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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Weekend at Mole… All Smiles the First Day and a Half

Submitted by Erin Nolan
I bounced out of bed bright and early because we were all heading out on a walking safari. I was so happy to get the blood flowing to my legs since we had been driving so much. The girls were so excited that they were about to see elephants and wildlife that they have never seen before. I was surprised that none of the kids ever experienced or even realized what type of precious wildlife exists so close to them (or at least it would be if the roads were properly maintained). But I equated that with how many New Yorkers have visited the Statue of Liberty recently. There was actually a chill in the air it felt so good, we met up with our group and our guide, grabbed water and we were off.

We walked down in to the “valley” which surrounded a tremendous watering hole where the Elephants sometimes come and cool down but not this morning so we enjoyed what the scenery had to offer.

We saw crocodiles, cobb, water bucks, and so many different types of birds. We were all enjoying the walk and the serenity that this place had to offer.

Yes that is Miss. Lydia carrying her drink on her head I just don’t have the technique down yet it is all about good posture! We walked for about three hours and unfortunately no elephant sightings yet. We saw some old tracks and heard that others who took the driving safari were lucky and caught a glimpse of a family.

After our walk we had some breakfast and I was thrilled to have my first cup of coffee not shaken in a plastic water bottle. It was actually served in a cup with milk and sugar and I didn’t even blink when it was still technically instant! aaaahh so good! Everyone had such excitement on their faces and we were blessed to be so close to nature. We decided to do an afternoon game drive because we were able to use our own car for just the cost of the guide. I think this was the first time I was excited to get back in the car! A quick observation of the fuel gauge indicated that the tank was full even after the extensive drive to Mole. Seems as if no we have a broken fuel gauge, once again Jonathan reassured me that he knew how many kilometers we had driven so far and we were ok for a few more. We decided to use the sunroof to give us a better vantage point to spot the game and of course the only way to get a cool breeze. We had been driving for over an hour and still no elephants. We had seen so many different types of animals but everyone was dying to see the pride of Mole. I offered a special gift to the first one to spot the prize Elephant. All of a sudden Juliet screamed out “I see one over there!” We immediately stopped the car and jumped out and just watched! It was truly breath taking for all.

We were so close that we were snapping photos right in front of him, everyone was ecstatic to be so close to these amazing creatures.

We watched him for awhile. He was chowing down on leaves and throwing dust all over his back. We were so close and he acted as if we weren’t even there. It was such a beautiful experience which really made the day complete. During dinner I presented Juliet with a special coin designed with the NYPD Aviation patch and wings. It put a big smile on her face and she truly felt special for spotting such a special creature.

The next morning we opted to do an additional game drive and we opted for another rooftop view with Jonathan driving and our guide leading the way.

We had gone a little further in the reserve this time and I started to notice the fuel gauge beginning to move. We all enjoyed the breeze and the sights again for about an hour and a half when Emmanuella shouted “there right there, STOP.”

This time we saw an entire family of elephants, there were 5 in total but this time our close presence was met with a little more aggression. Our guide noticed a baby in the pack and advised us to stand back because one may charge in order to protect the young one. We weren’t charged but one did rip out a shrub and throw it at us as a warning. Again we all had such a great feeling about what we were witnessing.

Part 2 …..Disappointment and Frustration at Mole

Although we were ending our safari experience on such a high note it seems there is always someone there to bring it back down. This long journey to Mole was not all about seeing the elephants, we were also there to see the condition of the airstrip and seek out support from the game reserve personnel. Unfortunately the manager was completely closed minded about the use of the airfield and the potential gain to the people and the area surrounding Mole.

When asked if we could go see the airfield his response was “why?” and when we tried to talk to him about the benefits of getting their airfield back up to usable specs he just yelled “why? Who is going to pay for it, how will we get the money to maintain it, and you have money and you get paid for the extra work you do?” I was appalled by his demeanor and couldn’t believe he was yelling at me with such distain. I just snapped back by saying that is the attitude that stops progress and no I don’t get paid extra to take care of my facility we all pitch in to keep our unit in good shape because we are proud of what we do! We never did get to see the condition of the airfield and no one will probably go back if the roads are not repaired to a level acceptable to travelers.

Maybe someone will read this story and no longer feel this individual is a good representative of Mole National Park and replace him with someone who cares about the benefits that aviation could bring to the surrounding community.

Unfortunately we have 86km of bad road to drive again tomorrow but looking forward to our next stop in Techiman :-)

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