July 20, 2015: Eshowe, South Africa — For lunch today, Wayne pulled our van into a Wimpy’s (a South African burger chain) for a quick bite. We sat down, ordered some food, and got on the internet. It was the first time any of us had seen wifi in a couple of days, and we all pulled out laptops, phones, or tablets for a fix. The only one who didn’t fire up a screen was Wayne, who sat quietly reading a newspaper. “Starbucks is opening its first location in South Africa,” he said, to no one in particular, as he flipped a page.
Most of my news this year has come from conversations, airport TVs, and other snippets. It’s difficult to keep up with the world while seeing it firsthand. When I was in Cameroon last week, I stopped in a restaurant and saw the French president on TV visiting Douala; and on the flight to South Africa I read in an airline magazine that Obama is planning a trip to Kenya later this week (I’ll be there soon, too), but these things seem to happen in some different ether. The only news I’ve paid much attention to lately was the Wimbledon tennis final—I couldn’t watch it, but at least I could monitor the live scoreboard on my phone!
We made our way today from Mkhuze Game Reserve south along the coast to the city of Eshowe, stopping at several birding sites en route. Wayne lives nearby and knows these places like the back of his hand, so the day was broken into a string of targets. A couple of our most unexpected sightings were called from the back seat, where Janine, a staunch non-birder from Toronto who came with her friend Martha (a serious birder) for this trip, shouted out shots from the hip. “There’s a very large bird on a pole!” she said, and we backed up to find a Crowned Hawk-Eagle, a monkey-eating raptor, on a power pole. Yesterday, Janine spotted our only Purple-crested Turaco while, ironically, the rest of us were looking the other direction at some rhinos: “There’s a big purple chicken thing over here!” she said. It takes nerve for a non-birder to go on a hardcore birding trip, and we’re glad to have Janine’s eyes on the prize this week.
New birds today: 16
Year list: 3654