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Star Birds and not-Champagne

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We're headed south in mini vans to Johannesburg International Airport to fly to Cape Town on South African Airlines.

We are tired. Three mornings of being woken at 5 am and late dinners has got us perched on the edge of cranky! However, the payoff keeps us on the better side of the perch where we remember lion cubs frolicking alone in a river bed while mom hunts, a lone male waking up from a day long nap hears his brother's call miles away and answers with an earth shuddering roar plus gutsy yelp.

The orienting ranger challenged us to find and see the ten star birds of the area. Among the 300 bird species in this area, the ten star birds include some on the 'vulnerable species' list and others that are just plain hard to see.

He said he'd buy a bottle of sparkling wine (Champagne recently won a law suite, we heard, against South African wine makers for using their name) for any group that saw all ten. On day three we radioed the happy message back for him to start chilling the not-Champagne! We'd done it. And almost all with photos to prove it (some fly so fast that truthfully we rely on the tracker's confidence that that dashing black spot was a Sterling's Wren-Warbler or a Red-billed Quelea) and jubilantly clinked our waterford crystal flutes so that the less fortunate jeep groups could hear. Truthfully, each group was a winner in seeing sights to boggle the urban mind that not all groups saw. Sharing our highlights was the best part of the safari for me.

On evening we resolved on our jeep to do the game ride without cameras. Just to go, be, see, hear and take in the messages and sounds of Africa. It was a beautiful experience and softer and quieter than those exciting moments when we playfully climbed over each other and click, click, clicked, flash'd at the posing leopards or baby elephant or angry scorpion.

In the afternoons we met to share our thoughts about this land tried to imagine how experiencing it would change us.


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