I did my first trail in September 2000. Having grown up on a game farm, I have always been very close to nature. When my eldest sister, Suzette, invited me to join her on the Olifant’s trail, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. The trails are very popular and Suzette books a year in advance. Unfortunately one of her friends couldn’t make it and that opened the door for me.
On our farm we came in close contact with a lot of different animals, but the trails were totally different. Now I could experience close encounters with the Big 5 of the bush. I was really excited.
The first night we were explained the rules by the head trail ranger. One of the things he mentioned was that we should not go to the toilets alone at night; we should always have someone accompany us to keep a lookout for any dangers. He called it the “buddy system”.
So one of my best friends Susan and I became buddies.
Unfortunately for Susan, I’m a bit of an insomniac. I really battle going to bed early, and I asked Susan if she would sit with me at the fire for a while until I felt sleepy. We were chatting along happily when we heard the most awful throaty roaring sound coming from the valley below. We were really scared. So we threw some more wood on the fire and continued our conversation in hushed tones.
The next moment a roar sounded very close to us. These girls had had enough. We both made a dash for our A-frames, Susan grabbed a torch but I left everything behind. She was deceptively quick, though. As she was lighting our way in the pitch dark, Susan passed by me and knocked me out of the way! She arrived at the hut first. We crashed into the door and latched it behind us.
We sat very quietly for about 20 minutes. We could hear nothing.
As usual in tense moments like these, I started developing a pee. I told Susan that we would probably need to extinguish the fire as well and fetch our belongings that we left behind. She agreed.
So gradually and haltingly we made our way back to the fire, picked up the drum and covered the flames and got the rest of our stuff. All of a sudden the guttural roar sounded again, probably very far off, but it nevertheless startled both of us again. This time I was ready for action though. I made a beeline for the hut shining the torch straight in front of me. I made it in record time and slammed the door behind me.
After calming down, I realized that Sue was nowhere to be seen. I cracked the door open an inch and saw a shadowy figure about 50 meters away, bumping into trees and rocks and shouting “Ouch” as she groped around in the dark.
“Sue!” I whispered. “Sue, this way!”
“Where are you Deidre`? I can’t see a thing!”
I cracked the door open another inch or so and shone the torch in her direction. It didn’t help her see in front of her but at least she now had a general beacon to follow.
A couple of laborious minutes later she reached the door. She was peeved. “So much for the buddy system!” was all that she said and wouldn’t say a word more. I apologized profusely but all that she muttered was “Not the heroic type now are we?”
The next morning the ranger went to inspect the game fence and found some leopard spoor a couple of meters from camp.
“See guys, that’s why you need to use the buddy system in camp!” he announced to all of us. Sue just snorted disdainfully.
- Deidre` Joubert -