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.