Warning: this is not a glamorous story.
People associate me to different things, but those who really know me often associate me with cycadas: “I need to pee” is probably the most typical phrase I will every say. A phrase that much to everyone’s –and my own- despair is spoken in the worst and less opportunistic moments.
Just because I work and live in the African bush surrounded by hippos, lions, rhinos, buffalos, elephants and leopards, it doesn’t mean that I won’t man up and hide behind a bush if I have to. The problem is that I suffer from the constant need to drink coffee, water or tea much until I’m about to burst. Even if I don’t suffer of “stage fright”, here in Africa I have to watch my back so that I don’t get eaten.
On a particular day, and being very silly, David –my coffee friend and I – went too far. After 2 coffees and the first pit stop, we carried on drinking water to no end.
“It’s summer, we have to stay hydrated” he said.
…What a dumb think to think! Hydration and its direct consequences are not to be overlooked. Ever.
“Ok, in a 100m when we get to that bush. That seems like a good place”.
“Wait. What is that? Is that an impala alarm calling?”
“Let’s carry on, I prefer not to have my bum bitten by a leopard”
“Hmmm. Let’s cross onto the other side of the river, seems like I’ll be able to hide better over there”
“Crap. Of course there had to be buffalo here”.
“Move cow, move!”
“Great, two wasn’t enough, it had to be FIVE of them.”
“Let’s try somewhere else”
When I thought things were getting serious, we came across a herd of elephants and all biological needs were forgotten. My heart was beating fast. I said hello to all herd members as if they could (or would) like to know I was happy to see them. I took my camera out besotted by a tiny little baby. My love and excitement lasted a while until I realised the elephants were walking our same path, our same route at a very…very slow pace.
45 minutes later we were still behind them.. and somehow we got stuck in the middle of the herd. How did this even happen?!
Great, just great.
“Ladies, get your young ones and hit it”
“Should we maybe go back and take the long way back?”
“Uhm. Guys, huge male ellie coming towards us”
“… and he’s in musth”
Thanks to the power of collective positive thinking, this potentially grumpy and full of testosterone male decided to walk away from us, leaving a fence of Tamboti trees between us. He took his time, stared at us, made us very aware that we had no escape route should he decide to get grumpy.
After what felt like an eternity, he moved on. We all wanted to believe it was all under control as we joked around to hide our relief.
When the big bull left, David and I jumped out of the car.
“Don’t go far from the car Allie”
“I’ll go behind the car, you go to the front! Don’t look this way”
When I’m finally starting to feel human again, caught in the middle of it, I hear:
“Allie…… uhm… You might wanna hurry”
“Why?” (like you could speed this process up)
“There’s a big a male ellie to your right. Hurry”.
About 20m away from me another big bull was approaching. Thankfully this one wasn’t in musth but he stared straight at me anyway.
“Honestly, what does a girl have to do to pee in peace in the bush?!” “Buffalos, cows, a murderer elephant and now this?!”
When I told Claudia my anecdote, she said that in Caracas this happens to her everyday, however the elephant is her friend and it’s at least polite because it always looks the other way. I think next time I’ll put my wish out there in the universe for a little privacy… or a little less coffee.