Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Outrageous Adventures of Giant and Midge: Botswana Edition

DisclaimerThis is the outrageous and only somewhat true tale of Giant and Midge as they took on Botswana. As you might guess, this story is, in fact, based off of actual events but, don't be fooled, some things have been exaggerated for dramatic effect. The names are definitely not changed to protect the innocent... There is no such thing as innocence in this group. Enjoy.

After a laborious (and expensive) delay in Paris, France, Giant finally arrived in Botswana. She looked fresh and fancy, just as you'd expect someone to look when coming from the land of croissants and designers. Midge jumped up and down with glee as Giant walked through the gates at immigration, overjoyed to be reunited with one of her favorite people on the planet. It was a reunion to go down in history as one of laughter, disaster, and hysterics.

Together, they made the long journey through winding tarred roads to the small village that Midge called home (and Giant called "Gah-bain"). She attempted to keep Giant awake to overcome the jet-lag by talking a mile a minute and wandering the earthen roads to different parts of the village. Of course, pictures were taken at every juncture along the way, mostly with goofy smiles. The conversation was like old times, as if they had never been apart. The two friends caught up on life and love and soon started making plans for their next adventure together (yes, even on the eve of the first night of what would come to be known as "the comedy of errors trip of friends").

After barely sleeping a wink (in part due to incessant conversation and in part due to the thunderous storm that occurred all night courtesy of Giant, aka "Mapula", so named for bringing the rain with her from Seattle), the two friends, joined by a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, traveled to "the big city" (the only certified city in the country) to gather food and supplies to head north(ish) to see the great salt pans of Botswana. This would happen in collaboration with an ex-patriot friend of Midge's who would drive and provide entertainment en route. He would be their tour guide and friend on this great adventure.

Most of the drive included ridiculous sing-a-longs with Midge, Giant, and friends. They belted out to every song that came on the ipod at the top of their lungs. Much to their friend's dismay, this was mostly to country music, something that Midge had not heard much of in the passed year and a half. Going to country concerts had been a favorite pastime for Giant and Midge so, of course, making their own concert would be in the cards. Other than country music, of particular interest was the vocal stylings of Garfunkel and Oats, who are an adorable duo that sing hysterical songs. Giant and Midge decided they could probably be awesome like them and made every attempt to demonstrate this along the way.

In addition to singing, the group of girls would also frantically yelled out to stop at interesting signs and landmarks on the way. Of particular note, was the Tropic of Capricorn. This stop required significant time for picture taking.

The rest of the journey towards the pans was peppered with rainfall (thanks again Mapula Giant for bringing the rains to our dry dry desert of a country) and many splattered bugs on the windshield. Sadly, and unfortunately, Zazu also was splattered on the windshield. Screams were let out and tears shed. Lets all please take a moment of silence in remembrance of this lovable little bird that met his demise on the A1 highway.....................Thank you for that. The group carried the scars of his lost life for the next few days as their adventure continued with a shattered upper windshield. A constant reminder that life is short and you best live it up while you can.

They arrived at their destination as the sun was setting. They were tired and their throats were sore from all of the singing.  They still had to set up their tents but thought a libation or two would help give them get the night vision they so desperately needed and soothe their souls from the loss they witnessed earlier. After a few too many, they wandered back to the campsite, haphazardly set up their tents, and all fell into one of the two they set up.

It was squishy and rocks and elbows flailing about made the evening almost unbearable. Sleep was impossible. Hangovers were imminent. And when they arrived, they did so with force. All that was left for this motley group was rest under the shade of an ancient baobab tree. Giant and Midge hoped beyond hope that the healing powers of this baobab would save their aching heads.

Did they? Yes, in time. Thank you dear baobab, you were quite the savior. After a nap in the shade of the baobab and ample water, they were off on their next mini adventure... trekking to the pans!

En route to the pans, their tour guide and friend decided they needed to stop at a gas station to fill up and to get coffee and food for the trip. The gas station was empty, with nothing but a few greasy donuts (yum) and zero petrol to speak of. Will we be okay? they asked. Decidedly so, the magic 8-ball responded. So Giant, Midge, and friends continued on.

They drove through a tiny village, commenting on how great a Peace Corps Volunteer would be in this site and waving at small children until they came to what was aptly called "the bush". There was nothing left but thorn bushes, tumbleweed, sand, and the occasional animal (mostly donkeys and cows but the occasional kudu or ostrich running at full-speed would cross their path).

They drove on. And on. And on. They sang karaoke-style songs and gossiped about life in Botswana and back in America. Midge and Giant told stories of their adventures and the four friends giggled uncontrollably as they looked at the sun to decide which direction they should take. And they drove on. And on. And on. Annnnnnnnnd on...

For eight hours. They were lost. So lost that they pondered their own demise. Would we meet Zazu soon? What predators live near the pans? Why hadn't the case station had coffee? or bread? or petrol? Why are we asking why in Botswana? But they persevered. They came across some people living in the lands and asked them, in broken Setswana and mime, "di-pan dikae?". In strict mime, they were pointed onward. So onward they went!

Another hour went by. Still lost. Still contemplating the end.

They concluded that they would never find the pans and decided they had to turn around and head home. Or at least in the direction they thought home might be, realizing that the sun had moved across the sky and they no longer could keep track. With no working compass to go by, Midge and Giant had to trust their guide (who admitted that he had no idea where he was). But, then, just as they all had admitted defeat, ahead of them came a sight for sore eyes...

THE PANS! Hip hip hooooooray! There they were! They were there the whole time! Who knew that something the size of Connecticut could hide from a group of intellectual-types for so long? But we outsmarted them! Errrrr... or at least that's what they will say!

The group frolicked across the glorious salt pans, content in having found them. They jumped for joy at the awesomeness and the expanse of the pans. They smiled that they did not miss such a glorious sight. And then they sang Hallelujah because they had done it! It certainly felt like a huge cause for celebration! After an entire day stuck in the bush, they found what we were looking for!

With significant difficulty (read: almost drowned their vehicle in an ocean of sand), they traversed the earthen paths all the way back to their campsite. It took a third of the time to get home and they were extremely grateful.

One of the things the group had hoped to accomplish during their trip was to see animals. they had heard that a nearby watering hole was a spot frequented by animals, including elephants! They were eager to see these magnificent beasts so they gathered up their cameras and boxed wine and set their sights on the watering hole.

For the hours before the sun set, Midge and Giant and their eager friend (for the sake of this conversation, lets call her AnimalloverfromthedesertviaMaine) sat watch on a fallen tree alongside the watering hole. They sipped their boxed wine and whispered back-and-forth in an effort not to scare away any incoming animals. An, all of the sudden, a herd of animals started coming through the trees. But what were they? Elephants? No. Kudu? No. They were horses! Followed in succession by cows! And then more horses from another corner of the bush! Then more cows! They came one after the next in a rhythm that had to be practiced because it was so synchronized. It was a sight to behold! Granted, it was not the sight that this group had originally wished for but one that made them smile nevertheless. Not a horrible way to spend the afternoon, that's for sure.
After the sun set, the rest of the evening involved marshmallows, food, more wine, and time by the pool. There was no way that they were going on any more adventures after such a ridiculous day of mis-adventure. They were exhausted and dirty and in desperate need of relaxation. So they settled in for the night, content to start the next day afresh.

The next morning, Midge woke up to find that she had been visited by an entire army during the middle of the night. An army of mosquitos, that is. She was absolutely covered. Giant and friends took pity on her and didn't laugh too much at the rash that was spread all over her entire body. They even helped by restraining her arms and legs when the itching became too much to handle. With that, it was time to leave. There had been enough time on the road for this group. All they wanted, Midge especially, was to get out of the bush and get home!

The drive home was another one of potential tragedy. As you may recall, the group attempted to get petrol for the vehicle the day before but the station was without. They then proceeded to drive for eight hours through the bush on their search for the salt pans. Still, no petrol. This meant that the vehicle was dangerously low on fuel and the light threatening to go on. As each car passed them on the road towards the next village with a petrol station, they attempted to flag them down to ask for even a few liters to get them there. They were unsuccessful. They kept trying. Time and time again, still no luck. They watched as the gauge moved ever closer to the red line. Finally, it reached the end of the line. The signs ahead read 5km to go. Slight sputter on the car. They looked at each other. Can we make it?! And they pressed on. Just as the petrol station came into sight, the car started to cough and control decreased. They literally rolled into the petrol station with only air getting them there. But they made it!

The rest of the drive went smoothly. Naps happened by everyone (driver excluded) and sing-alongs were less vibrant than on the trip up. Showers were the only thing on this group's mind. That and getting to safe ground. The only excitement was the 5pm wine break (because Midge's nana did teach her that a glass of red wine at 5pm should be a daily requirement)!

The next twenty-four hours were filled with activities that Giant and Midge were pros at. Namely, eating, drinking, and shopping! By the day's end, they bought Botswana out of their jewelry and crafts (ensuring many families had lucrative careers and extravagant holidays this year) and had made plans for a ruckus evening out.

They were joined by friends from across the globe, everywhere from Ireland to India to Bangladesh and South Africa. Fun was the aim and they were going to make sure they had it. So they got dolled up and set out to paint the town red. Success!
The culmination of their adventures together, before Giant set out to take "the whisky trail" up Mount Kilimanjaro, was a game drive through a nearby park to ensure they saw animals other than donkeys and goats! Joined by a few more adventure-seeking ladies, they piled into Midge's boyfriend's car and set off down the road!

The game park did not disappoint. Animals were a plenty from the moment they entered. They drove cautiously throughout the park. First a kudu! Then a bunch of monkeys! And then some giraffe! They were seeing hordes of animals and laughing and having a great time as they drove deeper and deeper into the park, eager to see whatever came their way.

All of the sudden, the car started making a funny sound. They pulled over on the beaten path near the far end of the park to see if there was anything wrong. When they tried to start the car again, nothing happened. The car was stopped dead in its tracks. What were they going to do?! They turned the vehicle off and tried re-starting it. The car started but wouldn't move at all. They were stuck!

Darkness crept up on them. They tried, one by one, to call the front desk of the game park to get help but there was no cell phone coverage. Once again, the girls were faced with potential death as the animals in the park circled closer and closer and the day turned into night. Giant and Midge looked at each other and, in that moment, were grateful that they got to see each other one last time. The stress was too much...

Then, all of the sudden, as if by divine intervention, flashing headlights ascended on them. It was an older woman that lives in the park and has fended off the wild animals before. She urged the group of frightened girls to get into her vehicle and abandon their own, at least until someone could safely come and get it. The girls leapt from their seats to seek refuge with this goddess. Saved again!

Midge's boyfriend was anxious when he arrived to pick up the frazzled girls. He first asked if they were safe, realizing that they had defied the odds to make it back in one piece. He then braved the dark of night to rescue his car from the dark depths of the game park. Within hours, they were all safely tucked away and jabbering on about the tragedy of the evening and how it made sense that the world would all but implode when the awesomeness of Giant and Midge came together. Of course, it wouldn't have been right had they gone event-less and it made perfect sense that this would be the way their reunion would go out.

In the end, Giant and Midge had yet another epic adventure together. One that was full of ups and downs and miraculous recoveries and so much love and laughter. There's a reason these girls are best friends. Who else could go through all of these things (or at least things that somewhat resemble the above story) and think it was the most amazing time ever? Two thumbs up for their ridiculousness and for many more times just like this one, cuz, why not?!

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