2 October 2007 (South Africa)
No Africa without wildlife. Or better said; quasi-wildlife, because in this part of the continent most of the wildlife lives in parks. Large parks, okay. But still parks. Gated communities for animals.
There are many parks with escorted wildlife trips, called game drives. Sometimes you can have bad luck and see no animal at all and another day you can see them waiting for you in ques.
The park we visited is burned every few years (by natures law) and so there is not much bush. That means that the animals are always easy to find, but also the whole area isn’t very photogenic. It would be nice if the tourist had the assumption the chauffeur was driving this route for the first time in his life, and occasionally jumped out of the car to clear out a free path with a machete.
But in real … you can see the long and winding road in front of you, draped over the empty hills.
The area with the lions was extra fenced (a fenced ring inside the fenced park), because otherwise they’ll hunt and eat all the other animals in the park. The very open truck entered the electric fenced area and of course the tourists obediently have to sit on their seats, not allowed to make strange movements. The chauffeur parked the front of the truck against the inner fence.
On the left and the right side lions were lying around the truck, approximately at 4 meters distance.
If they are willing to kill us, they could do it now.
Once the driver has done his talk and we were allowed to click our cameras, the animals moved a little towards the truck. They are spoiled because once a week they get served a delicious sheep, so we didn’t need to be afraid that they were hungry. To encourage the lions to do some work-out, the sheep meat is not offered in ready-to-eat pieces, but tied behind a car and dragged around, so the lions needs to come off their asses to rip a piece.
Still -probably out of a kind of deep instinct- I didn’t look into their eyes when they look at me. It could touch an aggressive nerve.
If the chauffeur turns on the engine again, he isn’t able to get the gear lever in reverse. That’s tricky, because that is the only way back when parked the nose against the fence …
He is trying a couple of minutes and I noticed his face is turning red. By the time the chauffeur triumphed, one of the lions curled up right behind the truck, not planning to move an inch.
At most the chauffeur can drive in reverse for 1 metre and then needs to stop to prevent the lion getting nasty thoughts.
There is a small piece of space to manoeuvre between the (electric!) fence, the rear-lion, the right-lion and a slippery trench. Very slowly the truck got turned, until the co-driver said: “Oh ………. we have a flat tire.
Obviously, this would be a good time to stop this blog … but of course you realize (after a day or so) that I have written the above text being alive.
So okay, with the flat tire we drove back in slow motion on a road full of potholes and bumps. In the meanwhile, the truck started to hang dangerously lopsided and the co-driver called for help. The lions felt that something unusual was going on and followed the vehicle on a ‘very inappropriately distance’. By keep driving the flat tire could get of the rim and the loose rubber could block the wheels.
But, another truck came to save us.
He parked tightly along our truck so we safely could step over into the other one.
And so … we were not eaten!