Friday, April 30, 2010

Caught With My Pants Down


I enjoyed a post over at Jinksy's the other day. It was an amusing poem about a Hippo, which put me in mind of an encounter of my own I'd once had with one
My first trip to Kenya was on our honeymoon, when, after a week in the Seychelles, we spent a further two weeks travelling on safari, through the beautiful plains of the Masai Mara.

We covered vast distances in a beaten up mini-van, driven by our wise, and ever patient guide, Lawrence.  We did not drive in a convoy, nor did he have any radio contact to summon help should we need it.  This was long before the days of mobile phones, and we were literally on our own between lodges.  Lawrence kept a loaded rifle with him at all times, which he assured us was only as a precaution.  As we were in a protected game reserve, I have no idea if this practise was actually legal, perhaps it was.


An experienced guide, he had a set route to take us over, including enough basic comfort stops to keep us hydrated, fed and able to relieve ourselves.  Did I say “basic”?  It often turned out the latter facility proved far less inviting than the lure of going it alone, behind the brush, at least there you could still breathe un-fetid air whilst your pants were down.

The Flamenco's in Lake Nakeru are a wonderful sight, thousands upon thousands of birds feed and thrive in and around it’s waters, but this day I found myself slightly distracted from the enjoyment, being as how I’d urgently found myself in the need of a pee.


Trouble was, there was little, if any, cover, and although the lake was sparsely populated by humans, modesty still prevented me from squatting to a “back-turned” audience comprising of my new husband, our guide, and the elderly couple we had in tow.


Ever the gentleman, hubby had a word in Lawrence’s ear, and he promptly loaded us back to the van, where he drove a few miles up-river, to a suitable growth of vegetation where I could take cover.

Ah, the relief!

Barely mid-way through, I raise my head – and – oh, for the love of God, find myself virtually nose-to-nose with an enormous Hippopotamus.  Now, Hippo’s may look cute from a distance, but they are deadly to cross.  Fiercely territorial at the best of times, this one also had her baby by her side, and she had her maw opened wide at me, exposing a ferocious array of bone-crunching teeth.

I prepared to meet my maker.


An ear-splitting shot rang out over my head.  Immediately behind my bum-exposed back, stood Lawrence, rifle locked and levelled, he was focused stock still, staring down the sights into the wide jaws of this giant, posturing mother.  Frozen where I squat, knickers around my ankles, I hardly dared breathe.

Lawrence shifted to point his rifle to the sky, releasing a second shot.  It worked.  Lumbering around, she slowly crashed through the underbrush, baby in tow, heading back to the the lake.

He later confided his rifle would have probably proved a pitiful match should she have decided to attack.  Besides, by then he was clean out of bullets!


Despite this narrow escape, before returning home, we made ourselves a promise to return to Africa one day, perhaps next time to take our future children along with us.  A couple of years back, we fulfilled that promise, and took our four off-spring on Safari there, to re-trace our footsteps.

An exceptional man  touched our lives over the course of that last trip, one we shall never forget.
Whilst there, our children were both thrilled and delighted to uncover the original old guest book, at the library in “Tree Tops”, which I’d long ago mistakenly signed, then crossed out,  in my maiden name.  Underneath, I’d entered my brand new, married one.

It felt strange to see that, after all those years.  The past merged into the present, I felt as if I were meeting my twenty-nine year old self again.


The future, which had seemed so certain then, was to map out so very differently from the one I'd had planned.  I felt an impossible urge to reach down through the years, to seek out and to reassure my younger self, tell her to keep hanging on in there and believing, because despite ALL of what was yet still to come, it  has eventually come out alright(ish) in the end.


Charlene said...

WOW that is a great story.

Leslie: said...

Riveting! Cannot imagine the shock of looking up at those teeth. Good thing Lawrence was there. whew!

Chantel said...

The more I learn about you, the more I wish you were my neighbor.

Simple as that.

Akelamalu said...

What a heartstopping moment that must have been!

I love it that you returned and found the guestbook you signed as a newlywed - how romantic. :)

Wasn't Tree Tops where the Queen learned of her father's (the king) death and her succession to the throne?

Michelle H. said...

Great story and a wonderful trip through your photos of Kenya. The memories you have: excitement, romance, danger. It almost feels like a movie.


you lived my dream..sigh*

TechnoBabe said...

A hippopotamus would be enough to cause you have to squat again!! The honeymoon sounds wonderful though and what a great present to your family to take all children with you on a safari.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

What an incredible story! You have lived such a full life! I'm in awe! So much writing material! And these photos are absolutely fantastic! This is a fabulous post...I would not have missed it for the world! Love, Janine XO

Milton said...

Great tale :). Bit of a heart stopping moment that - pants down and face-to-face with Mummy hippo! Fabby pix and I loved the tale about the tour guide. You're a really good story teller.

Milt x

billy pilgrim said...

wow, i haven't seen reggie perrin's mother-in-law in ages.

Anonymous said...

Be careful where you "mark your territory" others may have already staked their claim.

Scott from Oregon said...

I just had the rhinovirus, so I can totally relate!!

Shrinky said...

Cheers Charlene, it was quite an adventure (smile).

Hi Leslie, later that week, whilst we were sipping cocktails back at the lodge one evening, four guides ran to their Jeep brandishing their rifles, they were part of a search party looking for two missing tourists who had decided to take a "do-it-alone" safari. We found out the following morning they had been killed, mauled and half eaten!

Chantel, I would be happy to swap you over for mine, anyday (hugs)!

Yes Ake, it was! Princess Elizabeth was staying there when she received the news her father had died, and she was to be queen. It's an amazing place, nestled and built into the trees, above a watering hole. We stayed up all night watching the animals come to drink below - and were lucky enough to spot a white rhino. On our return visit, we were told there were no longer any white rhino's left in the area, they had been moved in an effort to conserve the species.

I guess the older we get, Michelle, the more memories and adventures we experience along the way. But given the choice, I think I'd still stick with youth, any day (wink)!

Ah Jackie, just wait til Anthony Banderos finds you, he'll whisk you there in no time!

Yeah TechnoBabe, it was pretty special to make that second pilgrimage back there (smile).

I've been very blessed, Janine, but not all my adventures have ended quite so well, believe me!

Aw, thanks Milton, and for taking the time to read about Kikoo, he was a pretty amazing guy, wasn't he?

Hey Billy, they brought out a new series of that this year, with Matin Clunes in the starring role - has it reached your shores yet? Despite all the fears it would be a poor imitation of the original, it turned out realy well!

Scott, I have no idea what rhinovirus is, but it sounds awful - I trust you are fully recovered by now?

Fen said...

HA HA thrilling and scary at the same time, awesome story. I've never been to Africa, I hope to some day.

Paul C said...

Riveting story like out of the movies...

Shrinky said...

Hi Fen, I did a fair amount of travelling before the children came along, including a wonderful visit to your own continent, which I fell head-over-heels in love with! But I still haven't been to India, Russia or to China yet - they are on my check-list, I do still hope to make it there, one day..

Hello Paul, it feels it happened another lifetime ago, now (sigh).

Skunkfeathers said...

I'd a thought that the "pause that refreshes" would have had a sudden onset of "needs repeating" coming mug to mug widda tweaked hippo.

But then, I chase tornadic thunderstorms, and occasionally encounter an "open maw" of my own.

At any rate, a great story, and other than one 'relieving' moment, a great memory.

laughingwolf said...

lucky indeed!

more people are killed each year by hippos than by lions and elephants combined!

Postman said...

Now THERE'S a story for the grandkids. Clever last line, too...

Nancy said...

Lovely photos and an amazing story!

Shrinky said...

Hi Skunk, oh wow, you a storm-chaser? Crikey, that must really be something to get the old heart pumping!

Is that so, Laughingwolf? I had no idea - yikes! Guess I was even luckier than I realised, then..

Cheers Postman, funny thing is, I'd all but forgotten about the encounter, up until I saw Jinsky's post!

Thanks Nancy, I'm glad I am still here to tell you the tale (smile).

Sling said...

Your photos are absolutely amazing!
The tale of your Hippo encounter seems humorous now,but Holy Crap!..Hippos are the most dangerous animals to humans in Africa..It must have been terrifying.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Just had to stop by one more time while this post is still up! Such spectacular photos! I have to enjoy them one more time! Love you so much! One of these days, I'm gonna get to your side of the pond again...and you and I will cause some serious trouble in town ;-) Love you,Janine XO

Anonymous said...

ah-hum (clearing throat) You skipped over my comment. Have you pulled your pants up yet?

secret agent woman said...

I vividly remember having to take a potty break by the river on the Serengeti, keeping a wary eye on the hipppos and crocs. It's an adventure, all rught!

SJ said...

I wonder what the hippo has to say about that encounter.

Shrinky said...

Sling, ignorance, in this case, was bliss - I knew I was in trouble, but had no idea just how much (grin)!

OMG, Janine, now wouldn't that be something? Do you really think you will? How long is it since you were last here? I'd love for you to come and visit the fam (grin)! Just holler!

Oh Chewy-Pie, I am so sorry, what on earth was I thinking - I'd never overlook you on purpose, but this you know (huggles), I hereby stand corrected! And, um, I gave up on pants years ago - wink..

Hi there Secret Agent, wouldn't it be funny if we were there on the same safari together, at the time? Stranger things have happened!

SJ, what ever he wants to is fine by me, I'm not about to debate anything he says..!

Land of shimp said...

I think TechnoBabe got it right, at least you were in the correct position to have that encounter, as that is likely the position you'd need to assume anyway.

I know a fair number of people who have been to Africa, to the last, they all have a story about Hippos and peeing. No kidding. Evidently if you are on safari and desperately wish to see a Hippo? Cop a squat. Works like a charm, from what I can tell.

Another friend taught me the "Scary, scary Hippos!" song she used to sing, every night as she tried to find her way to the "pee tent" (and doesn't that sound charming).

I asked her if it ever occurred to her that singing the Scary Hippo song was what was attracting them ;-)

Glad you survived your Hippo encounter, and yes, they are massive, and not all that adorable up close. Evidently they can be quite lethal. I'm glad you lived to pee another day!

R. Ramesh said...

wow..awesome blog..congrats friend:)

Hilary said...

Yikes, Shrinky! What a great story and wonderful photos. I'm sure glad though that we're not hearing about this hippopotamus posthumously. (Say that three times fast!)

simon said...

great post.. yes life rarely turns out how we plan it....

Shrinky said...

Hello R. Ramesh, how nice of you to pop by, thank you for your lovely comment!

Ha! Yes Hilary, that's quite a mouthful.. and um, you are not half as glad as I am (grin)!

Hi Simon, at least it keeps it interesting, eh?

Suldog said...

Wonderful tale, Shrinky. And great photos to go with it.

Did you ever read my account of having eaten a hippopotamus? Perhaps it was the one who terrorized you, and you can take some solace in the fact that she got her comeuppance.

Shrinky said...

Oh Jim, that post is just too funny for words, I'm still laughing - thanks for the link. I am sure more readers would apprecieate a viewing, it's too good not to re-post!

slommler said...

Beautiful story! I just can't imagine how you would feel looking into that wide maw! I wouldn't have to pee any longer; I know that! What a terrifying encounter and then to have someone shooting around you! Oh my!!!
And how wonderful that you could literally share this experience with your children. Very cool!
Congrats on your POTW

järnebrand said...

Hippos look kinda cute from a distance, I think, but I would be terrified if I faced one up close... No hippos here in Sweden except for in zoos though... :)
Loved your post. Gorgeous pics!
Hugs/ Jo.

Brian Miller said...

oh what an amazing story....i would love to go on safari...the close up with the hippo was a bit much but...smiles

congrats ont he POTW!

Jingle said...

awesome lines.
I wish I can go on the safari.
I used to watch kids do it on PBS TV show.

Shrinky said...

Slommier, it did realise a dream to re-visit there with our children (smile). Post of the Week? Oh my, I had no idea!

Hi Jo, no, we have no hippo's in our river, either (thank goodness)! Thank you.

Haha, Brian, I think the encounter with a hippo is optional (wink)!

Hi Jingle, thanks for stopping by. I hope you may make it there still, one day, eh?

Cricket said...

Great post and congratulations on the potw.

I've spent 90% of my life within 50 miles of Boston, and 50% of that within walking distance of my house. It's always fascinating to hear the stories of people who do not live that way.

On the other hand, I've never been threatened by an angry hippo - good or bad, I guess, depending on how you look at it.

I suppose that having this happen while you were already squatting, pants down, might have spared you another indignity of sorts ;-)

R. said...

I'm guessing when you returned to Africa and retraced your steps, there must have been the now grown Hippo (ie the former cub), hiding behind the bushes, pointing you to his/her friend, saying "You won't believe what happened the last time I saw her! She scared mommy away!", the other one must be nodding saying "WOW!"

Great Post!

Denise said...

What a fantastic story, along with some amazing photographs. Enjoyed your post very much, thank you!

Land of shimp said...

Stopping back by to say congratulations on the post of the week mention over at Hilary's blog, Shrinky!

And to kick blogger in the shins, because it ate my first comment this morning.

billy pilgrim said...

i haven't seen the new series. it was c.j. that cracked me up in the old series.

PhilipH said...

Quality AND quantity would be my take on this exceptionally engaging post.

Superb photos and words to match.

Daryl said...

Congrats on the POTW mention from Hilary

deb said...

congrats on the POTW,

this is such an incredible and moving story.

I'm so struck by the adventure... so nice to "meet" you and look forward to reading more here.

Matt Conlon said...

Love hippos. One of my first dates with my now wife many years ago, we sat at my place and watched a hippo national geographic. Any creature that can bite an allegator in half is worthy of respect in my book.

Jingle said...

thanks for the beautiful job!
please visit me via the link for new meme or awards.
thank you for following!

Life with Kaishon said...

This post was so interesting. Each paragraph and picture opened a new surprise. Well written for certain.

LadyFi said...

Amazing photos - and wow! What a story!

Joanna Jenkins said...

I. LOVE. THIS. POST! Awesome job--so well told. My knees were shaking for you.

Joanna Jenkins said...

PS Congrats on Hilary's Post Of The Week Mention! Woo-hoo! Well done.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! Its a good thing you'd already gone pee or you would have piddled in your unders! lol

Shrinky said...

Billy, they updated the series to set it in present day, and Jack Dee (from memory, I think it was him) played the CJ character - I'm sure you could catch a clip on youtube..?

Hi Phillip, how lovely to see you again! Aw, such kind words, thank you my friend.

Shrinky said...

Cricket, I rather envy folk who live and work in the place they were raised, the sense of belonging and deep roots must be wonderful - whenever I visit with a dear friend of mine, I see all the support, close family, and friends she has known all her life, and think she is truly blessed!

R, oh, what a wonderful thought, too funny (still laughing), such a thought! Thanks for stopping by.

Hi Denise, nice to see you in here! It's strange how you forget somethings - it had clean slipped off my mind up until I read Jinksy's post.

Oh Shimp, I HATE when that happens - thanks for taking the trouble to come back and try again!

Cheers Daryl, thanks for popping over.

Hi Deb, how nice to make your acquaintance, thanks for coming by (smile).

Gee Matt, that sounds one hell of a romantic first date (giggle). Can they really snap an aligator in half? Sheesh!

Shrinky said...

Hi Jingle, you are very welcome.

Hello, welcome back, Life with Kaishon, good to see you again!

Hello LadyFi, you are very kind (smile) - thanks for the encouraging words.

Welcome home, Joanna, hope you had a great trip? Yeah, it sure was a heart stopping moment or two..

Blue Zoo, I'm surprised I didn't crap myself, too!

imbeingheldhostage said...

You tell such a great adventure story!
I'm over here a lot Shrinky, but in my limited time I usually read and run-- sometimes I read and come back to finish. I'm reading about Kikoo now :-) Didn't want you to think I had turned lurker.

Steve Gravano said...

What a great adventure story and to be able to visit a second time is a blessing. Love the photos too!

Shrinky said...

aw, life is like that, imbeingheldhostage, it happens that way for all us at times! It's great to see you again, I've kind of been dragging my heels too, with my blog visits as of late (cringe)..

Hey Steve, how nice to make your acquaintance! Yes, the second visit realised a dream for us (smile).

Anna said...

Shrinky this is very inspiring story, and boy the encounter with the hippo. My husband and me, we said we will be back to Greece after our honeymoon, but it didn't happen yet, and with Matthew I don't think it will happen for another 10 years. But I would love to travel to Africa like you did, may be I can convince him, lol, which may be impossible, lol. Anna :)

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

pants down! hehehehe!
Wat a good post!

Shrinky said...

Oh Anna, I am sure you will return one day, when your Matthew is old enough to remember it (we waited until our youngest was 11 for this pilgrimage). You have oodles of time on your side!

Aw Bob, I might have guessed that would catch your funny bone (giggle)!