For weekend reading I thought I would tell you a short story, just a bit longer than my usual seventeen syllables. This is a true story about elephants and how they taught me a “tiny lesson”.
It was a nice December morning in Africa, more exactly in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. A good friend from Sweden had come to visit us and we decided to go on a safari over the weekend to show her the beauty of the wild. We used to drive ourselves in our sturdy SUV and usually I would be the “safari driver” – so also this morning.
After an early breakfast at the lodge, we set out into the wild to spot some animals. Our friend was particularly interested in seeing elephants. We knew they were plentiful in this particular park because big herds had moved in from neighboring Rwanda where a conflict was raging at the time.
We drove quite a while, from the south to the north of the park, first on a narrow gravel road and then followed a small trail hardly distinguishable in the tall grass. Suddenly we saw elephants crossing the trail in a distance. We got a bit closer, then stopped and idled. We watched in awe as a huge herd, probably 50-60 elephants crossed our path from a sparsely wooded meadow on the right to a grassy opening on the left. Everybody was there, from the huge elders to the small cuties. We watched and filmed the rare sight at a safe distance. Needless to say our friend was excited!
After about half an hour, we could see the heard had settled to eat at the far end of the grassy area. Only two adults were still on the right of our trail, busy eating from trees at the far end of the meadow. I quickly scanned the situation and decided it was time for us to continue our journey. I shifted to the first gear and slowly, quietly started moving towards the point where they had crossed the trail. Everyone continued to film and observe the herd. We were doing fine, none of the elephants had taken notice of us. Or so we thought.
Suddenly we heard a high-pitched alarm. I turned my head to the right and saw a huge elephant belly right next to our truck! A belly, not a butt or a head! The trunk making the noise was high above our vehicle, the front legs right above our heads! The matriarch had been managing the herd’s crossing from behind some tall and dense shrubbery next to the trail. And she had remained behind… waiting for the two latecomers to get their act together. That made sense. But for us my hasty decision resulted in a surprise that could easily have turned deadly.
As I am telling this story now, you already know the outcome. Metal to the pedal, everyone tumbled around in the truck, we all screamed, the video camera hit the roof…but we made it. We now have a reminder of this adventure – with the alarm sound, elephant belly, our screams and all – on DVD. But the truth to be told, I rather watch the latter part of this DVD filmed back at the lodge, where we met this charming young man.
I have thought about this small incident afterwards. I now know why I definitely prefer to see an elephant’s butt rather than her belly. I also learned a lesson, ever so tiny: I’ve got to get my facts right before leaping into a decision. Shooting from the hip might sometimes prove deadly.
Have a great weekend everyone – may your adventures be just a shade safer.