An American Safari

During a recent Saturday morning bike ride, just out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a herd of llamas grazing. Other than their jaws chomping away on the dewy grass, the llamas hardly moved and I could have easily missed seeing them.   I looked back to see if my eyes had played a trick on me (they hadn’t), and then a few hundred yards down the road a dozen dark brown cattle roamed around and baked in the sun.

That was when it dawned on me that I could embark on a new kind of safari – an American safari – right here in the good ‘ole USA.  I have been lucky enough to have been on many African safaris, and while a safari near Boulder, Colorado would not be the same as one in Africa, it would be a fun way to spend an early summer morning.  I began to pay attention…

With llamas and cattle checked off my list, I looked for other animals, birds and interesting plants.  I noticed similarities and differences between the safaris.  For example, when a bunch of Colorado prairie dogs scurried in front of my bike, it reminded me of when dozens of African helmeted guinea fowl darted out from roadside brush and briskly waddled across roads in Kruger National Park.  While their appearances certainly vary in color (prairie dogs are beige and helmeted guinea fowl have colorful bright blue heads), they both have the ability to stop traffic.

Here, drivers passed by at a steady clip, nearly oblivious to the llamas and cattle (and us cyclists).  Yet on African safaris, drivers would slowly putter along in their game viewing vehicles desperate not to miss the next animal sighting.

Once when I was driving on a two-lane highway in the Kingdom of Swaziland, I saw over three dozen small white birds that were perched on the tops of wooden fence posts, one bird per post.  I instantly envisioned those bright white birds when I cycled past another set of fence posts in Boulder – only on top of these were white porcelain insulators (caps), which allow  for electrified wire to be attached to the posts without losing any electricity through the posts.  From a short distance away, the birds and the insulators looked the same.  See for yourself.

Taking a break from cycling, I stopped and looked up at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and had a little déjà vu.  The mountains were so similar!  Kruger National Park in South Africa shares part of its eastern border with Mozambique and it is the Lebombo Mountain Range that straddles this border.   The height of the mountains in the Lebombos span from about 1,500 – 2,500 feet.  The foothills in Boulder are about 1,500 feet tall.  From where I stood, it wasn’t hard to interchange these two mountain ranges.

And so it turned out that paying attention gave me a whole new perspective on cycling in Boulder, and the many comparisons to my recent African safaris brought back fond memories.  Of course the main items that couldn’t be compared were animals such as lions, zebras and rhinos, but I’m pretty sure I would not have wanted to cross paths with those while on my bicycle!   I wonder what I’ll see on my next American safari adventure…

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