Waiting to Cross

Should I stay or should I go?

(Dana) 8:45AM. The thick train of thousands of wildebeest snake across the plain and winds down to the Mara River where we sit and wait. We have a perfect spot to witness a crossing. 9:20, the grunting/bleating increases as the group gains momentum. Walking becomes trotting. Thousands of hooves start thundering. Older animals butting youngsters forward. By 9:30, a virtual tidal pool of wildebeest has filled – 50M long X 25M wide. They gather, jostling and milling around. They look at the water. They stare at each other. They stare at the cars. They have no leader. All it takes is one to leap into the muddy water and thousands will follow. But no one does.

By 9:40, the tide mysteriously recedes. Walking at first, then running, they thunder away. A school of fish. A parade of lemmings. And the banks are clear. So we sit. We count bloated carcasses in the river from yesterday. We count maribou storks and vultures feeding. We make fun of other tourists. The boys tussle. The sun bakes us. Our Maasi driver checks his texts.

10:30, it all starts again. The momentum from the back pushes toward the banks. The bleating intensifies. The excitement among the holders of 500-mm lenses builds. The tide rushes back in. 10:40, the pool is full again. Adolescent wildebeest flirt with the water’s edge. This must be it. All we need is one. But no one obliges. 10:50, the hooves start pounding away. The tide has receded.

Very exciting. Very frustrating. Nature.

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