A Beagle travels Africa
– Sjoe – finally arrived! Let’s get out of here!
After a bumpy six hours drive over dirt roads on the way from Lusaka to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, I was glad to be finally out of the Land Rover. Marcelle had explained to me, that we would stay just outside the National Park at a campground on the banks of the Luangwa River. No fences divided the National Park from its surroundings – just bare wilderness. She was right – it was beautiful indeed. I smelled spoor (tracks) everywhere.
– Hey there! Who are you?
I met the sausage dog of the owner of the property.
– Randy, I’m in charge of Crocodile River Lodge and you?
– I’m Vlou from Switzerland in charge of these guys out there. How is it to live here with all the wildlife? Isn’t that great?
– Sure, most of the time it’s quite something. But you must know, it can get very hot here, up to 40° C. And it’s dry, man! Dry as a bone, as it’s wintertime now. Look at all the trees and the grass going yellow. For your people that’s great, as they will see the wildlife on their safaris into the park much better than in the summertime. But we don’t need to see the wildlife – hè bru – we smell it!
– No, I don’t need to see anything, as I smell it from kilometres away. By the way, what’s that heavy leathery smell with a mix of digested grass, dung and urine? It must be a herd of animals?
– Hahaha, no Vlou. You’d better have good sight, if you don’t know that smell. That’s an elephant you moron!
I was embarrassed not knowing what an elephant was. I’d never seen an elephant.
– But tell me, Randy. What is an elephant?
– Well, you will see one sooner than later. One elephant enters almost every day to the camp to search for eatable scrubs. Sometimes she comes with more of her kind. They search mainly for citrus fruit, but also like any other fruits and vegetables. They can smell as good as we can, that’s why people can’t leave anything eatable in their cars or tents. The elephants would just use their tusks like a can opener to get to their most loved food!
– Wow! How big are these elephants? Can you tell me what they look like?
– No bru, be patient. You will know it’s an elephant as soon as you see one. I’m off now; I’ve got to go.
- Wait, Randy! Just tell me first. How can I scare these elephants away, if they should come? Do they leave, if I growl and bark!
- Oh my god! You’re not quiet bush-wise, are you? Sometimes the wardens use their catapults to hit their sensitive ears with stones in an effort to move them out of the campsite. But occasionally they just leave them as long they’re not bothering humans. But, YOU, you’ll see, you’d better stay away from the elephants! Don’t even try to scare them. They’ll stamp you flat with no effort. Mind my words!
With his nose lifted confidently in the air, he left.
Upset about what Randy had told me, I went back, where George and Marcelle had just hooked off the caravan from the car. I wanted to warn them about the elephants, but Marcelle misinterpreted my intentions.
– Wait a moment, Vlou. We’ve almost finished and then I can get you a bone out of the fridge. Be patient!
Patience? There were huge smelly giants around with teeth like can openers!
– I’m not talking about food! I’m talking about danger!, I insisted.
– All right then, Vlou. Here is your bone. But now, let us set up first, ok?
She gave me a fresh bone, which withdrew my thoughts of the elephants instantly. Happily I crunched away.
– Vlou, come! We’ll go for a little walk!
I’d just finished my bone, which was delicious and followed Marcelle.
I knew already, what Baboons were. These big, grayish-brown monkeys with a mouth full of sharp teeth and a horrible looking bum! Yes! I got to know them earlier in and around the mountains of Cape Town. I’d wondered about the human smell in the tree, as normally humans don’t climb trees. What a sight from bottom up. A monkey as big as a four-year-old child sitting there in a tree, holding himself with his long tail tight around a branch and screaming viciously at me. Obviously he didn’t like me so I turned around. I’m not into fuss, not with other dogs nor with strange creatures like baboons!
There was that word elephants again. A shiver went down my spine.
– Jeeeze! You can’t be such a wimp, hé! Get your shit together, I said to myself. Elephants can’t be that bad! They have other things to bother about than me.
I was happy to get back to the caravan. We sat under a thatched roof, which provided shade over a wooden table with benches overlooking the spectacular Luangwa River. Quietly I admired the hundreds of birds and some buck on the other side of the river. It hadn’t rained for months, so the water level was shallow enough for the animals to cross over to our side of the river. The smells of wildlife and especially of elephants were almost making me dizzy. I’d never ever had such an abundance of wildlife around me before! It was stunning! Thinking that, all of a sudden a huge head with large flapping ears popped up right in front of us emerging out of the riverbed. We hadn’t seen the elephant, as the riverbank was extremely steep at this place. Just behind it appeared another elephant, barely five meters away from where we were sitting. They didn’t make any noise but lifted their long trunks to get our smell. Randy was right – they had huge tusks on either side of their trunk.
- Better we’re off!, I thought and leapt at the same time as Marcelle to the only brick building, which was the ablution block some thirty meters away. George was somehow baffled and thought probably, that the thatched roof would protect him, as it was too low for the elephant to come in. No problem for the elephant though, as she lifted the whole roof with her head, George fled as fast as he could. He’d never run that fast before, he’d tell us later. The Elephants didn’t stay long at our place, as we didn’t have any food around. But our neighbour had food outside of his car on the table neatly arranged in containers. Not a moment of hesitation they investigated his belongings carefully, to find out, where he had hid his food. They kicked over the containers to the floor to open them and munched everything eatable slowly. The neighbour was watching anxiously from some distance away and tried to scare the giants with a burning stick. But no way his fumbling around and shouting would impress these giants. Only when they’d finished the last orange with delight, they left as quiet as they had come. I was immensely awestruck by these giants, although they are awfully smelly!