isn't exactly a paradigm-shifting event, even if we did have to go to Canada first. Going to Mexico is going to be a little more alien, I expect. We'll see.

For true mind-warping, you need to go to the opposite side of the world and drive on the wrong side of the road...

About 3 years ago, I found myself in Cape Town, South Africa. I don't mean I woke up naked in Cape Town tied to a statue of Nelson Mandela and trying to extract my passport from my butt. No, this was what the 9/11 Truther idiots would call a "controlled destination." Maria had gone down there for some client work, and since she was holding them over a barrel, she haggled a ticket for me so we could go on vacation when she was done.

I'd never been to Africa, but Maria had lived in Kenya for a few years. I had spent the last 10 years listening to stories of game parks and free-roaming giraffes (Maria's totem animal, and her reason for preferring tall men). So off we went, Maria navigating and me driving on the left or "improper" side of the road. Our first stop was a game park called Sanbona, a new park that was really meant more for scientists than tourists. We were the only guests there.

It's a 10km (49.7 furlongs) ride off the main road along a bouncy dirt trail. Ideal for our rented Celica. No cell phone signal, no one who loved us knew where we were, and I had no idea who had right of way at a crossroad.

About 6km (1.9x10^-13 parsec) in, I said "do you think we'll see anything on the way to the lodge?"

"No, everything interesting will probably stay off the main road. We'll see things deeper in."

Not three minutes later, we trundle around a bend and there's a damn lion lying in the road. Big fluffy mane and giant head and everything. Just glaring at us with those yellow eyes.


The lion s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y stood up, turned around, gave us one more look, and walked into the tall grass by the side of the road. Two steps in, and he disappeared. Of course, the camera battery was sitting in the charger. This was new, staring Big Toothy Nature right in the eyes. The biggest thing that had ever stared me down before was a deer.

We got to the lodge and met the naturalist/tour guide.

Him: "Hello, Mr. Walters! How was your drive?"
Me: "Fuh... fuh... fuh..."
Him: "Ummm... and Mrs. Walters?"
Maria: "I think he's trying to say 'fuggin' lion'"
Him: "Oh. Yes, we have a pride here, but he's an extra male, so he goes off on his own."

Great. A sexually repressed loner lion. The Unibomber of the Jungle.

We spent that afternoon and the next morning touring around with a couple of scientists in an open jeep. The guy who met us was an ornithologist, and I think the other was a geologist, but I don't remember. We got adopted by a herd of giraffe, which still makes Maria do a "squeeeeeeee" noise, and saw white rhinos and got circled by a bunch of galloping zebras.

The next day, we leave to head on to our next stop, and we have to bounce along that road again. This time, the camera is ready. Still no cell service. No one else is expected that day. Everyone from the lodge who was leaving had already left. Of course we get a flat tire.

Me: "Hey, remember how that lion became invisible two feet off the road yesterday?"
Maria: "Yup."
Me: "You don't see any tall grass that looks like it could hide a horny lion, do you?"
Maria: "I see nothing BUT tall grass."

So we get out so I can change the tire and Maria can swipe these stinging black flies away and keep watch.

Me: "How will I know if you see the lion?"
Maria: "You'll hear the car door slam and the doors lock."
Me: "... Why would you lock the doors?"
Maria: "I don't know how smart lions are."
Me: "Can I hold the keys?"
Maria: "No."

I learned later that we were never in real danger, since lions hunt at night, and during the day they are content to just snooze unless someone bothers them. I don't know exactly what bothers them, but it must not be the sounds of loosening lug nuts.

We caught this video at our next game park. I've seen a lot of lion movies, but they must water the roaring down. When it really happens, you want nothing more than a barrier between you and them. Something like the Atlantic Ocean would be fine.

Turn up the volume for this one.

Anyway, that was a seriously epic vacation. I don't expect the cruise to be anything like that, but you never know. We are planning to swim with some dolphins in Puerto Vallarta and drive some ATVs around Mazatlan.

"Hi! I am not indigenous to the Baja California penninsula! Perhaps you are thinking of chupacabras?"

Have a great week, everyone! I'll have tons of stories when we get back, even if I have to make them up myself.

1 comment:

Scott Little said...

Well, you have a good time. Wish I could swing the time off work, but I have to take my time off during the summer. As they say: "don't drink the water!"