Throwback Thursday: Surprise Safari Edition

“Pack your things, we’re going to the farm,” he said nonchalantly in his smooth South African accent.

Farms. Plots of land surrounded by four-board fences (wire or other various materials, if you’re not among the posh farms of Central Kentucky), filled with horses (or livestock). That was my definition of “farm,” and given that my friend Monte is a horse veterinarian and knows horse people, I figured I knew where we were headed. I packed a change of clothes, my camera, and the optimism that we’d make it back from this farm in time for my flight back to the States the next day.

Just back from two weeks of heart-rending ministry activities in Kenya, I was up for a getaway of sorts; I was even happy to be away from the Western civilization “norm” I felt during my stopover to visit Monte and his mom. So I jumped at the opportunity to climb into the borrowed red SUV and head toward … well, I didn’t really know which direction we were heading, now that I think about it.

A few hours into our drive we stopped over at a shopping center for one last pit stop and food-purchasing opportunity before heading away from civilization. Monte bought some coffee and snacks and, pausing by the car, told me to close my eyes and open my mouth. Not completely trusting this sometimes-mischievous friend, I immediately opened my eyes when I felt the odd texture of an unfamiliar salty food against my tongue. Depositing the snack into my hand, I saw it was a chunk of dried meat that looked a bit like beef jerky. It’s biltong, he explained, and this time it was wildebeest. It was surprisingly good.

A quick stopover and an introduction to biltong.

A quick stopover and an introduction to biltong or, basically, wildabeest jerky.

Driving onward, when Monte began looking for the spot in the road where Ampie “usually sees the python,” I realized this “farm” wasn’t going to be like anything I had experienced.

And it wasn’t. More than a thousand acres surrounded by 10-foot fences on the border of Botswana, Ampie’s family farm boasted some of the most beautiful vistas of the African bush that I have ever seen.

Ampie gets a higher vantage point at Tweerivier.

Ampie gets a higher vantage point at Tweerivier.

Ampie checked fences while he, Monte, and I took a walk after arrival  at the farm.

Ampie checked fences while he, Monte, and I took a walk around near camp.

Upon arriving, we tossed our things onto beds in tents up on a platform built into several trees, then loaded up the refrigerator with food, padlocking it “to keep the monkeys out.” (I never saw one, so Ampie might have been pulling my chain). After a short tour and checking on a few fences (not an activity limited to horse or cattle ownership), Monte donned his camouflage and headed out on foot with his rifle, while I climbed into the roofless/windscreenless military jeep (right-drive, manual transmission) with Ampie. Monte’s goal was game, and mine was photos. Below are a few of the sights I saw. (Please note that the giraffes and zebras are off limits for hunting!)

As I head back across the ocean next week for my third visit to this amazing continent, I thought it appropriate to reflect on some of my favorite memories from trips past. Each journey has held a different purpose. This time I will be in Ethiopia, learning about infectious diseases of working equids (mostly the donkeys seen far and wide), which is a unique combination of several of my interests: Enjoying horses, understanding science, and helping working families in developing countries.

Surprises await, and while not of the safari variety, necessarily, I look forward to experiencing them.

Ampie displays the talents of the "wait a bit" tree.

Ampie displays the talents of the “wait a bit” tree.

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  • Sharon

    Lovely photos. We got to see some of South Africa’s beauty this past summer. I hope to go back. Enjoy your trip!

    Sharon Butler

    • Stephanie Church

      Thanks, Sharon! Where did you go in South Africa? Would love to hear about it. I have an invitation to go back, this time in the Cape. Will get there in the next couple of years, I hope.

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