Wednesday, April 29, 2009

24 Feb (Tues)

In the afternoon we go to the hippo skeleton. Brad and Graham had found it when exploring a previously inaccessible island far north of our camp. Once the water receded somewhat we were able to access the area, barely. Strangely most of the bones are there and have not been disturbed by predators or scavengers. Judging by the size it was an old bull, and we assume he died from wounds sustained in a fight. We plan to reconstruct the skeleton because it makes a nice behind the scenes insert for the show.

We have to cross a huge river crossing to get there. The car literally swims across, which astounds the kids. In this environment we have to go through lots of deep water, but this is the deepest yet (over 4 foot of water). As we are half way through a large croc pops its head up, watching us. All of us silently hope that the car actually makes it across (being a petrol vehicle, albeit a modified one, it is not as equipped for such deep water) and we don’t have to fend off the croc while extricating ourselves.

We make it to the other side, find the hippo bones, reconstruct it to the best of our ability and film the process. It is a little frustrating for the kids because Brad and Graham are filming it and we need to be serious about it and they can’t simply run wild and play with all the bones as they want to do. Also we are a little concerned about the hygiene of it all, considering they all put their hands in their mouths and can probably pick up something horrible from the bones. They all lose interest very rapidly and head off to play in the sand elsewhere while Brad and Graham build it and I take (crap) photos.

Afterwards we go to a beautiful drying pan with black mud, white fallen trees and impeccable reflections for sundowners. Being us we launch into an immediate photo shoot. As we are walking into position Rio freaks out about the mud on his feet and has an epic tantrum. He is clearly deeply unhappy and tired and I suspect he is getting ill.  He has one of those totally terrifying, thoroughly irrational meltdowns where there is nothing one can do to pacify him and it simply must run it’s course. He calms down eventually and tries to be civil for a while but can’t really sustain it and the smallest things sets him off. We all tiptoe around him, have a stressful 2 hours in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We leave at last light and it is soon dark. On the drive home Rio, in his usual spot on the dashboard, staring out into the darkness, asks, “are octurnals big or small?” then falls asleep sitting up.


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