The alarm rang at 3:15. It was dark and crowded inside Chelsi’s tent, but she unzipped her sleeping bag and slithered out of her sheets. Beside her Laura groaned. The two women dressed themselves the best they could in the cramps quarters before emerging from the tent. The air outside was cool, and for a moment Chelsi regretted not bringing a sweater with her. It won’t last though, she thought to herself. As soon as the sun comes up we’ll be sweating. She wrapped her scarf around her and took a seat on the campfire bench to wait for the truck.
“You don’t think it forgot about us?” Chelsi asked, leaning against her friend.
“It’s nearly a quarter to 4 and the sun will be coming up soon,” but again, Chelsi’s eyes were starting to drift close. She was still tired after so many days of travel. She left her house a full three days ago, and only late the previous afternoon did she arrive at her first vacation destination; Kasanka National Park. But it’ll all have been worth it, her foggy mind floated through her consciousness.
“Here it comes,” Laura said, standing up, jostling Chelsi’s position. Bright yellow head light illuminated their campground. The truck rattled up the driveway.
“Are we all ready to go?” their guide quietly called from his perch on the benches mounted to the truck bed. Chelsi, Laura, and four other volunteers that were accompanying them gathered themselves up and headed towards the vehicle.
It probably wasn’t more than a few kilometers, but with the icy, morning wind biting at her face, it felt like a journey. To distract herself, Chelsi looked up at the stars. She had had high hopes that the stars at in the park would shine brightest, but it wasn’t proving to be the case. The light of the moon was growing though, it would be full by the end of her trip.
The truck came to a stop in a tall grass field on the edge of a dense forest. Their guide hopped out and motioned for them to follow. There was no clear path that Chelsi could see but her and her companions followed none the less. Her fellows had kept some of their blankets with them and were now using them to shield themselves the dew covered grass as they made their way into the forest. Chelsi had to hold up the hem of her skirt to keep it from getting caught on loose shrubs and branches. This is not quite what I had in mind, Chelsi through as she picked her way with the group through the grass, but who am I to complain about a little extra adventure. Their walk went on, about a half a kilometer more into the forest and ended at a ladder that climbed up into the tree canopy.
One by one, each member of their group climbed up, up, up. When it came to be Chelsi’s turn she climbed slowed, careful not to miss any of the rungs on the ladder. The ladder climbed up through a hole in a floor perched amongst the tops of the trees and when Chelsi poked her head up through the hole she was greet with some of the first rays of morning light.
“Oh wow!” she cried pulling the rest of her body. Straw colored fruit bats, nearly the size of a house cat, blanketed the sky. They were flying into the forest, after a night a forging fruits, in search of a place to roost for the day. On their way some flew close enough overhead she could have reached out and touch them; close enough that she could see the texture of their fur and features of their faces. Others seemed to look on at their group with the same curious fascination they Chelsi and her friends looked at them.
As the light from the sun grew stronger the number of bats overhead became few. Late morning stragglers. The trees below their stand though, now seemed to flutter with wing like leaves; everyone in their place trying to get comfortable for bed. With that thought, Chelsi yawn, I could use a comfortable bed. She smiled and gazed on at the sunrise, but not too soon.