Safari Picture Update #6
First, some details of the trip. Following a brief visit to NYC/NJ where I caught up with many of my old friends (though not as many as I would've liked, due to the briefness of my stay), I jetted off to Istanbul, via Turkish air. I was lucky enough to have a friend of a friend in Istanbul, and he was kind enough to pick me up at the airport and act as my private chauffeur/tour guide for the day. A very nice guy and actually in the TV and lit fields, so we had some relevant stuff to discuss as well. Istanbul is actually a beautiful city, and I had a lovely time there. But it was only an 11-hour layover, and then I was off to South Africa.
I landed the next morning in Johannesburg (or Jo'burg as it is commonly known). The next three weeks or so would be spent using Joburg as a base for operations, with trips to our various safari destinations interspersed with time there. While in town, I met lots of nice new people, some of which will continue to be friends in my ever-expanding group of people I know. (On a side note, I'm currently reading Malcolm Gladwell's interesting book The Tipping Point, and I think that anyone who has read it will agree there is no doubt that I am a "Connector.") I also reconnected with an old acquaintance who I knew from LA and who moved back there. Good to find a familiar face in such an unfamiliar city.
I also had the opportunity to watch a lot of rugby, since SA was embroiled in their ultimately successful hunt to win the Rugby World Cup. What a lekker jol (in SA slang) to have been there to celebrate the Sprinbok win! We miss that in the States, because we don't actively participate in any real international sports on that level. Soccer, Rugby, even Cricket (which I can't stand). None of them are sports we are big on, and conversely, the sports that are our largest are ones that are unpopular around the world: football, baseball, basketball. Hockey is about the closest we come, and it is neither one in which we participate that strongly worldwide, nor one that is that popular. And while this isn't a major big deal, I will still say that we miss out on the feeling of what it is like when the entire country celebrates something like that together. It really bonds people in a prideful way. But anyway...
Things I learned about SA, that probably won't matter much for this script (since it will be set in Botswana, not SA), but which might have some relevance, and might gain even more for a future project... Lots of slang that I've learned the meaning of, along with certain foods that are quite popular (e.g. biltong). I also learned how much those South Africans love their braais (Afrikaans word for a BBQ). Man, I must have put on a good number of pounds eating that much meat all the time! As a city, Joburg feels very much like LA, except for three things. The security situation (as evidenced by high walls and electric wire surrounding homes, and heavily armed security guards all over the streets), driving on the other side of the road, and legendary thunderstorms.
Okay, but let me discuss the core of the trip, my two safaris (or game drives as I would say in SA, so I'd sound a bit less like a tourist). The first was in northern Botswana, in the Okavango Delta. We were based in a town called Maun, at a place called Audi Camp, which was quite a nice place to stay. We had just driven straight through the night to get there, and necessarily went slowly -- the roads in Botswana are heavily populated by wild donkeys on the side of the road. The cows and goats that also line the edges tend to stay there, but the donkeys will just walk out onto the road and refuse to move as cars approach. Dangerous!
Upon our arrival in Audi, we had an hour or so to settle in and get ready, and then we left to head into the bush (as the wild is referred to). This is as good a time as any to tell you why there are no pictures in this post. Over the course of the entire journey, I probably took about 600 pictures. The vast majority of those were shot on film, with the same camera I've used almost my entire life, a Ricoh SLR that has served me very well over the years. Before the trip I did buy a new 75-300 mm telephoto lens, as well as a doubler to extend that lens in necessary situations. So hopefully I got a ton of awesome pictures. But at the same time, I still need to get them processed, and that will likely cost me around $100. So I'm waiting a drop longer on that. Soon hopefully, and when I get them back, I will certainly post some.
Anyway, we first did a 2-day game drive, sleeping in the open bush in tents. This was in the Moremi Game reserve, a portion of the Delta. We saw tons of amazing animals in some very dramatic situations. As a welcome, when we were setting up our tents at the campsite, a group of 20 or so elephants walked right past us. The last one on the line was eyeing us, stepped a bit in our direction and even grunted slightly at us. But nothing really happened, and it was mostly an exhilarating moment. Other dramatic things we saw: a lioness hunting a lechwe (a type of antelope) at dusk, that same lion go up into a tree (very rare), a leopard underneath a tree with the impala it had killed stuck up in the branches (leopards pull their kills into trees to protect them from scavengers), and a baby elephant carcass that was half eaten out with a lion lying right next to it. These are the types of things you hope to see when you go on safari, and while they can be gruesome or disgusting at times, more so they are beautiful, since they represent nature in action. Nature works, in general, because things are in perfect balance with each other overall.
After our return to Audi Camp, we took another one-day drive into the bush. This time we took a ride in mekoros (traditional dugout canoes that are poled along, like Venetian gondolas), and then did a walking safari. The previous two days had been spent primarily in an open-sided safari jeep, so this was a completely different experience. The big sightings that day were when we made it to a watering hole and saw a herd of hippos inside. They approached a certain amount, then grunted warnings at us, but didn't come any closer. We were fine so long as we didn't enter the water itself. There were also many other animals on the far side of the watering hole.
Our other game drive, the following week, was a vastly different kind of experience. It was in the Kruger National Park, in South Africa, close to the border with Mozambique. While we had guides for our drives in Botswana, the Kruger portion of our trip was self-guided. We were in a closed van (though we did frequently open the doors to get better shots and views). Instead of sleeping int he bush, we were in a camp with near-luxury chalets, air conditioning and all.
We did see more game of greater variety, and in greater proximity to each other. In fact we had the pleasure of seeing the so-called "Big Five" (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) in a single day, four of them before breakfast. This was quite a treat, considering you never know what you'll see, and some people see almost nothing, or a fraction of what we did. But even still, the Okavango portion of the trip was so much more real and dramatic. We were in an open vehicle, and got so much closer to many of the animals. In Moremi I was maybe 15-20 feet from the leopard we saw, with a kill up in the tree, while in Kruger the leopard we saw was like 100 yards away, lounging on top of a rock. And while it was beautiful to see, it was somewhat less dramatic. It was quite something to see an entire pride of lions together in Kruger (5-6 of them lounging around together), but seeing that single lion hunt and then up in the tree (and much closer to us) in Moremi was even more dramatic. Plus, there were a number of other animals in Moremi that we were able to get even closer to, including the beautiful kudu (another type of antelope).
So overall, both trips were truly awesome, and were very different types of trips. I took a lot from both, and some things that will hopefully find their way into the final script. But given a choice, if I could only do one of them again, it would be the Delta.
Okay, so what about that screenplay? While we were up there, we had a few conversations about the treatment, and guess what? Another significant change that will require me to re-revise the treatment before diving into the screenplay itself. For those keeping score, this is the fourth version of the treatment. What type of changes? Elimination of a few characters and introduction of another major character. A shift in the core of one of the characters' journey. A bit more meat and purpose for one of the other characters, who remains somewhat secondary. And overall, the changes should hopefully help make the film overall more realistic, by getting rid of some of the more contrived elements. And I do believe that the final product will be better overall. Hopefully I'm right!
So this week will be spent thrashing out a new version of the treatment, and once the producers like it, I will then dive into writing the script in earnest. That about brings us up to date. Thanks for reading this long post. Hope it was at least somewhat as interesting and fun for you as it was for me!
Tags: screenwriting, safari, South+Africa, Johannesburg, Kruger+National+Park, Botswana, Okavango+Delta, Moremi+Game+Reserve