“On Not Being Charged”
Last year my partner Rachel Hott and I went on Safari. No, we were not browsing the internet. We were walking through the bush amongst the big cats, elephants, giraffe, buffalo and gazelles in the Masai Steppe, a grassland plain in northeastern Tanzania that covers approximately 15,000 square miles, slightly larger than the state of Maryland.
Our guides on this journey were Masai Warriors from a nearby village. Wrapped in their vibrant red and magenta robes or shukas with spear in hand (and cell phone in the other). Our other guide, who was also our translator, carried the shotgun.
The Masai warrior took the lead and we all followed single file. And we were told, “If you are approached by a wild animal-stay in line. This way the predator will perceive us as one big long animal.” This gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “Don’t get out of line!”
While am quite familiar with being on high alert to the dangers of biking in New York City, watching out for the denizens of the city- oblivious pedestrians, car doors suddenly opening swerving vehicles, fellow bikers and potholes, in this strange and unfamiliar environment I was totally out of my element and dependent upon our guides to protect us.
So when we came to a quick and unexpected stop, I turning to our guides and looked in the direction that they were staring. In the distance, I saw a herd of considerably large, big muscled, mean looking buffalo with massive thick horns staring back at us.
Our guides were whispering to one another in Maa (the language of the Masai. This was not a good sign. If there was ever a time to match someone’s volume, this was it. So I whispered, “Why are we whispering?” One of our guides, who spoke Maa, Swahili and English explained that they were determining the wind direction and planning our exit strategy. Luckily the wind was blowing in our favor, so that the buffalo could not smell us. (I never did ask what we would have done if it were blowing in their direction.) He then explained that we needed to leave because there were females with their calves and the males might interpret our presence as a threat. It was not until we returned home and I did some research on the African (Cape) Buffalo, did I learn that its nickname is Black Death and it has killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa and is most aggressive if one of the calves from the herd in under attack.
So we very slowly began our departure, periodically turning to make sure we were not being charged.