Sunday

Pardon my language but `HOLY Shit`!! Do I have a story for you but like most stories I must start from the beginning which brings us to March 1rst the day before the biggest scare of my life. The day before the fated day we woke up took a shower and got ready for our Mountain bike safari in Mashatu. Mashatu is a game reserve in the northurn Tuli block right near the borders of northern south Africa and south western Zim basically where all 3 countries meet. We`d picked up Geoff from the Gaborone airport the day before. Geoff is an adventure racer and has done many adventures that require mind over matter with great physical skill. He`s also a poll volter and living here in Botswana with World Spine Care which is a non profit organization with the mission to bring chiropratic care to people less fortunate. So Geoff is living here with his wife Sophie and son Liam and volunteering his time to get the organization going. This is their first project and their goal is to create chiropractic clinics around the world. Needless to say Geoff and family are great, wonderful people.


Since we were off on a mountain biking safari he gave both Jay and I a little tutorial on navigating a bike through sand and jumping over obstacles. I felt like a professional biker as he equipped me with clips which are special biking shoes that clip onto bike pedals. With clips you are better able to go faster and jump over branches, rocks and increase speed. On my practice run I had a lot of falls thankfully the sand was nice and soft. The thing about wearing clips is that one needs to be able to clip out quickly. Not having mastered this technical aspect stopping was challenging, my feet glued to my pedals I would slowly lean into the ground and fall with a thump. It made me wonder how things would be later in the afternoon when I would be riding through Mashatu with thorns on the ground which would not be as forgiving as sand. Our practice run of jumping over a stick, a 4 x 4 and followed by a brick was fun despite my falls.

Now I bring you closer to the story at hand which transpired a couple of hours ago. We arrived in Mashatu which is a game reserve and the savanah landscape is just beautiful. We are camped alongside the Limpopo river which separates South Africa from Botswana.

Before our first mountain bike safari ride Moosa our guide informed us of the rules; ride in single file, listen to my signals of stop, stay back, and quiet. We followed game trails, our legs pumping our bikes through sand, rocks and dry river beds. We saw loads of anteloppe, kudu, wildbeast, birds and lots of different trees and vegatation. Mashatu `land of giants` takes it`s name from Mashatu trees that are found everywhere in the game reserve. These trees are quite impressionable in size and pythons and leopards love to take refuge in their massive branches. Earlier that afternoon I had climbed the branches of the Mashatu treet that graced our campsite. Jo the main guide notified me of the existence of the mamba snakes that lived in the tree. I jumped off those branches quite fast.


On our biking safair I did fall many times and my mangled legs are proof of my mishaps into sand, branches and rocks. Geoff coached us on our mountain biking skills. I started getting more confident by doing bunny hops over branches and zooming down steep hills, pedalling fast through sand and climbing up inclines. I did have some moments of hesitation when some of these hills seemed just a little to steep but I make it through. Jay did fall into a thicket of bushes and we have in on video as proof.

Now for the meat of the story. While riding through the bush one needs to be aware of one`s surroundings. Moosa was a fantastic guide and noticed flickering tails, leaves rustling and movements between branches way before we ever noticed anything. It was a good thing that we had him along as I am sure something would have had us for dinner otherwise. This leads to our spotting of a heard of elephants through a thicket of trees. They were heading towards a small stream. We decided to ride onto the opposite side of the stream to hopefully see them play in the water, drink and do what elephants do. So we rode to the opposite side of the stream waiting for their arrival. They were hiding behind some bushes but we could hear them splashing as they crossed the water hole. Soon a bull`s massive presence came into view not but a few yards from where we stood. He assessed us with his beady little eye and returned behind the bushes and then reappeared on the other side. We took photos but I started to feel uneasy. I was a little too close to the massive beast. My heart rate increased and I could hear it jumping in my chest, baboom, baboom. Next thing you know our guide Moosa gives the sign of the hand that means `go`. We`d agitated our friend who no longer felt like a friend. Moosa`s instructions were go and stay tightly together. He didn`t have to tell me twice. I hopped onto my bike seat, elbows bent, legs pushing me forward as fast as I could go. The bull was running for us and he was running fast. For me there was no looking back only forward. I was being charged by an elephant and I knew that those stubby legs could run faster than I could pedal. He was but a 1right behind us when ahead I could see a dry river bed with soft sand. Shit! I had been falling into sand all morning, how was I going to make it accross without fish tailing and most likely falling. My mind screamed with fear. Mousa had previously said that when faced with a challenge one needs to lock their mind. So I locked my mind but my mind wasn`t locked enough because the minute my wheels hit the sand I fell on my left side. My right leg was stuck in my clip and in that moment the thought of the elephant trampling over me, making mince meat of my body was there in plain view of my imagination. Finally my clip came off and I noticed that both Jay and Geoff were standing holding their bikes and looking back to where the elephant had once been.

Moosa stood in a clearing gun in hand and 20 meters from his bike. Eventually he came to where we stood and indicated that we should stand under a nearby tree. We did as we were told with front wheels facing the opposite way from where the elephant had been coming. As we stood under the shade of the tree, Moosa stood his ground with gun in hand waiting to see if it was safe to retreive his bike. There was a chance that the bull hadn`t completely gone away. waiting Jay and Geof filled me in on the events of what happened while I was splayed in the sand trying to unclip my shoes.

Apparently when that monster came charging after us for 100 yards Moosa had decided that he was approaching to fast for comfort. Making the executive decision that things were getting out of hand he did what a good guide does and saved us. With no hesitation he flew off his bike and landed into a seamless run leaving his bike behind. A few meters away he turned simultaneously swinging his 403 rifle from his back and faced the bull. The elephant skidded to a dead stop at Moosa`s bike and Moosa stood a few meters away gun sitting on his shoulder witht the butt of the gun aimed between the elephant`s eyes. Fortunately no further action was required as the elephant did not go any further then the spinning wheels of Moosa`s bike. We stayed there for about 15 minutes making sure that the elephant had lost interest in us.

Later we stood by Moosa`s bike in the wide open and noticed the skid marks of the elephant`s legs and tusks as he had braced himself to a stop.

I was jostled, my heart beat in my chest at high speed, my legs and arms shook with adrenalin. I felt alive like never before. Since our dramatic incident we have been retelling the story and analysing the details. Moosa our guide says that out of all his elephant facings that topped them all. Jay`s retelling of the story is that he`d broken from the group and he tought the elephant was only going for him. Geoff says that he will never forget the look of that bull as he chased us and trumpeted head on towards us.

On our return we sat by the Limpopo river which separates South Africa and Botswana. We sat, chatted and watched our bush tv. An elephant became our main attraction. We watched him accross the river, walking the shore line, extending his trunk, twisting foliage around his trunk and shoving it into his mouth. He made us laugh when he embeded himself into the squishing mud and rubbed himself into the wet softness. It took him about an hour to walk the shoreline out of our vision. It was nice watching him from a distance. We all agreed to have a new respect for the pachyderm since our experience but a couple of hour s prior. One thing is for sure I do not get tired of watching the animals and their behavior in their environments.

That night we did a game drive with a safari vehicle. Our first sighting were about 20 voltures sitting in a tree. It wasn`t apparent at the moment but they were sitting there with a specific purpose. A few turns and dips in in the sandy road soon revealed their intent. We saw a lion lying under a tree, the late afternoon sun shining through his main highlighting his massive shape. He looked fat and happy and we figured that he had just had a meal. In the car we were able to get but 2 meters from the king of the wild. It was great to get so close and took great shots.

Later a few yards away we found the carcass of an anteloppe. It`s bare ribs sticking to the sky, eyes glazed over with flies buzzing around. Two lionesses layed near by as fat and happy as our lion friend. The vultures perched in the trees made sense as they were waiting for the lions to move camp and take their share of the kill.



The next evening we got to see leopards.

March 3rd, 2012

This morning when we left for our bike ride I felt nervous. I felt the vulnerability of the wild and in no way did I want to meet up with another elephant and I made sure to let our guide know that yesterday`s experience was enough for me in my lifetime. Thankfully our ride was uneventuful. We saw more giraffes, anteloppe, wildbeast, wart hogs, birds and more. I must admit that it`s pretty awesome to see wildlife while on bikes. Biking along as the anteloppes run and jump alongside us. We did hear the rumbling of elephants thorugh a thicket of trees but steered away from them. I became more and more comfortable riding my bike thorugh sand, steep hils and river beds.

I am looking forward to spring back in Canada. I have had a trip of a lifetime. I must admit that on my way here I felt a little trepidation. It was my first time in Africa and I heard many stories of the rawnes. My travels of the passed 3 weeks showed me that Botswana is a beautiful peaceful country with beautiful people. A few times I mentioned to some locals that I found them very nice, kind and helpful. I got a beautiful answer to my statement; `Botswana people are nice and kind and our nature is to help one another`. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this land of beautiful people with beautiful animals and awesome adventures.

Tomorrow Jay and Geoff will drive me from Mahalapye to Gabs where I will hop onto my flight to Johannesburg, London, Montreal and then back to Ottawa. I look forward to my return and giving Zoe and Owen a great big hug and spend those special moments cuddled in bed reading books and talking. I look forward to greeting daycare parents at the door and having conversations before we begin our days of work. I look forward to playing the guitar and singing songs with the children, cooking healthy food, teaching yoga and getting ready for Handmade Harvest on May 5ht. Basically I am looking forward to getting back to my life on 77 Anderson street because to be honest I really do love my life back home. I feel lucky on so many accounts and there is nothing that i need to change. I have enjoyed my travels and i look forward to my return. Life cannot get any better than this.






3 comments:

Karie said...

Wow. What a story. Can´t wait to see you. I will be back on the 14th!! glad you didn´t get trampled. xx

Anonymous said...

I have LOVED reading your stories of my new home land.
Hope we can cross paths before I fly back to Botswana this Sunday! sophie xx

7722c650-6c46-11e1-ac2a-000bcdcb5194 said...

Wow Annie. That was quite a tale. I loved reading of the joy your trip has brought, with the love of returning home too. Thanks for sharing. See you this summer I hope. Cheers and safe trip home. xo mm