Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chuck is Outsmarted by Bird at Mt. Kenya Safari Club

View of the lovely grounds of the Mt. Kenya Safari Club

When we first mentioned to friends that we were bound for a safari in Africa, our “friends” rolled their eyes, warned us to beware of kidnappings in Nairobi, and admonished us to expect a rough and tumble experience in this “third world country”. 

We knew as we traveled around Kenya in search of the "Big Five", that there would be limited electricity, accommodations in camps rather than 5 star hotels, and travel along pitted dirt roads rather than the paved roads we were used to here in the states. 

Our friends were not misinformed. 

Sometimes at night we needed to use flashlights to signal that we needed the professional to lead us to the main area from our tent because to walk alone was too dangerous.  

The rivers were filled with hippos.  The plains were filled with lions and hyenas. On the trails we often stumbled upon a water buffalo or a leopard hidden in a tree with a kill, who could jump down on top of you if he thought for a second you were interested in his dinner. 

Safari, in modern times, means you’re armed with a camera, not a gun.  In Kenya, hunting big game animals is forbidden by law.  Thank God.  

But being on safari is breathtaking! We heard the roar of a lion as the pack moved past our safari vehicle.  I stood less than twenty feet away at dusk as a family of giraffes munched on the leaves of a nearby tree. As we sat and ate our picnic lunch one afternoon, a monkey came from out of nowhere and stole my apple which was perched on the log beside me.

We were in the wild.

The single exception was the Mt. Kenya Safari Club, the 100 acre ranch, founded by actor William Holden in 1959 at the foot of Mt. Kenya.  Mr. Holden, known as the too good-looking actor, won an Academy award for Best Actor for his role in Stalag 17. He also starred in a slew of other films including Sunset Boulevard and Picnic and was the biggest box office draw of the 1950‘s in Hollywood. But besides being a Hollywood film star, he became a conservationist and animal activist long before it was trendy to do so.

The front entrance

The Safari Club became the destination for the Hollywood jet set.  In the very atypical lobby--here in Kenya, so much of the Safari Club is outdoors--there are photos lining the walls with all the "A" list actors who came to Kenya and stayed at the club.

Just a sampling of some of the photos of the rich and famous who came to the Safari Club

Today it is a popular resort for visitors who come to Kenya and who are interested in going on safari, horseback riding, or mountain climbing, but who also want some pampering along the way.  

That’s what appealed to us--the pampering.  The grounds are exquisite with a lovely view of Mt. Kenya, of course.  There is a in-ground swimming pool, gourmet restaurant, flat-screen TV, full-service bar--all the modern amenities that are at times difficult to procur in so exotic a location.

Lovely view of Mt. Kenya in the distance

The exquisite lobby of the Club

Our room was luxurious and over-sized. 

Our room on the premises

Upon arriving, we unpacked and went on a tour of the place, heading eventually toward the main part of the Club, looking for a short cut from our room, following the paths that led past the pool.  How fortunate.  I am a pool person from way back.  Chuck is not.  In fact, he hates water in large quantities.  He scurried past, very quickly, not anticipating that the area around the pool was very wet and slippery. 

But he was nowhere near the edge for that fact to have any impact.  It was only if he moved closer to the edge.  And why would he? What would entice a cat closer to the edge of a pool?

The infamous pool where Chuck scampered over the edge
It happened so quickly I had no time to react. A bird flew by, swooping down over Chuck’s head, literally enticing him to follow, to follow, right into the water.  The bird flew over the water, but Chuck’s eyes weren't on the water. He made a mad dash for the bird and went right over the edge.

I’d never seen anything like it!

Chuck's no light weight and half the pool water was displaced by his weight. He “doggie paddled” immediately to the side. I helped him out and he did his shake thing, but he was still dripping wet. 

We returned to the room and regrouped. 

My analysis: Chuck was no smarter than a typical Kenyan bird. The poor kid never liked birds anyway.


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