March 13, 2011

Wish Me Luck

I have just entered a fantastic contest where the prize is writing a travel story on Turkey for the Rough Guide. Here is my tale of one of my African adventures entitled Spontaneous Events in the African Bush.

Sandwiched between two ex-747 British Airways pilots on this miniscule Cessna doesn’t reassure me as our former Rhodesian Bush War pilot, throws us into a nosedive. He swoops the plane up in time to align it mere feet above a galloping herd of dust covered elephants. Moving in unison, we become part of the thundering rhythm of this majestic tribe pounding the earth with a clear sense of purpose. Fear gives way to exhilaration as I embrace the exciting beginning to my African safari. Leaving the elephants behind, the plane teeters towards a dirt landing strip where impala gracefully make way for us as we bump along to a halt. I welcome the hot dry air that engulfs me as I firmly plant my feet on the rich red soil, glad to be reconnected to the earth.

A gregarious one-armed man with a beaming smile runs over to introduce himself as the owner of the lion sanctuary we came to visit. With genuine excitement he tells us if we hurry, we will make it to the wateringhole before dark. Speeding along in the open-air land rover, I feel a sense of freedom as Africa surrounds me, alive with intrigue, beauty, and mystery.

We arrive at the wateringhole as the sky glows orange and the trees begin to silhouette - a perfect backdrop to the gathering animals enjoying their evening ritual. We watch in awe, unaware that we are in the direct path of thirty odd elephants including an angry bull charging towards us, flapping his ears and rearing his trunk. I can’t understand why the driver isn’t whisking us out of here but instead has his head in the glove compartment. Panic sets in when I realize that the land rover has broken down and our fate has been entrusted to a piece of tin foil he is convinced will re-ignite the engine.

I can’t decide if I am more anxious about the proximity of the elephants, the emerging darkness or my pressing bladder. Thankfully, the elephants patiently walk around us and we are finally rescued 2 hours later.

The guesthouse lies across from the main lodge and is a welcome sight. As I head over to join the others for dinner, casually roaming in front of me is a prowling lioness on the loose! Only when I gather the courage to make a run for the lodge, do I realize the lioness is in fact the family dog, a huge golden lab.

The stars shine in the clear vast sky with more brilliance than I thought possible; the cool air tempered by the roaring campfire. I sink into the weathered armchair, reflecting upon the day’s adventure and the stillness of the bush. Just as I allow myself to relax, my host recounts the story of losing his arm to a lion, while in the background I hear the hippos snorting in the unknown darkness of the Zambezi River.

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