The swaying of the tall savanna
grasses made a swishing sound that echoed off the surrounding mountains.
Gamba stretched his long neck and ripped off a branch covered with long
green leaves. The acacia tree rattled back and forth as the giraffe tugged
and chewed. The scent of an approaching storm was in the air. Dark gray
clouds hung heavily in the sky, waiting for the heat of the afternoon to
release their torrents of rain.
Hundreds of termite mounds stood
like small volcanoes that had erupted from the sun-dried ground,
stretching across the land to the horizon. Gamba often used the mounds to
scratch the patchwork of chestnut-colored blotches on his lower back and
"Jambo, Gamba. How do the acacia
leaves taste today?" Taji asked. The crane pecked at several ants. A line
of them extended from the treeís roots into the jungle. They ran
hurriedly, carrying bits of leaves and grass in their mouths.
"Jambo, Taji. Theyíre tasty, but
probably not as delicious as those ants." A low rumbling filled the sky. "
It looks like a storm is coming our way," Gamba said, lowering his
stubby-horned head. "We could use a good rain. The watering holes are
nearly dried up." His jaws girated as he spoke. "I think we could all use
a summer shower. Your black feathers arenít so shiny anymore. Theyíre full
"Iíve avoided the watering holes.
The last time I went, there were too many baboons, wild dogs and lions
fighting over the last precious puddles. I didnít want to end up their
evening meal," Taji said, examining her feathers. "Youíre right. They are
looking rather dull." She tried to brush the dust out of them.
The sky began to crackle. Great
bolts of lightning lit the sky. Booms of thunder shook the ground. The air
became thick with humidity as the first drops of rain began to fall. "Weíd
better find shelter in the trees. I fear this will be a dangerous
downpour," Gamba urged.
The two animals hid among the trees.
Puddles formed in the lower parts of the savanna grasses, filling the
burrows and mounds of the meerkats. Dozens of furry animals came scurrying
towards the trees.
The cracked earth soon turned into
reddish-brown mud. Lizards, snakes, frogs, ants, and beetles seeped from
the cracks and rushed to safety.
The blackened sky seemed to be
ablaze as the electric charges fingered around the clouds, grasping them
in their fiery tentacles.
"We have company," Taji said,
watching as the homeless crowds rushed towards them. "Itís going to get
crowded in here." The bird raised her wing as the meerkats rushed past,
nearly knocking her over.
From the heights near his head,
Gamba noticed other animals moving through the treetops. Hordes of
brightly colored parrots flew into the highest branches. Their squawks
nearly deafened him. Two monkeys swung over on rope-like vines, landing on
a limb next to Gambaís head. "It seems none of us may have homes if this
storm doesnít pass quickly," sighed Zesiro. "My twin brother, Odongo, and
I were nearly caught in the flood."
"What flood?" Gamba asked.
"The riverbed, which was empty, is
now raging with water. Many animals didnít see it coming and couldnít
escape," Odongo added.
Gamba thought of the lions and
jackals that often stayed near the water. He sighed, "At least a few of us
have been spared the lionís jaws and will live to see another day." The
two monkeys swung over to another tree.
Gamba and Taji found themselves
surrounded by dozens of creatures of the savanna as the rain continued to
fall all day and night.
When the morning sun burst over the
horizon, the weakening clouds turned purple, red, pink, and orange as the
rays reflected off them. "The storm has past," Taji shouted.
Within hours the water had seeped
into the ground. "Look what has happened," Gamba smiled. "Instead of
brown, dried earth and grasses, the land is carpeted with tender green
shoots. Flowers are blossoming and the trees have new buds. The rivers and
ponds have filled with fresh water to drink. It is a joyous morning."
The meerkats began to dig new mounds
and burrows. The ants blazed new trails. The frogs leapt from one puddle
to the next. Zesiro and Ogondo splashed about in the small streams that
great mountain where the leaves are the size of an elephantís back, the
fruit is larger than we could ever imagine and where there are no lions or
jackals to torment you. The trees are like umbrellas, wide and beautiful,
and there are flowers of more colors than there are in the rainbows. Since
there is plenty of fresh water, why donít we go to the mountain," Taji
said. He pointed north. "It is two days journey."
"We want to go," shouted Ogondo, as
he and Zesiro swing on a vine to the ground. "We want to come with you."
"Iíve heard of that place too. They
say there are waterfalls that sparkle like a million diamonds falling from
the clouds. The rivers are filled with fish that shimmer like rubies and
emeralds. They even say there are bananas longer than Ogondoís tail,"
Ogondoís eyes lit up. "There are?"
He grabbed his tail and laughed. "We must go with you, Gamba."
"It sounds beautiful. If there are
no lions or jackals, then we can live in peace and with no fear," Gamba
said. "Should we see if any of the others want to come with us?"
"Gamba, I think most of the animals
are happy here. See the meerkats. They have already dug their new burrows.
The parrots are content in these trees. The frogs, lizards and snakes
enjoy the puddles. I think it would be wise to go alone, just the four of
us. Weíll bring less attention to ourselves that way. There may be a
jackal or lion to contend with on the journey. The fewer of us, the
better," Taji recommended.
"I see your wisdom in that," Gamba
said. He looked toward the tall mountain. It looked majestic against the
background of the azure sky. Its snowcapped peak glittered in the
By midday the four were on their
way. Gamba took the lead, with Taji, Zesiro and Ogondo following in a
line. They passed herds of grazing wildebeest, zebras, and impala. Baobab
trees stood like mighty guardians, watching over the savanna. The hours
passed quickly. "Iím getting hungry," Ogondo complained. "Can we stop for
a while and search for food?" he asked.
Gamba stopped. "Weíll rest for a
while. Zesiro, why donít you and Ogondo look for something to eat? Taji
will help you find some ants and beetles and Iíll nibble on the baobab
leaves." The monkeys didnít hesitate. They ran through the grass,
searching for stones. "Watch out for lions," Gamba shouted.
Ogondo stopped suddenly. "Lions?" He
couldnít see much because the grass was so tall. "Taji, you watch for
lions. Zesiro and I will lift the stones and find the beetles." Taji flew
to the top of a tree and scanned the vast savanna.
After a feast of fat, crunchy
beetles, worms, a few seeds, and juicy berries, the four continued their
journey. "I hope it doesnít rain again," Taji said. She looked at the sky.
The clouds were gray and rain-filled. "We have no place to run to for
safety if a storm comes again."
"Nightfall is only an hour or two
away. The mountain is still another dayís journey," Gamba said. He bent
his long neck so he could see the others better.
"Gamba, do you think there are
really beautiful waterfalls there? Ogondo and I like to splash in the
water. What about the trees? Do you think they are like umbrellas? Do you
think he and I can play in them and swing on vines?" Zesiro wondered.
"Zesiro, you ask too many questions.
Look at the sky. See how the sun shines like a golden ball? Iíve heard
that at the mountain seem to be on fire when the sun sets. They say there
are fruits that are so sweet that their juices taste like honey and the
air is filled with the fragrance of perfumed flowers, whose blossoms are
so delicate and beautiful that they attract thousands of butterflies,"
Gamba said. "Zesiro, the waterfalls will be magnificent at this time of
Zesiro smiled. "Is that true? There
are a lot of butterflies? Once a butterfly landed on my nose and it
tickled. Iíll stand under the waterfall and let it splash on my head while
I eat juicy fruit."
Gamba laughed at the monkey and
stretched his neck to reach the leaves at the top of a tree.
"I want to get to the mountain so we
donít have to worry about lions and tigers," Ogondo said.
"What about hyenas? What about
jackals?" Zesiro asked.
"Do they have snakes there?" Ogondo
"Stop asking so many questions you
two. Tomorrow weíll be there and you can see for yourself. Before it gets
any later, I suggest we find some shelter. The rain clouds are gathering
and Iím afraid we may have a repeat of last night," Taji warned.
The sound of thunder once again
rumbled across the land. "Can you see anything from way up there? Are
there rocks we can climb?" Ogondo asked the giraffe.
Gamba strained his neck and looked
ahead. "Thereís a pile of boulders about a mile away. If we hurry we can
make it there before the rain begins to fall." They hadnít walked ten feet
before it started to pour. "We must hurry. All of you climb on my back and
Iíll carry you."
The two monkeys grabbed Gambaís tail
and swung onto his back. "Iím going to hang onto Gambaís neck," Zesiro
"Me too." Ogondo joined his brother.
They wrapped their tails around each other and held on. Taji flapped her
wings and flew on top of Gambaís head. She sat between his stubby horns.
"Comfortable up there?" Gamba asked?
Taji nodded. "Hold on." Gamba trotted quickly toward the boulders.
Half a mile later he found himself
ankle deep in mud. Each step was difficult and tiring. The monkeys and
crane were drenched. "Hurry, Gamba! The savanna is flooding again!" Taji
shouted. Gamba could hardly hear her over the noise of the rain pelting
down and the thundering booms of the evening sky.
As they neared the pile of boulders,
Gamba could see there were other animals already there. He stopped. Ogondo
climbed up the giraffeís neck as though it were a tree. "Whatís the
"Thereís a pride of lions on the
boulders. We canít go any closer," Gamba said.
"Weíll drown if we stay down here.
Where else can we go? The water is up to your knees already," Zesiro
Gamba looked around, desperate to
find someplace safe for the group. He spotted several baobab trees. "Zesiro,
Ogondo, when I get close to the tree, jump and climb to the top of the
highest branch. Hold on tight. Taji, fly, if you can, and perch near the
"What will you do, Gamba?" Taji
asked. "Youíll drown!"
"Iím a tall giraffe. The water wonít
come up to my face. Iíll stand near the tree and hold onto it until the
rain stops," Gamba answered. It took Gamba a long time to walk to the
trees. The water was swirling around him. A few times he nearly lost his
footing and fell, but had caught himself. "Quickly, into the tree," he
The monkeys leapt onto a branch and
climbed to the top. Taji flew next to them. Gamba moved closer to the
biggest tree. The waters splashed around him getting deeper and deeper as
the night went on. "Is this ever going to stop," Ogondo sobbed. "Iím
scared." Zesiro moved closer and the two monkeys clung to each other on
Sometime during the night the rain
ceased. The water was up to the bottom of Gambaís neck. When the sun rose
in the morning, he could see much better. He spotted the boulders. They
were only about twenty feet away and the lions were sleeping. "Thereís
seven of them," Gamba whispered.
"What did you say?" Taji asked,
flying down to the branch nearest Gambaís face. "Be very quiet. There are
seven lions sleeping on those boulders. When the water recedes, theyíre
going to be feeling very hungry. Wake Ogondo and Zesiro."
Taji flew up to the monkeys and
pecked softly at their paws. Zesiro started to giggle. "Shhh, be very
quiet," she said, putting her wing to her beak. "Lions." She pointed to
The monkeys didnít utter a sound but
climbed down to Gamba. "Climb on my neck. Weíve got to get out of here
Gamba made his way through the
water. It was a slow task. He tried not to make splashing sounds as he
waded past the boulders and snoring lions. The monkeys were terrified.
They could see the lionís teeth and claws. "Those look sharp," Ogondo
whispered to his brother.
"Shhhhhh," Taji warned.
The further away they walked, the
shallower the water was. "Weíre climbing higher now," Gamba said. The
others looked down.
"I can see your knees now, Gamba,"
Ogondo said. They were far enough away from the lions that they could
speak. "Can lions swim?"
"You ask the silliest questions,"
"Well, do they?" Zesiro asked.
"They canít swim in water that deep
for more than a few seconds. Donít worry. Weíre safe now," Taji answered.
"I can see the mountain. Itís close.
Look how big it is. I donít think I want to play in the waterfalls though.
Iím tired of being wet," Ogondo frowned.
"Iím hungry. I want some of that
fruit that tastes like honey. What about bananas? Do they grow big? What
about coconuts?" Zesiro asked.
"The bananas are big, remember?
Gamba told us they were as big as our tails," Ogondo said.
Zesiro picked up his tail and looked
at it. "I canít wait to eat a banana that big," he said.
Gamba smirked. "What about Taji? She
doesnít eat fruit. Do they have bugs there and seeds?"
"They have butterflies," Ogondo
answered. "Gamba told us there were thousands of them. Taji, do you eat
butterflies? Theyíre very pretty."
"I try not to eat them. I prefer
grubs, snails, and beetles. Iím sure there will be plenty of food for us
all," Taji said.
An hour later they were out of the
mud. Gamba turned and looked back at the savanna. "What a mess. The entire
savanna is flooded. Weíll be safe here now."
Ogondo and Zesiro climbed down off
Gambaís neck. "It feels good to be on solid ground again," Zesiro smiled.
He ran about making all sorts of noise. Ogondo joined him.
Gamba walked on. Taji flew next to
him and the monkeys ran. "Wow! There it is. Weíre at the mountain," Ogondo
said. "Look how beautiful."
The four of them stood at the bottom
of the snow-capped mountain. It was just like Gamba had promised. The
fragrance of honeysuckle and jasmine greeted them as they walked into the
trees. Flowers of every color waved in the wind, as if saying hello.
"Weíre here! Hooray! Weíre here!" Zesiro shouted. He ran to the nearest
palm and pulled off a banana. "It is huge!" He held it up to his tail.
"Itís not as big as my tail, but close enough." He sat on the ground,
peeled the thick skin off and gobbled down the banana.
"Itís beautiful," Taji said.
The four of the animals stayed at
the base of the tall mountain. It protected them from the winds, from the
raging storms, and they were happy.