Friday May 11- Bonfire, a blanket of stars and a chorus of lion roars

This day was a great day.  It started with our routine lion walk with the P's who were becoming more and more familiar with us as the days went by.  Along with the lion walks, we were becoming more familiar with the lion handlers, who we got to know on a personal level.  On this lion walk, Alex, Celine (a very wonderful woman that we met at Antelope Park from California) and I were telling Mackey, one of my favorite lion handlers, about the bonfire we would be attending that evening.  Josefine and Caroline from Sweden were also with us as Mackey kept asking us if there was going to be a braii and every time he said this, we would ask him what he meant.  I can honestly say that this was one of the very few times there was a language barrier at Antelope Park because everyone spoke great English, but it finally came down to pictionary to find out that braii was Shona for barbecue.   This is one of those times where I recall and event and it seems hilarious to me, but it means absolutely nothing to the general population.  Moving on...  

Caroline, Alex, Mackey and I
Caroline, Alex, Mackey and I
After our lion walk, we got our first chance at 'shit shovelling'.  What I affectionately refer to as 'shit shovelling' really goes by 'BPG' at Antelope Park, which is breeding program cleaning.  At BPG, the predominate activity is shovelling poo but also incudes cleaning and refilling water dishes.  This does not sound glamorous, and it isn't.  But it was fun!  During BPG, we would get to be around all the full grown lions, interacting with the lion handlers and the other volunteers and doing mindless work, which is critically important to the overall functioning of the program.  So to make the not-so-awesome-but-completely-necessary job more fun, we referred to it as 'shit shovelling' and would do our own parody of LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" and the line "everyday I shuffling" would become "everyday I'm shovelling".  If you're lucky, someone dances while shit shovelling.  Fun, right?!

Laili having a 'cat nap'
After our morning of shit shovelling, we went to do a 'cub sit' with the L's.  Since it is the middle of the day, and still reasonably warm, the cubs lazed around and had a cat nap while Alex and I got to know one of our favorite lion handlers, Tino, a little better.  Tino, he's a good guy.  A legend actually.

After our 'cub sit', we gathered our fair share of booze from the bar and loaded it into a cooler.  A group of volunteers climbed onto one of my favourite open back pick up trucks and we went out into the bush for a game drive where we saw most of the game from the park, including some very close encounters with giraffe.
We then made our way to the bush enclosure that was home to a single male and 3 females who were placed there for the purpose of breeding.   Just outside of this enclosure were HUGE rocks, which would heat up during the day in the sun, and make the perfect place to have a bonfire at night. This location was also strategic because every night (and every morning for that matter), the lions from the breeding program would roar, and when one lion roars, another lions roars, and then another, and then another.  Eventually the entire park is filled with the thunderous roars of nearly 100 lions.  So as we sat on our heated rocks around a bonfire, watching the sun set, we were slowly consumed by darkness so that we could play witness to the most expansive array of stars that I have ever seen accompanied by a chorus of lion roars.

It was amazing.  One of the most awe inspiring experiences I have ever had.  I could go on forever describing the endless darkness and the living sky.

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