The bush changes the way you look at things. You learn quickly that the art of spotting animals is to look through the bush rather than at it. I got really good at spotting animals… never mind that they were usually of the gray, stony, lifeless persuasion. Okay so they were rocks, I got really good at spotting rocks… have your laugh, I don’t mind, but when you’re in the bush, you’ll see just how difficult it can be. Surprisingly, one of the best times to spot animals is after dark. One night our driver, and friend of the Stuyvie’s family, Stan, took us for “sundowners”. Basically you go on a late afternoon game drive and just before sunset you find a nice hill with a view and have some snacks and drinks (…a bit eerie because you’re just out there in the bush with the possibility of any number of animals milling about). After our sundowners we broke out the big flood lamps. You hold them at about chin level and scan the horizon with them in quick sweeps. You wouldn’t think you’d see much since it’s dark and you’re scanning so quickly as you’re driving past, but the light reflects so well off the animals’ eyes, that they just jump out at you. Apparently you can tell the animal by the color reflection: orange, green, white, etc. Although don’t ask me now which animal was which color, I couldn’t keep them straight when we were actually out there. It was all well and good until the lamp batteries died and we were at the mercy of the jeep’s headlights… that’s the definition of creepy. We lived through it though…. obviously.
There was one particular time during a game drive when I was pretty sure we wouldn’t make it out alive…. it was on our way to have our sundowners and we had found some lion tracks that we decided to investigate. We turned down a road leading toward an impressively sized hill when Stan announced, “people don’t really drive on this road anymore, they’re too scared of it.” Stan was the man, he’d lived and worked in the bush for 17 years, his life was the game reserve, so I wasn’t too nervous until we found ourselves stuck in a small dried up rivulet big enough only for one tire that was spinning in vain, trying to push us out. Being stuck in a rut is always somewhat of a nuisance but lets add to this that we’re following lion tracks, we’re nowhere near help of any kind, and we’re in an open air game vehicle. I kept my cool, Stan was the man after all, and before too long he’d cleverly maneuvered us out of it (or rather he beat the gear and clutch into submission). Our relief didn’t last long. Instantly we found ourselves in a deeper rut at what seemed like a 120 degree angle (but it was probably more like 85 or 90 degrees).
There were only two options: we’d be stuck, spinning our tires bare for the foreseeable future, or we’d flip over being pinned underneath. I have a good imagination, so you can just guess what was going through my mind as we tried harder and harder to get out and found ourselves closer and closer to the 180 degree mark. The best case scenario was that the jeep would flip over pinning my arm between the rocks and the jeep. The lions would smell my blood and come to feast, but I would slay the lion (reluctantly, of course, he is king of the beasts, and such a magnificent creature, after all). Then I’d use one of his sharp teeth to saw my arm off and free myself from the wreckage, and summon the remaining adrenaline to lift the jeep off the rest of my companions. This was the best case scenario, so you can imagine what the worst case would be. I didn’t, but you can.
Obviously by reading this blog, you know that I lived to tell about it, what you don’t know is whether I had to type this with one hand because the other was still out in the bush somewhere cut off by a lion’s tooth, waiting to decompose or be eaten then carried off by dung beetles. …. Regardless, it was an absolutely amazing few days at the bush house. I saw so much and learned so much like how to spot the elephant pudding plant, what a potato tree smells like, why those yellow trees were called fever trees*, what a peacock sounds like**, how long a hippo can stay underwater***, and the various names of groups of animals. For example, did you know that a group of giraffes is called a journey of giraffes? Or that it’s a troop of buffalo, a raft of hippos, a dazzle of zebra, a coalition of cheetahs or a confusion of guinea fowl? Or my favourite: an implausibility of wildebeests, so named because of how many there are together when they migrate, although it’s kind of silly to point out those five wildebeests to your friend and say, “Hey look! It’s an implausibility of wildebeests!!!”…. awkward. So what do you call a group of way too many words in a blog?? An unreadability of words. So I’ll stop here.
*It’s called a fever tree because people would go to the river where the trees mostly grew and ended up getting the yellow powder on them. When they got fevers soon after, they blamed the powder. They didn’t know it was those nasty mozzies eating their blooooooood. Now you know.
**be warned, peacocks are quite annoying…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKx58Tftl0Y …. you were warned
***a hippo can stay underwater for 15 minutes. But sources varry on that information. Google it.