Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On Safari? No Way!

Pine Mountain, Georgia
March 19, 2013
Today’s highlight is a visit to Wild Animal Safari right here in Pine Mountain.

Anticipated experience:  perhaps a warm-up for our Africa trip. 
Actual experience:  we struggle to protect our camera lenses from the slimy saliva of more species, domestic and domesticated, than we can count.

Here is how the Wild(?) Animal Safari works.  The very cheerful and helpful person at the ticket counter convinces us that we need to rent a safari vehicle from their fleet of beaten up old vans spray painted white with zebra stripes, their windows chopped out and replaced with bars--she explains that the management cannot be responsible for any damage to our vehicle from incidents like a longhorn denting our door panel.  The minute we drive through the gate and  are charged by a herd of animals with big horns sticking their heads into our vehicle in search of food, we are grateful for her wise counsel--even more grateful later  when a bunch of goat-like animals rise up on their hind legs and rest their big front hooves on our window frames, sticking their slender heads deep into the interior of the vehicle.

By now, you have guessed the other critical aspect to a quality safari experience--purchasing plenty of food for the wild(?) animals that we will encounter again and again along the serpentine road through the wildlife park.  We buy the safari package that includes four hefty bags of food pellets, so we can each have our own bag.  We spend $3 extra to rent a big van, so we can each have our own seat, with free access to both sides.  We think we are doing this to optimize photo opportunities, but within a few minutes of entering the gates, we realize the key advantage to each having our own wide seat is so that we can freely move away from the window when an animal with an especially long and slimy tongue is trying to squeeze his head between the bars in search of food.  

The park is an ugly expanse of Georgia red clay covered sparsely by mostly scrubby deciduous trees that haven’t leafed out yet, with a big red mud wallow lake in the middle.  The animals roaming freely around the property include lots of deer-like and goat-like domestic and exotic species, a bunch of deer that look just like the ones in our back yard, some moose and buffalo, burros, horses, and zebras.  The giraffes are in an enclosure close enough to the road to stretch their necks over the fence and stick their heads in the van.  The experience of driving through this menagerie handing out food is so absurd that we cannot stop laughing for more than a few minutes during the hour it takes us to traverse the course.  

But we do learn something from the experience.  Giraffes have the softest lips, and gentle purple tongues.  Zebras are way nore nippy than horses--dangerous to feed from the hand--and their breath is vile. The tongue of a buffalo is very long and exceedingly slimey.  The nose of a moose is smoother than you could imagine.  
Joyce says, “I’m so glad I brought my gloves.  Do you think I should wash them now or throw them away?”   The rest of us wash our hands very well immediately upon exiting from the van.  

a sad and skinny rhinoceros
Afterward we wander through the walk-through area--in other words, the zoo, where the animals that are too wild to run free are in cages.  It makes us sad to see the lions, tigers and ligers, baboons and hyenas (scary!) and all the other wild things behind bars. So we leave.  

After lunch we visit the butterfly house in Callaway Gardens, where the temperature is 81, the humidity is 85%, and 65 species of butterflies flutter about the flowers.  Some even land on us when we stand still in the sun.  The legs of a butterfly upon your cheek tickle, even if you are not one to be ticklish. 

Next we drive to the Callaway Chapel, built in 1961-62 as Cason Callaway’s memorial tribute to his mother.  He wanted the chapel to be non-denominational, so he commissioned the stained glass windows to celebrate nature.  The four side windows are inspired by the four seasons, and the glorious front and rear windows are inspired by deciduous and coniferous trees.  Joyce and I thought they were very much like artful quilts, and could be inspirations for our work some day.  We documented these windows well with cameras and I-Pad.  Joyce sent pictures to her friend who was married here.  (What a wonderful place for a wedding!)



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