Today I meant to write about a small, innocuous bird, but circumstances have overtaken me.
By this I mean I'm feeling too jittery to sit and think about anything with feathers (no offense to any ornithologists out there).
You see, this afternoon the dogs and I inadvertently strolled into the middle of a herd of elephants.
This has never happened to me before. Although I've met elephants on foot in the past, I've always been on 'elephant alert' (i.e. hyper-anxious and wary due to obvious elephant occupation) and have spotted the creatures before we were actually nose to... trunk.
Not today. Unfortunately, I'd been lulled into believing the wanderers had gone home. On Saturday, the main road leading back toward Kruger had been generously festooned with elephant droppings, and I'd made the obvious (erroneous) assumption.
It's easy to know where elephants have been by the massive, circular foot prints, broken branches, felled trees, lakes of urine, prodigious heaps of dung (100 kg or 220 lbs daily), overturned vehicles and trampled dog-walkers. They also pong (the elephants, and - come to think of it - trampled dog-walkers). It's much harder to know where they're going. Photo by Arno Meintjes.
What you don't want to meet while walking the dogs.
I was just slowing down to catch my breath (running is NOT my forte), and the dogs were gazing at me incredulously (they'd never seen me take flight before), when an elephant clambered up the bank on our left, and lumbered on to the track eight metres/yards ahead of us. We stopped running. We all stared. I thought, 'There's nothing I can do'. I didn't think about the trusty pepper spray in my pocket (which wouldn't reach an elephant's eyes; maybe its trunk-tip? On second thoughts, getting up the nose of an enraged elephant probably wouldn't help matters).
The elephant looked disgruntled, swinging back and forth as it shifted its weight from one foreleg to the other. It flapped its ears and then jogged across the track, tail curled in anxiety, to retreated up the hill to our right. It wasn't very big (as elephants go); in fact, it was only a youngster. A youngster with a Mum? Where was she?? I was starting to panic again, trying to check every nearby bush and boulder for rampaging matriarchs. The youngster was now walking parallel to the track but less than ten metres away from it. Figuring that he, at least, didn't appear belligerent, and fearing that his (highly protective?) Mum could burst forth at any moment, I dragged the dogs back into a run, hurtled down the track past the young elephant and raced on towards home.
Quite a workout and NOT something I want to do every day!
What you NEVER want to meet. Photo by Jussi Mononen who's a braver soul than I.
NB: in-focus images of charging elephants are as rare as hen's teeth.