African Safari: Hunting for Comfort

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4 May 2012

I admit it. After decades of working our booth during Bike Week in Daytona, I opted for a slightly different destination this March: two weeks in Botswana and Zimbabwe. But, let me assure you, after over 30 years at Mustang, I can never stop thinking about seats and posture and back support and comfort—even if there are no motorcycles within hundreds of miles!

Our group would head out every morning at 6am with our guide but, within five minutes, I’d have a jacket rolled up and tucked behind me to support my lower back in our Toyota Land Cruiser. It took us safely through streams and elephant herds but I sure was wishing for a better seat as we bounced along rutted paths and over tree trunks. Verdict: exciting but not comfortable.

Speaking of riding, birds are really smart to hitch rides on a “moveable feast” impala while enjoying a smorgasbord of fleas, ticks, etc. One of nature’s great symbiotic relationships and looks fairly comfortable!

At my urging for a photo op, our guide squatted on a termite mound. His shoulders were a little hunched and his back should have been straighter but he had no desire to stay there very long anyway.

We never saw a hippo actually sitting but I learned that they are pretty smart.  They spend most of the incredibly hot days “standing” in the water which is not only comfortably cooling but also provides buoyancy to comfortably relieve their legs and feet from holding up a couple tons all day!

This baby baboon seemed quite happy letting Mom do all the walking.  Wonder if they were part of the family who ripped through the sides of one of our fellow travelers’ tent, tearing open the luggage and consuming 11 days of Imodium and Ambien?  We spent the next week looking in the trees for sleepy, constipated primates….

Some days, we spent hours driving without seeing another human being.  Somehow our guides were able track (as in footprints in the dirt) plus listen to the warning cries of other animals so we could have a couple leopard “spottings.”  (Mandatory pun, sorry.)  Now this fellow looks perfectly comfortable—full, straight spine support and a clear view of prey, including tourists (click on picture to “spot” him).

Even more difficult to find are cheetahs, but we met up with one who had been raised since being found as an orphaned new born.  Mom would have been very proud of her teenager cheetah’s posture:  proud, shoulders back and, when one of our group got a little too close, incredibly fast to turn and snap.  We kept our distance.

When you first encounter a lion in the wild, you immediately understand why they are the King of the Jungle.  Regal, self-assured and comfortable wherever they decide to sit.

A few days later near Victoria Falls, we went to a lion preserve where, after a little training, we took turns petting one of the King’s cousins.  We had to carry a stick and NOT pet close to the head.  A half-dozen guides were within five feet but, as comfortable as the lions were, we  tourists were nervously, excitedly, thrillingly uncomfortable.

 

No safari is complete without the requisite ride on an elephant (I did the camel in Egypt in 2010, so this was de rigueur).  A word about elephant seats:  whether solo, two-up or a threesome, how the hell did Dr. Livingstone ride these creatures for months?  Did I mention that it’s a long way up there and that elephants stop every five feet to eat tree branches and defecate every two minutes?

Beautiful countries, friendly people and thrilling interaction with wild animals.  It was an incredible safari but not a lot of comfort to be found.  Sure wish I had packed a Mustang touring seat with backrest.  Maybe next time.

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