“What to Bring”
“The following is a brief list of what to bring on safari – normally ‘less is best’!”
“Clothing – Should be comfortable, preferably not in bright colors.”
I’m not a complete idiot; I can read after all. But in some ways “should be comfortable” and “not in bright colors” are a bit contradictory, don’t you think? Well, apparently not. I packed the requisite “at least two changes of clothing for safari” in appropriately bland colors (my khaki-clad father and grandfather nodding silently in approval). But, I did tuck in the odd bits of bright color thinking that I would be able to wear them in the evening . . . really, that’s the only reason they went in . . . really.
But something happened between initial good intentions and our first day (which was going to spent mostly in an airplane getting to our first lodge anyway) and I found myself wearing my admittedly rather bright coral top.
As a result of this sartorial decision, Nigel, our guide, and I got off to a rocky start. Once I had that blouse on, I felt empowered; I was convinced that I could convince him (anyone, really) that bright coral was a neutral color. Alas, it was not to be. It turns out he is a man of strong convictions and he was not to be shaken in his belief that coral falls a bit outside the spectrum for proper safari attire. Of course, if he could see that same blouse now with its wine dribbles, gravy stains, and unidentifiable and indelible dark smudgy stains, even he would think it almost qualifies as camouflage wear.
I had, of course, anticipated being stuck in khaki during the day and had packed several brightish (okay, very bright) bandanas thinking I could tie them around my neck, under the khaki of my blouses, to brighten an otherwise drab ensemble. I could tell, however, that just wasn’t on and not wanting to be the recipient of one of Nigel’s stern, reproving looks, the bandanas stayed out of sight.
One day, I did risk censure and wore what I genuinely thought was probably okay . . . close to the edge, but not over it. I wore a soft coral and cream striped t-shirt. The stripes were wide; the colors were NOT bright. Unfortunately, that was the day we came upon the pride of lions deep in the recesses of a zebra. It was a large pride of lions; many were dozing in the sun, their engorged tummies making it difficult to find a comfortable position in which to sleep; several were still tearing at the zebra carcass. We watched in fascination.
Then, one female roused herself from her post-prandial slumber, got up and began walking, in that focussed way they seem to have, towards the very Land Rover in which I was standing. I looked at her; she looked at me. I looked at the very widely striped carcass of her lunch; she looked at me. I looked down at my very widely striped coral and cream t-shirt and thought: My god, I look like a dessert zebra . . . or maybe a palate-cleansing sorbet zebra. Slowly, slowly (polé, polé), just as Nigel had instructed, I lowered myself into the interior of the vehicle. The lioness languidly walked across the road in front of us and off to a water hole in the distance. I don’t think I was actually on her menu for that day but I didn’t wear my stripes again. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.
But, through Nigel’s decisiveness on the subject of safari sober (clothing, that is), I have come to appreciate the subdued beauty of subtle gradations of khaki and olive drab. I have to confess that I even joined in the gentle mockery of those on other safaris who had clearly been dressed by someone in the rainbow coalition. But one must be kind, they obviously were suffering under leadership less stellar and knowledgeable than ours.*
The next time I go on safari, however, I am going to ask my cousin Tom for tips on accessorizing because he has the ability to transform safari drab to safari chic and still fall within acceptable norms.
*I did manage to take some satisfaction in knowing that although my exterior was khaki top to toes, my underthings were screaming out in vibrant purples, turquoises and oranges.