Another visit with the pride. The "prince" lounges in the scrub, too tired and full to move. The golden male and the female chomp away at the remaining bits and pieces of the their prized buffalo. He crunches and crushes bones. Tears meat. The female attempts to get back into the mix, inching her way back toward the kill. The male uses growls and subtle movement--a flip of his tail--as a warning to stay away from his meat. Finally, she is able to sneak a buffalo leg, she chews gingerly next to the lion, then picks up the leg--white and pink ligaments stretching--and moves it about five feet away. She is extremely submissive. Ironic. Something so fiercely powerful and sleek bows down-unfairly in my eye. What makes her submit that way? Is it sheer male strength? An innate respect? Or simply fear?
Now that we've seen these lions for two days, Bruce feels it's time to get the vet out. So we head back to camp, and Simon jams over the red earth. We cheer him on GO SIMON. But outside a loud hiss. Flat tire number 2! We continue on to Satau Rock, near the old camp. A few guys that guard the camp change our tire after pushing (instead of pulling!) a heavy jack down the bumpy road. Simon is unable to reach the vet by phone and a bit of the suspense we felt before fizzles. It would be amazing to watch them radio-collar the mighty prince, which, thanks to Nicola who spotted all the lions, we have now named, Maridadi--Swahili word for handsome.
We wait for Bruce, Simon, and Andy. And soon are surprised to find out that the vet is now here, ready to join us. We are to find the lions again so at least one of them (hopefully Maridadi) can be anesthetized, checked, tested, and collared.
We rush out the door and pile into the vehicle, and the excitement begins! Bruce discusses the protocol with us. No one is to get out of the vehicle until all the procedures are complete. We agree, and off we go!
At Sagana water hole, we go immediately back to the kill site. Rib cage is gone, but the skull is there in the bushes. We search the sienna soil--over washed out crevices--bumps--acacia and commiphora thorn attacks. Their claws reaching in at us again to prevent our success. We push on--spotting lots of OTHER wildlife: impala, kudu, warthogs, but no simbas. The team takes notice that our marabou stork, the silent narrator is also no where to be found.
Round and round the water hole. We find the remains of the buffalo kill, a few legs and ligaments. But no lions.
There is tension. Frustration. Sadness. At least five game drives full of lion observations, and now the vet is here--the simbas have vanished. Simon watches the red earth carefully for tracks. We stop along the same road we've driven on several times. Lion pug marks (tracks) litter the road over our own tire marks! Simon and Bruce talk to the vet. They assume the lions were watching us, and as we drove out, they ran back in the opposite way we'd gone!
We are depressed. Saddened. Reflective and quiet.
But Mnt. Kasigau and the Tsavo sky bestows a gift upon us. The most precious sunset I have ever seen. The sky opens up over the mountain like it was raining rays of sunshine. Kasigau's peak seems to be made of fog--ethereal and delicate like a puff of wind could send the entire scene floating through the air.
The ridge itself erupts in an orange glow. Purple light radiates above, and a coralness bursts out and up into the sky, weaving itself under the layers of clouds. A most intricate and gorgeous tapestry. Even among disappointment, one can find contentment and peace in open windows. The open windows of hope and belonging.