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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: -15.1305, 25.7849
Early Sunday morning was chilly in the still dark of 5AM. I thought about getting up, but it felt almost cold outside of the blankets. So I stayed in the warm bed under the snug duvet for another hour until it became impossible to lie there any longer. During the night I had heard a crashing through the bushes immediately beside my cabin, followed by a large splash into the river --only a few feet away; a hippo had brushed right by! Even though I am usually an avid night-walker in the woods, and routinely use a red cover for my flashlight so as not to disturb wildlife or anyone's night vision, no one at OAT had mentioned bringing along a red cover for our flashlights. So, with only a relatively powerful small LED flashlight at hand, I certainly did not want to look outside my cabin or in any way possibly disturb this most dangerous beast, so I stayed in bed, listening. No more hippos passed by.
And on Saturday as I was walking up to high tea (yes, we are served high tea each afternoon in the bush, in the wilderness of Africa), I was stopped in my tracks (literally, although the morning's mud was drying out), by two warthogs grazing by the steps of a neighbor's cabin. Trying to remember what our guides said to do in such a confrontation, I stood there watching them as they observed me, knowing that I couldn't outrun them, and that warthogs have big, sharp, pointy tusks. Remembering once when our family was hiking near Tucson, Arizona, in vast, dry canyons, I had seen the tracks of javelinas, highly dangerous animals and relatives of warthogs. Back then I had insisted that my family make a hasty retreat, and find somewhere else to hike. And so we did. But here I was, alone, maybe only an eighth of a mile from the main hall, but 7 or 8 feet away from two warthogs. I didn't run, but backed up slowly, and walked seemingly calmly back to my cabin, thinking that our group (of humans) in the hall would just think I did not want to participate in the afternoon's activity, so no one would come to check on my whereabouts. This situation was mine to deal with on my own. And I was also fervently hoping that the warthogs wouldn't follow me. The dilemma was resolved by the warthogs; they walked past my cabin, heading towards one further along the path, so, slowly and carefully, looking back frequently, I made my way very quietly to the main hall. Safety! My heart was beating very fast, but potential danger had been averted. I would try to stay with other people after this. Perhaps there is safely in numbers, especially in the bush.
One's reaction to perceived danger is elemental. Some of us retreat into ourselves, quietly thinking of how to handle the situation, what our options are or might be; others may react by screaming or running away; some freeze, and others react by trying to harm or kill the threatening animal or person. Not since I was five years old and ran away from a dog that was chasing me, even though my father was calling, telling me not to run (and saved me by picking me up, out of the reach of those dangerous teeth), have I reacted in such a precipitous manner. A quick escape is not always the best answer.
When I told friends and our guides what had happened they said that these two warthogs were frequent residents of Lufupa Camp; their names were Lulu and George. They would not bother anyone as long as someone was not blocking their path, so I could have simply continued on my way when I saw them. But now knowing this at the time, apparently I did the exactly right thing. Still, after hearing hippos and lions and other unidentifiable wild animals closeby in the night, it is strange to think that wild warthogs might be expected and welcomed residents at our beautiful camp. To me it was still a close call.
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