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Volume 22, Number 126,
APRIL/MAY 2019


Madikwe Madness
by Peter C. Joyce

The brilliant rays of the sun raced across the savannah and burst into the bedroom window of Charlie’s chalet. He leaped out of bed and quickly dressed. It was Day One of his wildlife safari in the magical Madikwe Game Reserve, and anticipation surged through his body. His group had arrived the previous evening and been briefed on park protocols before being wined and dined in an outdoor native ceremony.

The sun was already over the horizon so no need to call for a guide to escort him to the main lodge. Besides, he’d already had close encounters with tiny scorpions and giant spiders the day before so felt like he was ready to brave any peril.

Fuelled by a quick snack of coffee and croissants, they were soon barrelling over grassy flatlands and forested hills in their topless Toyota Land Cruiser.

Their Ranger Guide cautioned the tourists: “Wild animals view our vehicle as a single entity that is no threat to them but too big to eat. Never, under any circumstances, stick out body parts because they very well may treat them like food.”

In no time at all, they’d visited with giant elephants, majestic lions, sly hyaenas, industrious termites and so much more. A spacious meadow yielded all manner of rhinos wandering about.

“They’re white rhinos and basically safe. If we encounter a black, we’ll have to head for the hills. They can be quite dangerous.”

He carefully scanned the surroundings with his binoculars. “There’s a black getting closer. We’d better go.”

Off they motored.

Anon, the Ranger drew to a stop and killed the engine. “Now before we go back to the lodge, we’re going to take a little stroll and see what we can find.”

Picking up his rifle, the Guide reminded them of the rules. “Follow me in close single file. Be very quiet. If I hold my arm up in the air, be even more quiet.”

They wandered about encountering and learning about all manner of animal feces and tracks. No live creatures until...

The Ranger came to a dead stop as he shot his arm into the air. Charlie, who was next in line, almost crashed into him. You could have heard a pin drop.

Charlie glanced through some bushes to the right. There lay two very large black rhinos. The Ranger motioned for them to stealthily step backward. They did so. One of the rhinos started to stir. A new instruction: turn about and quicken the pace. The sound of brushed branches followed them as they fled. Nobody looked back. Time seemed frozen, but at last they were all safely in the Cruiser and hastening down the road.

Breakfast was awaiting them back at the lodge. Nonetheless, they all felt it would be a good idea to start with a stiff drink. Charlie couldn’t stop talking about his close encounter of the scary kind.

“By Jove! That has to be the highlight of my visit to South Africa. Staring Death in the eye and living to tell the tale. I’ve never been so terrified in my entire life.”

Back on the road they went. The Ranger stopped to watch an army of ants march across the road and once again to wrap a giant millipede about their wrists like a fuzzy bracelet. Giraffe they saw and Cape buffalo and ostrich, but nothing too frightening. Charlie was starting to feel quite relaxed about life in the wilds.

Eventually, they had to stop to use the bathroom, which on a safari meant finding a tree or a bush to stand behind while relieving oneself. Suitable spots were quickly chosen so Charlie ventured a little further afield. As he strolled around a leafy bush, intently undoing his zipper, he was surprised by a sudden rustle in front of him. There before his very eyes, about two metres away, lay a full-grown female lion. She reared her had up and yawned. Then she stared very intently at the human in front of her.

A cold shiver rushed down his spine; a warm drizzle sprayed down his thigh. The lion stirred. Her ribs pressed against her sides. She was probably hungry. He was probably lunch. Charlie wanted ever so much to pass out and end it all.
Fortunately, he remembered his training. Slowly he backed up. The lion stood up. The bush briefly blocked her from view. He turned and ran full speed ahead for the Toyota.

“Lion. Big bleeping lion!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.

Everyone was at the Cruiser. The Ranger tried to calm him.

“Relax. It’s probably just a hyaena.”

“I know a lion when I see one. It’s a big bleeping lion.”

At that moment, she sauntered into view. No need for further discussion. They jumped into the truck and motored directly back to the lodge. Charlie had an overwhelming desire for at least two strong drinks before eating.

After lunch the manager shared a fresh brewed coffee and digestif with Charlie while they chatted about the morning’s adventure. As they parted ways, the manager suggested, “I urge you to go help yourself to your complimentary mini-bar then relax in the outdoor shower. All of our chalets are completely private so nobody will see you except for the elephants at the watering hole. And they won’t care because they all have longer trunks.”

Charlie did just that. The sun blazed down upon him. The warm water cascaded over his body. There weren’t even any elephants at the watering hole. Closing his eyes, he lathered up his hair and sighed in tranquil ecstasy. But not for long... A hideous blood-curdling growl pierced his peaceful bubble. Carefully raising his lids, he saw before him two wild dogs - their fangs bared, their eyes blazing straight at him. Death was at his door. His life flashed before him. Probably now would be a good time to faint. There was no way out of his jam. Just as his knees were giving out...

An ear-piercing hiss shot down from the roof behind him. Slowly, he turned his head. What did he see but a leopard glaring back at the wild dogs. Perhaps there was a way out. The bathroom door was oh so close. Zoom! He was inside. He called the office.

“Quick - Help - wild dogs - leopard.”

Next step - methodically drain the mini-bar while the staff calmly shooed the wild beasts away. They made it look easy, but Charlie couldn’t help but notice that they were all carrying rifles just in case.

A quick nap turned into a long nap, and Charlie was late for supper. Not to worry. They still fed him royally. Time passed. Dishes were cleared. Staff disappeared. The day was done but the sun still glowed on the horizon. Charlie could safely walk back to his chalet. He could almost hear his king-sized bed calling him to sweet dreams of peace. Or not...

There before him on the path stood a fairly large furry animal. He was busily digging in the ground, totally ignoring Charlie. He had a stripe down his back and looked ever so much like an overgrown weasel - very overgrown. Charlie was relatively familiar with the Mustelidae Family and was quite certain that he had encountered a honey badger. No need for concern.
They were relatively peaceful unless they felt endangered.

Charlie needed to get past him, though, so picked up a rock and threw it in front of him. That would get his attention, and he would wander off.

“Clunk!”

The rock accidentally bounced off the badger’s head. That certainly got his attention. The creature let out a horrifying shriek and charged directly at the human. Charlie turned and ran as fast as his feet would carry him. The lodge was far too distant. Visions of his half-eaten corpse being discovered in the morning surged through his mind.

Suddenly, the Land Cruiser appeared before him. Perhaps he could elude his oppressor there. He ran along the left side. The badger followed. Around the back and down the right side. The beast was hot on his heels.

Round and round they went. The old nursery rhyme echoed in his head:

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought ‘twas all in fun
Pop! goes the weasel

Round and round they went. The words started to change.

All around the Land Cruiser
The badger chased the human
Badger wanted to seek revenge
Alas! For the human.

Nothing lasts forever though. Just like in the movies, the pursuer will eventually stop and go the other way. So too did the badger. They met at the front of the vehicle. Massive jaws dove for Charlie’s leg. Charlie dove for the hood and slithered right up onto the roof, which had been put in place for the night.

The badger hissed and lunged at the car but slid down the metal side. Snarling, he tried it again and again. Charlie could do nothing but hang on tight and pray. At last the beast grew bored, wandered into the open lodge, grabbed a cushion and proceeded to tear it to shreds before the panic-stricken eyes of the human. With one last defiant look at Charlie, the badger wandered off into the bush.

Or did he?

Was it a trap?

Charlie waited and waited...

“Mr Charlie. Wake up. Are you okay? Why are you on top of the Cruiser?”

“It’s a long story. Think I need a coffee - or perhaps something stronger.”