We Call It a Draw

We arrive at Mburo in time for a brief game drive. Right on cue we see a leopard. Remarkably hard to see in Tanzania and Kenya, this leopard takes center stage just as we drive up. 

Mihingo Lodge has just opened. Overlooking Mburo National Reserve it is a candidate for Architectural Digest. It sits high up on a rock outcropping with a 360º view of the savannah below. In the distance you can see Lake Mburo. In the dying light of an African afternoon the scene is right out of Out of Africa. A married couple built the lodge. The architect/husband, Ralph, designed it to be as green as possible what with solar paneling for electricity and rainwater reservoirs.  Ben, our guide, tells me that the lodge is excellent. This is important for the enterprise.  If the guides like it, then it will be a winner. Ben says there is only one problem: water.  He worries there won’t be enough.

Ralph’s wife, Suny, runs the place. If Ralph is the architect, she is the contractor. She worries that the trains won’t run on time.  In other words will our wake up beverage arrive precisely at 6:30am? Will we get hot chocolate when we ordered coffee? I can’t blame her for wanting the service to match the décor. She worries because most of her employees, drawn from nearby villages, have never used a salad fork or folded a serviette. Frankly, if I order hot chocolate and get hot tea, my world won’t come to an end.  But Suny doesn’t know that.  So she worries.

As soon as we arrive at the lodge, my women companions are all over the terrace, snapping pictures from every angle. They do not spare themselves a moment to sit and look out over the expanse of savannah unrolling below them until every vista has been captured in pixels. They go about their task as if it were a civic duty and they were model citizens.

In the evening a young woman with a lantern escorts us to our tents. We need a guide. The individual tent/rooms are scattered about in a heavily treed area. It would be easy to get lost. I stare at the path trying to
 avoid a misstep in the near dark. A small snake, eight inches long, appears in front of me. Its slender body is twisted into a series of S’s. As it wriggles across the path, I think what a tough life a snake has, only one lung, practically blind and legless.  Then I think, this could be a baby Egyptian cobra. Why am I feeling sorry for it? I point it out to our guide. She picks up a rock and throws it at the snake.  Now I’m feeling sorry for it again.

Our room/tent is luxurious. Two huge double beds, a closet, a porch overlooking a tree that is alive with vervet monkeys. The bathroom is as large as the bedroom. It has a fine shower, a separate john, an electric light with a globe-shaped shade. Running around the outside of the lampshade like a horse at Hialeah racetrack is a spider the size of a mouse. I can hear the pitter-pat of its eight legs drumming against the shade. It is so loud I look outside first, thinking some small animal, a duiker, perhaps, is running up the path.

First a snake and now a spider the size of my fist.  I am too tired to be upset.  I pour myself the last of my scotch, sit on the veranda and stare at the monkeys. They are sitting nervously in the branches of their tree staring back at me.  As night finally falls, we call it draw.

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