September 25, 2003

By Michael Strickland


Since childhood, I dreamed of going on safari in the African bush. My first real collection of anything was a set of "Safari Cards," zoological reference cards covering the animal kingdom from amoeba to homo sapiens. On visits to the zoo, I always begged for books on animals instead of stuffed animals. I wanted more than anything to grow up to become a zoologist. So during my time in the Navy onboard the USS Bunker Hill, my heart leapt when I learned we would cruise down the coast of eastern Africa for a liberty stop in Kenya. There, during our visit to Mombasa, I experienced one of those rare and special moments in life: the realization of a lifelong dream.

Anticipation thickened the already-hot morning air as we assembled outside the minivans which would take us first to Amboseli National Park, at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The next few hours seemed interminable, as we drove the 100 or so miles inland. Yet even the low scrub and red dirt along the road took on a mystical quality, as if the magic of a dream coming true highlighted everything around me. Dust devils several hundred feet tall danced in the fields as we left the pavement in search of big game.

It didn't take long.

As if welcoming us to Amboseli, a lone giraffe awaited us on our arrival. He turned and ran as we advanced, his long legs seeming to move in slow motion. We drove further into the park. In no time, our vans were surrounded by vast numbers of zebra and wildebeest. I sat in awe, stupefied by the sight of hundreds of exotic herd animals roaming around us like so much cattle. But then the elephants came.

Ponderously slow, they strolled around without the slightest fear of us (though the reverse was not true when a bull seemed to think about charging us at one point). The sight of these large, lumbering beasts—especially the baby, which grasped its mother's tail with its trunk, just like in "Dumbo"—left us all grinning ear to ear.

We overnighted in a lodge in the preserve, and moved on to Tsavo National Park—once home to infamous man-eaters—the next day. There, we watched hundreds more zebra and wildebeest graze in the grass, and found some hippos floating in a small spring. My camcorder's battery died long before I'd gotten my fill of footage.

Though we never caught sight of the rest of the "Big Five" (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, cape buffalo and elephant), I will never forget the excitement of the expedition. It wasn't just the thrill of being in the bush, surrounded by big game. The heady mixture of pride and contentment that came from realizing such a major goal made me feel like I was walking through a dreamscape.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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September Columns:

9/29: Open Season
9/28: Runaway Train
9/27: The Seven
9/25: Dreamscape
9/24: Survivor: Sacramento
9/23: What Am I Doing at Work?
9/21: San Diego Chokers
9/20: Farewell, Galileo
9/17: Anything Can Happen
9/16: Midnight Writing
9/15: Decline and Fall
9/14: Loyalty By Default
9/13: Debt Snowball
9/12: My Cup Runneth Over
9/11: Unforgettable Day
9/10: Fall Approaches
9/9: Total Recall
9/8: Legal Illegals
9/7: 116 More Days
Previous months in The Archive

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