Before I came on this trip, a few people asked if I was at all scared. I answered, not entirely truthfully, no. I always get a bit nervous before camping in the wild.
This is my fifth time camping in the bush and, true to Ralph’s view that is more dangerous being near humans or driving a car than camping with wild animals, we have never been in any remotely dangerous situation, let alone been hurt by animals. However I do have a primal fearfulness, triggered by a combination of feeling out of control and the possibility of being eaten (figuratively or literally).
So I found myself staring into the dark on our first night sleeping by the Chobe River in Ihaha, Botswana, scared out of my wits.
It started with the sound of grumpy elephants, trumpeting close by. The material of the tent felt a pathetically thin skin. What if the elephants came stumbling over us? I knew it never happens…well THAT’S why we’re going to make the front page of the Botswana Times (I do actually visualise this kind of detail). But the elephant noise grew fainter. Dayenu.
Then the rain came bucketing down. Lightning flashed, illuminating my small family, sleeping. Nearby lightning + wet, leaking tent. I resolved to move us all to the car should the lightning zapped any closer, which it didn’t. Dayenu.
I actually laughed when I heard the lions outside. It is a curiously beautiful noise to hear at night, normally. But on this night I forgot that lions have never entered a closed tent. The lions moved on. Dayenu.
And then came the buzz of the mosquito. The $1000 of anti-malaria pills seemed badly spent as I fixated on the 2% of cases against which the medicine is not effective. I smacked myself in the face (try it, it’s fun!) and killed the perching mosquito. Dayenu.
Between the trumpeting, rain and thunder, lions and buzzing I heard the sound of a car – unusual in the middle of the night in the bush. Ralph went to investigate. He came back, looking worried. It was the police outside, there to protect us. Against animals? Ralph had asked, at which they laughed. No – against people. Across the river in Namibia, poachers had been crossing over at night to steal in attacks against campers.
Small comfort to Ralph that he’s right, humans are the most dangerous animal by far.