I am so lucky and happy (KNOCK WOOD)!!! OMG this is incredible!

So I was told that even though there are elephants here in Kidepo, we would not see them because they’re ONLY here during dry season, which is January/February. Otherwise they are in Sudan (there is a long explanation for this that I am still not 100% clear on, so let’s just say Sudan is their vacation home).

Ok, so we were just driving back to the lodge and all of a sudden, ALL five of us simultaneously smell elephant — by now after all these years even I know the smell. The two spotters, ranger, and vet are literally gobsmacked! It’s not possible! They are all smiles, laughing…but the clock is ticking fast — they are certain elephants are here but no one knows why, so we have to move fast to find them because they aren’t staying long, or already may be gone. The spotters start looking for signs (poop, prints, plants with signs of being trampled) while we’re breathing in the smell!

They keep telling me I’ve brought the elephants (because I kept telling them all day yesterday —- joking of course — that the elephants were coming for my birthday…kinda weird though, no?!).

And then suddenly, voila!

Inexplicably, totally out of season, not where elephants ever are is the BIGGEST herd they’ve seen! We are all going crazy. We couldn’t even count how many because there were too many babies and they were staying so close together. Everyone was speechless, except for repeating our mantra, “so lucky!”

Why did a herd of 60(?) elephants cross the road out of season where they never ever normally do so? No one knew the answer to this riddle…and because life is just ridiculously great sometimes, the herd was heading straight in the direction of our lodge, along the same parallel as the road we take, and then past the lodge while I was drinking coffee (bottom photo).

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I shall never tire of, grow complacent with, or cease to be awestruck by opening my bungalow door to find any number and mix of wild animals here in Kidepo.

Or of laying in bed at night listening to the lions roar, the jackals scream, and it’s not too shabby hearing a herd of water buffalo stamp past your window at 4 a.m. (although my first thought was “burglar” — old habits…) and truth be told, I really dug the whole forest elephants eating your shit during the night if you left it outside when I was in ROC.

Travel for me is the adult version of being a kid. Getting to be amazed, surprised, scared.

Getting to go outside your comfort zone and when that becomes tolerable, bearable, even pleasurable or enjoyable, pushing yourself to go even further. You make mistakes so stupid you can’t believe you can actually feed and dress yourself. But then you quickly regroup, learn the lesson and move on (for example, I will not leave my shoes outside to dry tonight because hyenas will come take them).

I remember years and years ago being terrified the first time I slept alone in a tent in the middle of nowhere — now I’m trying to keep myself up, hoping the six lions we spotted near camp tonight reappear. They were about 20 city blocks from the dining area of the lodge — I have no idea how far this really is — let’s just say they look like blobs of nothing without binoculars if you are a regular human, but super-human spotters not only spot them, but can tell you how many.

Whether figuring out the toilets in Japan, or just how to order food in France, the tiniest dumbest accomplishments make you feel like you’ve climbed Mt. Everest. Travel reminds you again and again how great life is, and teaches you to (try) to weather the shit-storms that inevitably hit you at home with as much positivity as you can. It’s all just part of life’s great big ride…and we aren’t here for long. Ah, but I digress…as usual.

Each day’s installment of “What’s Outside Wendy’s Door?” has been so good and bountiful I don’t know where to start. Can you believe this place? I crack up every time. And not for nothing, I have “graduated” to “no escort needed at night” status, probably because I insist on coming ALL the way to the office each night after dinner for WiFi — which is VERY late for the local folk. Now if I get into any trouble with an animal, I’m on my own.

Here are a few iPhone snaps and photos from my “What’s Outside Wendy’s Door” encounters.

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A documentary film crew with two very loud celebrities from somewhere showed up at Apoka tonight. The celebrities told me several times they were celebrities, here to have a documentary made about themselves, then spent dinner regaling crew and handlers with stories about the good life. Los Angeles via Kidepo. Time to go.

Leaving the Kidepo Valley means saying goodbye to Waterbuck Henry (I named him), who has followed me around since I arrived at Apoka four days ago. Waterbucks aren’t typically solitary, nor inseparable from the lodge (so says the staff), but he hasn’t left camp, nor me, since showing up in my “backyard” the afternoon I arrived.

I have amassed a veritable coffee-table book full of photos of WBH following me around just staring at me. Odd to say the least.

The staff thought he might have separated from his herd as a possible explanation for his behavior. But one afternoon I was sitting out back when he showed up, this time with mate and child in tow (the last in the series of photos below). I was touched we’d reached the point in our relationship when he felt it was time to bring his family to stare at me — and was relieved he had one.

The three stood staring at me, and me at them for about half an hour, and then they moved in closer to me and laid down in the grass, confident they were safe. I burst into tears.

And so we sat, the four of us, enjoying the sun. Then the afternoon clouds rolled in, a burst of thunder rumbled and spooked them, and they were gone. I’m gonna miss this guy.

This has been a really special place.

A few examples from top to bottom: Waterbuck Henry following me on a walk out to the office; making sure I am a-ok at the pool; at the dining room having lunch while I do; back home in the backyard; waiting for me in the front yard; literally standing outside my shower (buy a girl a drink first, no? I took this FROM THE SHOWER, through water/screen — after a few minutes he laid down — and yes, I ran and my phone to take photo — when a waterbuck is staring at you taking shower it merits photo in my book); and a portrait shot for posterity.

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All great things come to an end…‘tis the only way new great things can begin. Am flying back to Entebbe sometime tomorrow. Planning to stay at “heaven on hill with hummus” to sort out my next move…but not before getting one last safari drive in.