African Lion Safari (Part I)
It was 1973, a time of innocence and a time when you could still go out and grab a hamburger and a drink for under a dollar. It was also a time when the driving age was only sixteen and like any other young man I couldn’t wait to get myself behind the wheel. My mother, who had a high position working for a building company was given a company car which enabled us to be a two car family. That worked out great for me as most nights and weekends there was always a second car to drive. Luckily my older sister was already living out of the house so there was never a fight over who would get the car. So as usual, I would jump out of bed on a Saturday morning, call up some good friends and off we would go into the wild blue yonder. We were like four swashbucklers on a pirate ship sailing out to discover new land. This particular day was a special day as my father gave me his new car to drive. A 1973 Pontiac LeMans equipped with an 8 horsepower engine and a posh new style vinyl roof. I can still remember my father screaming out to us as we drove away “you kids be careful”! With the sun shining and a strong tail wind behind us we stuck our hands waving goodbye as we turned the corner and out of sight.
One needs to understand that living in Canada the chances of seeing a lion roaming the streets is about a million to none. Watching an old Tarzan flick would be the closest you could come to seeing one of these beautiful animals. But wait; only forty miles outside of Toronto where I live we discovered that there was a chance. Yes, a place where you could see some of the most ferocious African by-products roaming around and actually get right up face to face with them. This was something we weren’t going to miss out on. I stepped hard on the exhilarator and headed west to the African Lion Safari.
Chomping down on a burger with fries was the highlight of the day until we finally rolled up to the entrance gates of the park. Once we saw the huge signboard for the park I knew the party was just about to get started. It was maybe a five minute drive up this skinny little bumpy road which made you feel like you were entering a jungle. They had all the sounds you would likely hear if on a real Safari. Birds screeching, lions roaring, rhino’s grunting and the laughing sounds of a hundred hyenas’.
There must have been ten to twelve cars in front of us waiting to enter the park where you would see all kinds of warning signs. “Do not feed the Animals”, “Keep hands inside”, “Enter at your own risk”, “Restricted area only” etc. There were so many signs that it was hard to remember the first one you read. Once we made it through the first set of gates we noticed a second line, even longer than the first and after travelling for hours these four teenage kids were not going to waste any more time. Just to the right of us was the final gate to pass through, it was the entrance to where the animals were free to roam and you were in the cage. Each set of animals has its own marked off areas. DO NOT OPEN YOUR CAR WINDOWS WHILE TRAVELING THROUGH THE BABOON AREA one sign read. Apparently the baboons can scratch your eyes out or bite right through your skin to the bone. “Nice place to take the kids” I thought. Once in the Baboon attraction we noticed all these cars painted in Zebra strips and thought “Hey those are really cool”!