May, 23 2013

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T RUN

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Safari

by Peter Allison / (extracted from chapter Bad Actors)

When you are training to be a guide you learn that the African bush is a much safer place than you might imagine. Once you have learned a few rules, you are less likely to get injured than a person in the city who faces traffic every day. Dealing with the dangerous animals becomes something as habitual as looking both ways when you cross a road.

What you also learn is that there are things you can do in the bush that are like crossing a busy road with your eyes shut and ears blocked. The first thing they teach you as a guide is that you never get between a lion and her cubs. It’s the second thing they teach you as well, just to reinforce it, and usually they reiterate it a third time for measure.

I’d forgotten to look both ways and Martina (lion) and her sisters, who I had seen ripping other animals to pieces on a number of occasions, were coming at me.

…………..

I took a step back.

They came again, bouncing once more from side to side, stopping closer to me than the time before. Again, the roar I gave was less than threatening. They back away, bellies low to the ground, their focus unwaveringly on me as mine was on them. When they stopped, tails twitching, I took a step back again. They charged.

Three times they came at me, their bouncing run impossible to track – yellow fur and a fury of teeth – as they homed in.

The fourth time they backed off, I stepped back again, getting another pace closer to the safety of the vehicle. This time when they came they came straight.

This is it, I thought, and gave maybe the only roar that I have ever managed that had some menace in it. They didn’t slow, and it took only a second before they were at me.

They ran straight past, close enough for me to reach out a hand and touch them, before I could even register that they weren’t going to hit me. All that was left was a hole in the bush they had plunged through and their pungent order as they had headed for the cubs they were protecting.

I wanted to sit down, but I did the right thing and continued slowly, shakily, backing away. At the vehicle I finally turned. Somehow all seven of the Japanese had squeezed onto the seat at the back of the vehicle (which is designed for three) to lean over and watch. Spiirubaagu had his video camera hanging loosely in his hand, lens cap on, a look of displeasure on his face.

As I staggered into my seat, wanting to cry, wanting to puke, wanting to laugh and scream, he spoke.

“I’m sorry, but I wasn’t able to get that the first time. Would you mind doing it again?”