(Photo: Anje Rautenbach)
Back in the early 90s, when PT shorts and vellies with red laces was appropriate attire for a South African child in the bush, I spent game drive after game drive in the back seat peeking out of the window with binoculars and ticked off sightings in one of those Kruger activity books, while my brother asked water-related questions like, “Dad, how deep is that river?” or “Dad, how deep is that dam?” and my mother had her old Ricoh film camera around her neck as she waited for that one perfect shot (that we only saw in an album a month later).
As the years and game drives went by I observed the position of my father in the driving seat more and more; while someone else clicked and digitally snapped that one perfect shot in the pool of 128-not-so-perfect-shots he always stayed alert, rotated his eyes from mirror to mirror and still somehow managed to enjoy the sighting (which he most likely spotted first).
The older I got – and the more I’ve found myself in the same seat on a game drive – I’ve realised that going on a self-guided game drive while you are in the driver’s seat is completely different than just tagging along in the passenger seat or shouting sightings and directions from the back or sitting up high in the seat of comfort while an experienced game ranger navigates his way through the wilderness.
I still remember vividly my first time sitting in the driver’s seat in Kruger National Park. It made all the other game drive experiences in the driving seat in other national parks look like kindergarten. The distances between A and B were much longer, the animals had a bigger hint of moodiness from time to time (and they also looked bigger) and there was a much bigger chance to get caught off guard and surprise (by two-footed and four-footed creatures).
SEE: From bush to bustle: Returning to the city after spending time in Kruger
As soon as you wrap your fingers around the steering wheel it all changes; the responsibility plummets onto your lap and rests heavily on your shoulders. When you buckle up, put the car in gear and carefully let go of the hand brake you become an all-in-one mother, father, guardian angel, traffic officer and decision-maker; you lift your feet off the clutch and become responsible for driving, the vehicle, the passengers, looking out for other drivers, having eyes in the back of your head, the road, the traffic and getting everyone safely from A to B.
But what do you when you’re on your way from A to B and an E appears?
That is exactly what happened to some of my loved ones in Kruger National Park who visited during the Park’s peak season.
An E crossed their A while they were on their way to B.
One moment they were cruising in second gear and the next moment they saw an E a few meters ahead of them in front of the road.
The ears flapped.
They quietly stopped.
SEE: Cheetah attacks Kiwi boy in SA: When will we put a stop to wildlife petting?
The big old guy with his gigantic tusks and war-scar-hole-in-the-ear had the right of way and was spoilt for choice; he could a) continue straight down the road or, b) head into the bush to his left or right, or, if he really wanted to, c) turn around.
The E chose the fourth option: D.
He came closer.
He changed direction towards the car.
And with a mere meter between the E and the vehicle, the E chose the option no one ever hoped for.
To reverse was not an option.
To stay still was a death threat.
To go one side was to go into the bush.
To go the other side was to go into the E’s lane.
And then, an MOA (moody on arrival) E closely crossed their A while they were on their way to B; with his big body he leaped forward, a tusk hit the window and the E wrecked shatterproof havoc.
The Feng Shui masters believe that placing a statue of an elephant, or a pair of elephants, at the front door brings good luck, protection and strength to the household.
SEE: An Idiot’s Guide on How to Behave on a Game Drive
And this E definitely brought strength.
And a bit of good luck - maybe not so much good, just luck - as no one got hurt.
As soon as you wrap your fingers around the steering wheel it all changes; the responsibility plummets onto your lap and rests heavily on your shoulders.
And while the group of return visitors was alert at all times, and while they knew all the rules, the dos and the donts and had experience, an E still crossed close paths with them.
What would I have done in such a situation? I’ve been in the driver’s seat on game drives multiple times, but how would I react? Would panic kick in or would I be able to handle it?
I can’t help to wonder what a first time visitor to the park would do? I can’t help to wonder whether or not it has become too easy, too accessible and in return, too irresponsible? The rules and warning signs are printed on permits, on maps, on notice boards, but do it fall on deaf ears or perhaps just beat the probability. Never? Most likely? Likely?
What about the city dwellers and first timers, from abroad, who has never experienced wild animals in their natural habitat before?
What about the irresponsible ones who think that it is okay to get out of your vehicle, or to stick half your body out of your vehicle?
What about those drivers who are not alert, those who don’t understand the moody signs?
How would they react? Would panic kick in or would they be able to handle it?
What about me? What about you?
What do you when you’re on your way from A to B and an E appears?
Anje Rautenbach is the writer behind the blog Going Somewhere Slowly, find her Facebook,Twitter or on Instagram!
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