Last week my health literacy students took a few days off for Easter, and Lucas suggested we go explore Mole National Park. My days here are flying by, and I wouldn't have many more chances to visit, so I jumped at the chance. In addition to the park, I would also get to see the climactic differences across the country, and how the architecture varied from the Upper East, where we have flat-roofed square houses, to the thatched-roof round houses in the Northern Region, though both types are made of adobe and both are arranged in circular compounds.
After the sort of bus trip that makes you appreciate paved roads and any other form of transportation, we arrived at the Mole Motel. As a Seattle girl, I soaked up all the green I had been missing, and couldn't wait for the cool relief of a swimming in the pool.
We woke up early in the morning, and met our guides who would take us on our safari walk. We headed down the escarpment towards the watering holes to begin our day, where we had our first animal sighting: warthogs. I believe that whoever cast Pumba recognized the naturally comedic nature of an animal that looks too fat for its little feet, but is still armed with sharp tusks. We moved on, and I was pleased that I hadn't lost my natural ability to walk right behind the guide, no matter where I started from in the crowd. While this is the natural tendency of an annoying teacher's pet (no comment on that) it is also really useful on walking safaris to be in the lead, before the shuffling noisy footsteps of the group scare off the animals.
We were able to see a lot of species of antelope including kob, waterbuck, and duikers. We also saw many birds, including one of my favorites simply based on looks, the grey hooded kingfisher, with stunning blue wings when it is flying, and really difficult to see when it is still.
However, we had to head back for the day without having seen the big attraction, elephants.
We grabbed some breakfast at the staff canteen, while warthogs milled around by the women cooking. This family of warthogs was apparently unaware that they were supposed to be aggressive when they were with their young, since they completely ignored us in their foraging even when a human baby started spraying the warthog baby with a sachet of water just to see how it would react. It reacted like you or I would: surprised and a little annoyed, but hey, it's 100 degrees out so who can complain about some refreshing water.
Before we could escape the growing heat in the swimming pool, we got a call from the guide that the elephants had the same idea and were in the watering hole. You could see them from the viewing deck of the hotel, but we wanted a closer look so we scrambled back down the escarpment with the guide. As we approached, and the elephant got out, our guide warned us that this elephant was not one of the ones familiar with humans, so it wouldn't be friendly. We had to keep our distance. However "our distance" was surprisingly close, which caused a large number of our group to panic and start to run away when the elephant suddenly let go a large trumpet and stamped his feet at us. The guide was armed, and urged us to stick close to him. When the elephant got closer, our guide picked up a stick and threw it at the elephant. And the elephant went away. This awesome display of human/animal interactions showed us the cheeky bravery of our guide, and also provided me something to tease Lucas about for the rest of the trip ("remember when the guide yelled at you for trying to run away?") which we spent lazily swimming, reading, and watching more elephants from the comfort of the viewing deck by the pool.