The fine line between life and death.
In the two months that I have been here, there have been many lessons I have learnt. These lessons no book or person could ever teach me as they have been purely gained through first-hand experience. Sometimes these experiences are terrifying and sometimes they are exhilarating.
Often these lessons are gained from not only one experience but a couple all intertwined into one clear picture. The first couple of drives seemed to be tame but as time went on my eyes were opened to the wild behaviour of some of the animals.
A Black Rhino grazing just to the right of the vehicle suddenly decided that it would launch its one ton body towards the vehicle. The ranger I was with seemed quite relaxed, continually snapping shots of the beast hurtling towards the game viewer. Personally I was gripping onto my seat, bracing for impact. As quickly as he had come, he stopped, turned on his heels and headed into the bush. No reaction from the ranger but before I could look up again the beast was again hurtling towards us. A second charge. The ranger was still snapping photographs, furiously trying to get the perfect shot. When the animal turned on its heels, once again, dust gathering behind him the ranger turned to me and gave a chuckle. Mid-chuckle this Rhino decided third time lucky and his charge was full tilt. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the ranger banging the side of the vehicle and loudly grumbling at the Rhino. This charge was for real. With all the noise and the commotion, for the last time the Rhino turned on his heels and headed for the hills.
Using the spotlight is taxing work but is often rewarded. Picking up some bright eyes in the middle of the road ahead, your stomach knots with excitement as you become aware that you are nearing the lions. One male lion walking swiftly towards the vehicle. On the tracker seat there is no protection, if a lion wants to eat you. It will eat you. Thus usually at a lion sighting I am brought into the safety of the vehicle. However on this occasion, said lion was walking with so much purpose there was not enough time. I just had to brave it. Tensing every fibre of my being this majestic animal waltzed a meter away from my dangling legs. Once passed I let out all the air I was holding in, blue in the face, jumped into the vehicle and awaited the next two lions to walk past us. The second and third lion were not as relaxed as the first, luckily for me. These two brothers had been in a brawl and tensions were high. As they neared the vehicle they ran at it, giving us fair warning that they were upset. We jolted forward both times in order to get out of harm’s way and once they had passed we decided it best to leave the brothers to their sibling rivalry.
Giraffe are amazing animals and their curiosity always provides me with a good giggle. Poking their heads from behind large acacia trees in order to see what all the commotion is about, staring down at an Egyptian goose in wonder of the small feathery bird and curiously inspecting the bright pink human perched on the front of a noisy, clicking and moving vehicle. This giraffe gave me an exhilarating experience. We approached him with caution and as he seemed quite relaxed we turned off the vehicle. Closer and closer this male got to me and with every step, more curious, stretching his already elongated neck to within inches of my face. It was a simple thing, but so amazing to have a wild giraffe (which with one kick can kill a fully grown adult lion) almost kiss me on the forehead.
Through these experiences there are some important lessons to be learnt. There is a fine line between life and death in the African Bushveld. Life can be determined through purely existing, what you do on a day to day basis and how exhilarated these things make you feel. All things living, big and small, require life. Experiences such as these make one realise not only do I exist out here but I live, I live for what I do and it makes me feel alive. However, death consumes many in the bush and most of it is due to injury and infection. One of the most important survival lessons is demonstrated through animal behaviour; do not get injured, rather live. Animals who charge the vehicles are unlikely to get onto the vehicle or too close to it with the fear of being injured and thus inevitably the possibility of infection leading to death. Thus the fine line between life and death encourages one to not only live, live for what you do and make sure that you feel alive.