To make following this series easier, I’ve added a new page. Click on “Contents” (above) to look back at earlier safari posts.
African Safari – Part Eight
Call it juju or voodoo, call it witchcraft or magic. Wherever we went in Botswana, there it was — Magic — weaving around us like silken thread, twining gently. Our first day in Linyati Camp, that feathery fiber became a three-ply twist waiting to be woven into something extra-special.
At breakfast, Guide Russell rubbed his hands together excitedly. “We are going to see a Cape Buffalo stampede this morning,” he said. Safari coordinator Kate giggled. He made it sound as if she’d orchestrated a stampede for our entertainment. “Something spooked a large herd further along the river,” he said, “and they’re coming our way.” Whoa-a! Driving towards a large herd of what many consider the most dangerous animals in Africa made me want to linger over coffee. But our guide was dauntless.
As always, Russell steered the Range Rover along a “road” only he could see. Suddenly, he turned the engine off, coasted to a stop, and held up his hand. What? Was the stampede upon us? Oddly, the only sound was…snoring? He tipped his head to the left, his grin, wide, his eyebrows, question marks.
Three juvenile elephants lay on their sides, layered, like apple slices arranged on a plate. The first was propped against a small termite mound as if it were a pillow, the second used the first as its cushion, and the third rested against the second. And, yes, they were snoring, loudly. Unusual enough to see an elephant reclining — they lean against trees to sleep because their weight would crush their organs if they were to lie down — but these guys were piled like puppies.
Magic wove a blanket: the threesome never budged.
We continued towards the impending stampede. When Russell stopped abruptly again and motioned us to climb down and stand close. He pointed to the river. We were no more than a few giant steps away from three glaring hippos.
Hippos, like Cape Buffalo, are among the most dangerous animals on the continent, well, apart from human animals! “How do we know they won’t stampede before the buffalo do?” I whispered.
“We’re safe,” Russell said, “they have poor eyesight. The brush hides us.” With that he checked his rifle and beckoned us to follow single file. Camp assistant and jokester Jinx, straight-faced for once, was at the rear.
Soon billows of dust annouced the buffalo. “Wow!” Russell said, “hundreds!” He was as thrilled as if this were his first-ever sighting.
They were about fifty yards away when they suddenly veered hard right as if at a turn signal. Those black, fifteen-hundred pound bovines with their potentially lethal, yard-wide horns headed further inland. We ate their dust as they thundered past.
Russell started walking briskly, parallel to the animals’ path, in hopes we’d find them grazing. We hadn’t gone far when he stopped suddenly and I, who adhered strictly to his close-single-file rule, ran right into him. The other six were dominos behind me. Jinx cackled softly. We were in a sandy clearing under a large spreading tree, and we were not alone. An enormous male hippo, maybe as weighty as three tons and eleven feet nose-to-tail, stood there, sound asleep.
Had Magic woven two nap-time blankies?
Hippos, like Cape Buffalo, rarely venture very far from water — this one was a mile away — nor do they sleep in the open, and certainly not in the heat of the day. We watched for a while then tiptoed wide around him to continue stalking the buffalo.
We trudged five miles through deep gray sand and never found them, though we did find zebras milling nervously. Their “voice” is the bark of a yappy little dog, not what I expected, but their group name, “dazzle,” is perfect.
We were back at camp for a sumptuous lunch prepared by “Precious” Pauline, her one helper, and Kate. Afterwards, we sat around the table a long time, digesting the day’s adventures. Hindsight told us the morning was relatively low key, but the potential for danger and the difficult walk through deep sand were exhausting.
Soon, Kate shooed all of us to our tents to nap, while Russell did what he did most afternoons: he went for a run with his rifle on his back and a cold towel around his neck.
For once, I slept. Good thing, because the evening brought more excitement than I could have ever dreamed of.
~ • ~
…how sorry she felt for white people, who couldn’t do any of this (sit talking with friends and growing melons) and who were always dashing around and worrying themselves over things that were going to happen anyway. What use was it having all the money if you could never sit still or just watch your cattle, and yet they did not know it. Every so often you met a white person who understood, who realized how things really were; but these people were few and far between and the other white people often treated them with suspicion.”
— Precious Ramotwse, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.