On Safari in Africa
With Deb Kurtis
My story begins as many must, with the end. Had I known that I would peer so deeply into the depth of stuffing where my heart should be, I might never have taken this journey. But I digress.
The journey began when I was approached by agents of the ZarTrade Corporation. It seems that they had lost contact with one of their agents in Africa, named Kurtis. Someone was needed to travel into the dark continent and find out what happened, and if she was still alive. Seeing that I was small easily transportable I was elected to go. The fact I was fuzzy and cute might also help me if I encountered any natives.
Being small and fuzzy does not make me aerodynamic. And these stubby wings don't help much easy. So I needed to hitch a ride across the ocean to the Eastern Hemisphere.
First stop. A layover in Dakar, Senegal. Can't speak much to the country though. I never was let off the plane. I just sat and stared off into the darkness.
Then it was off again, jetting south towards the coast. It was fall down here and the nights were coming on earlier and earlier.
Cape Point in South Africa along with the Cape of Good Hope. Why not start at the bottom and work my way up? Well I couldn't get any further south on this continent without either beginning long distance flying or learning to swim. Either one wouldn't be much fun.
Staying on land would be no picnic either. The natives apparently get restless around Cape Point - so much so that they must warn visitors about the baboons.
The ones I saw were not so bad - pretty quiet really. But I tried to stay inconspicuous also - baboon see baboon do. Had I remembered my formalwear I could have tried to blend in with some of the other natives.
But I was told this was a working journey and there was no time for frivolity. So I stayed away. If I had time for sight seeing I might have been impressed with the view of Cape Town.
I just let someone else take the photos though. But nearby was Table Mountain. A mountain, what better place to try and get my bearings than from high up?
Table Mountain was a great location for early settlers to use as a landmark. And it is the only terrestrial feature that has a constellation named after it. Mensa (The Table) was discovered and named during a French astronomer's stay in Cape Town, where he could peer into the deep dark southern night sky.
The niches along the rock were also great places to hide. If you were a small duck. But the rock gave no new clues to what comes next.
Even the signposts didn't help tell where to go. Only that I was a lot closer to the South Pole again than he was to New York City. I was getting hungry. And South Africa has a long a rich heritage in wine making. So even if I didn't know what my next steps were, at least I could quaff a few glasses of fine wine.
And this restaurant even noted that one of it's specialties was serving duck. It sounded like a perfect place to relax, and to plan my next steps. Until the entree came and "serving" became perfectly clear.
The Horror! The Horror!
The next restaurant listed various game on it's service but luckily no duck. It's safe here.
South Africa as a country is blessed by great beauty. And by great scars. The beauty of flowers do not offset the poverty shown still in the shanty towns.
The earth shows the scars of man, as at the Big Hole in Kimberley, where man, in search of diamonds, has produced the largest hand excavated hole in the world.
And Robben Island, which served for many years as a leper colony, became the site of prison for political prisoners under apartheid. The prison achieved fame as the home of Nelson Mandela for decades, but others spent time here too. Thulani Mabaso spent years here, only in a group room with other prisoners instead of in solitary like Mandela. Despite being in prison, he and other prisoners continued their political work against the repressive regime of the time.
The next morning I went in search of more clues to the elusive Kurtis and what I was to do next. I tried the marketplace, where the buskers perform, and see much more than most anyone else. No one had any answers for me.
Ancient cave paintings from the region offered no clues other than it might involve buffalo.
Suddenly there came a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see two official looking men who motioned for me to accompany them. I soon found myself ushered into the presence of Tony Leon.
Leon is the leader of the Democratic Alliance, South Africa's main opposition party, and as such is the leader of the opposition in Parliament.
"You must continue northward, towards the heart of the continent. There you will find what you seek."
And with that, my path became clearer. I boarded a plane to Livingstone, Zambia. While the co-pilot was kind and let me see where we were going, I had to take his word for it. The ground looked nothing like the maps I had seen. Where were the town names written across the land? Where was the change in color of the ground as we pass over borders?
I began to ask around for information on Kurtis. The pachyderm, despite his legendary memory professed to know nothing.
The zebra claimed ignorance too, but suddenly came close and whispered in my ear, telling me that the one I seek is at the Central Station, in Botswana, near Chobe National Park. I should look under the baobab tree. As soon as she finished, she was off.
Slipping along I soon found myself at Chobe.
And stood below the baobab tree. But nothing happened.
I slowly circled the tree and realized that the zebra had specifically cited that it was a baobab tree with graffiti. This one was pristine clean, probably from the railing around it. I had to leave the compound and look further to find Kurtis.
After a while of searching, I found the tree. And there, below the branches, stood Kurtis. The one I had come to see. The one who had caused all the consternation. I asked her why she had done this. Why she had escaped to the heart of the dark continent and set up her own shop.
She looked at me quizzically before replaying.
"It's not me you are looking for. The real power here is the Baroness. Come, I will introduce you to her, and then we can return to America."
I found myself ushered into the presence of the one known as The Baroness.
"You have found my operation, but you will never make me leave! I have my life here, my friends, my animals!" she thundered. As I listened to her tirade I knew finally that she was different. She had escaped the world to form her own world, and maybe it was best for both worlds if she were to remain right where she is.
With the mission complete and the Kurtis found, we boarded a plane home, towards the bright sunlight.
Photos courtesy of Deborah Kurtis
Last Updated May 2007