It’s “stupid-o’clock” and for the last couple of days the Fish-eagles that nest in the Sterculia in front of BehoBeho give their distinctive call at this ungodly hour……… it’s too early for me to wonder why.
It’s 04.45, still dark and still cold. Most people would love to have a temperature of 21˚C but being used to the high thirties I think it is “rather nippy”.
I curse myself for getting up this early but it is self-inflicted. I could have given myself another 45 minutes but I need at least two mugs of coffee (and my Sudoku) before I’m able to pretend that I’m human …..
I dip my head under the shower, get dressed, step in the car, back out of my parking-space, shift to first and turn on my lights only to see this big, grey blob on the road……..only meters away. I groan, this is all so BC!!……so, please go away!
It does, I sigh. And start my daily routine of preparing the breakfast-basket, getting the drinks sorted and then……… my quality time: half an hour of slow wake up with coffee and Sudoku and the rising sun.
In hindsight the Ellie might have been a sign for what was coming. In the afternoon I am booked for a walk. My clients are the Dericks, a Belgian family of three and Shirley Smith, an English lady.
From the “parade-ground” we turn right into the valley, there where the Fish-eagles nest, Elephant and Hippo roam. There are two hippo-pools down there, separated by a bend in the, now-almost-dry, river and we have a good look at one of those pools. All looks calm so I decide to sneak in between the two pools. Into the thick bush.
There is a spot where the ellie’s dig for water and if you are quiet you can sneak up and stand on the river bed and watch them. We are quietly heading towards this spot, through the bush, alert to any sound and alert to any “fat-shaped-object” (I hate hippos when on foot). We reach a fallen down tree and at the same moment I spot the curved shapes of female ellies. They have young and they are moving towards the water. I turn around to point them out to the team. Shirley, walking right behind me sees them but all of a sudden her face turns into something that reminds me of “Der Schrei” by Edvard Munch……. I turn back and see a Buffalo appearing from behind a bush and crossing our path only 7 meters in front of us, on its way towards water.
We stand absolutely still….. Medusa could not have done a better job. I’m wishing this “Dagga-Boy” would just keep moving without noticing us.
It looks our way.
I lift the rifle and release the bolt……………………………………..Clack!!
I pull the bolt back releasing a bullet from the magazine…….Clack!!
I chamber the bullet……………………………………………………….Clack!!
I load and lock……………………………………………………………….Clack!!!
Now, there is something distinctive about the sound of a pistol or in this case a rifle being “cocked”. I think everybody knows it even when never seen a gun before. Probably because we watched the A-Team or Miami Vice or something. (I do show my age here, don’t I?)
Anyway, the buffalo never saw any of these. And still I believe the cold, flat, metallic sound created a wall, invisible but recognized by the buffalo. And I did it deliberately slow emphasising every single “clack”. The buffalo turned our way and I could not hear my clients breathe. It looked our way as if studying this wall and all the time knowing it was pointed upon.
I spoke to it and for the second time that day I begged an animal: “please go away”
After what we all thought was a mighty long time Ol’ Dagga Boy turned and with a grunt ran into the direction it came from leaving us (and our wall) behind. The fallen tree provided us with a seat so, still wide-eyed, we sank down.
Although adrenaline-levels were high we had to remain quiet because the Ellies were still there and had moved closer to only 20 meters away. They were oblivious to what had just conspired and went about in their daily routine of breaking things and eating things and shaking things and dropping things.
Finally they moved into the river. We quietly moved forward to have a closer look. Unfortunately instead of having a sip they moved on and into the direction I had planned to go so instead of moving towards more open ground where we could ventilate our excitement we had to move around the herd, still in reasonable thick bush. Our nerves were tested again as a Bushbuck bolted out of the undergrowth but finally we reached higher and open ground and we could speak freely and everybody had his/her story to tell.
As we relaxed a bit and laughed our nerves away I proposed to walk towards that distinctive flat-bottomed-tree on the plain in front of BehoBeho. We all knew that there were three Buffalo Bulls lying in the shade and although I assured them I would keep a safe distance my team decided that a kilometre was quite enough…….. actually they did not want to see another Buffalo at the moment, “thank-you-very-much!! “.
So, we went on towards Christopher’s Baobab, the sunset and the well-earned G&T.
In light of my previous story I have to raise my hat for the Dericks (Eddie, Effie and Mindy) and Shirley Smith as no-body took off!
Ah, well, another day at the office.