The night I almost died...

Trip Start Mar 30, 2010
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Trip End Dec 13, 2012


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Flag of Zambia  ,
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If you are going to read only one of my blog entries.....make it this one.  Some of you already know parts of this story.   I figured that this story was deserving of it's own entry seeing as it was one of the scariest nights of my trip, or quite possibly even my life.  Here we go...    It was a really long day returning from Namibia back to Crocodile creek where I was to spend my last few days in Zambia.  After crossing the border, I had to find a way to hitchhike, take a bus or taxi back the remaining 3 hours.  A sweet Zambian lady from the capital city of Lusaka, named Victoria, started speaking with me and offered to help me as we were both traveling in the same direction.  She had come to the this town to look for her sisters passport which someone had stolen.  We were going to see if the two of us could jump into the back of a big transport heading the same direction, as many people there did.  But when she apporached the driver to ask how much it would cost, he refused to take us.  Victoria translated for me what the guy was saying.  He was saying that he didn't want to give me a ride because he was scared he would get in trouble for taking fares.  She explained to me after he pulled out of the parking lot, it was because I was white.  Reverse racism.  I can't say that this was the first time I had encountered this, but I understood it.    Finally, after 5 hours, we found a bus that would take us on our way.  I know I know.  Your probably wondering what the hell this has to do with an elephant attack.   Well here we go.  Dalene, my host, had given me a warning to never to walk the 4 km driveway at night time since the elephants are usually on the move around this time.  And since it took me so long to find a ride, I would be arriving back after dark, and I didn't have her phone number to have her pick me up at the tarmac.   The whole time on my ride back, I was wondering....how the hell am I going to make it back to the lodge in one piece.    When I noticed that the bus was only a few kms from the end of the driveway, I made my way to the front of the bus to see if they could drop me off at the end of the driveway and save me having to go 30 kms out of my way.  I didn't see any problem with it since they stopped to pick up every man, woman, child and chicken on the way to Livingstone.   It took the driver 4 kms to pull the bus over.  I think again he did this just to screw me around.  This doubled my walking distance.  GREAT! I will never forget as I got off the bus, the driver told said " watch out for the elephants!!"  I thought he was just saying this to scare me a bit.  But as soon as I got off the bus, my heart was pounding.  It was pitch black and you were lucky to see 1 meter in front of you.  One lesson I have learned though while traveling, keep a small flash light on you at all times.  I also had a knife.  What the knife would do to any animal out there is beyond me, but it made me feel a slight bit better.  I decided to walk on the oncoming traffic side of the road, this way I could see the very few cars coming  at me.  I could hear cars coming behind me.  But I didn't think much of it.  I just used their headlights to help me.  Next thing I know, a car flies past me, literally within 3 inches overtaking a car!  Jesus Christ!  If the animals won't kill me, it will be something else.       I finally made the driveway after 45 mins of combined walking and jogging.  By this point, my nerves had settled down a bit.  I had walked this driveway many times, and felt as though it was my comfort zone.  I could breath again.  I thought I was pretty much home free.  Was I ever wrong.  I knew that the elephants were usually roaming within the last km of the walk, so I would walk 100 meters....stand....listen....and proceed.  I did this over and over again.  I finally arrived in what was likely the "danger zone."  Sure enough, I could hear the massive beasts on either sides of the driveway.  The last thing I wanted to do was walk between them and frighten them.  I had no idea of what to do.  I hid behind a tree for 45 mins trying to come up with a game plan, or atleast wait for the beasts to move on.  The only phone number I had for someone in Zambia, was a taxi driver by the name of John.  Before calling him, I texted my friend Matt back in Canada to look up Dalene's phone number on the internet and text me back.  He did so (by the way, thanks again matty).  Unfortunately, her car had broken down while I was gone and there wasn't much she could do.  I called John the cab driver to come and pick me up.   It was late in the evening, and he would have to drive 30 kms to pick me up, and drive me only 1 km.  It would cost me a pretty penny, but I figured my life was worth 30 bucks.  He gladly agreed to come and fetch me.  I decided to head back down the driveway to put some distance between me and the elephants until John arrived.  Luckily, I had just enough battery left on my phone to call him, because after I made that call, my battery died.  If I didn't make that call, I would have been sleeping  in the bush that night.     After a 45 min wait, John and his brother Teddy arrived.  I could not have been happier.  I hopped in the car, praising John and telling him he was my hero.  I was just happy that I would be able to sleep in a bed that night.  We chatted as we made our way up the driveway.  At one of the many forks in the road, John made a wrong turn.  We found a clearing in the forest where we could turn the car around safely.  When spun around, and there it was in our headlights about 100 meters in front of us.  An elephant.  I knew that I had heard more than one of them, so we waited for it/them to proceed.  That is the thing with elephants, they decide when they move, not you.  After a min or two, the coast looked clear.  We advanced.  We came to an opening in the trees.  Just like a scene out of a movie, the three of us turned out heads at the same time, and there was a 6 ton elephant literally standing no more than 25 meters from the car.  John started to panic.  He said that it was getting ready to charge.  I told him just to remain calm and all would be ok.  The last thing we needed to do was panic.  Sure enough, that is when the elephant flapped its monterous ear and made the LOUDEST trumpeting sounds I have ever hear.  GO GO GO GO GO!!!!  John floored his little Toyota corola, kicking up gravel in the wheels only scaring the beast even more.  I could tell that the car was going far too fast to negotiate the turn we need to take us to the lodge.  Before I knew it, he killed the headlights on the car.  The only thing I could tell at that point, was that we were off the driveway.  I could hear tree branches and grass scrapping he underbelly of the car.   I still had my flashlight in hand, and turned it on for a split second.  I was sitting in the back seat of a moving car, with absolutly no one in the front seat.  John and his brother had bailed out of a moving car and left me in it!  What the hell am I supposed to do now?!?!  Finally, the car came to rest on some small trees.  I could hear John and Teddy russling around in the grass around the car, and tried to get them to get back in the car and just not move.  They didn't.  The last thing I wanted to do was be the only one in the car.  So I got out and stayed as still as I could.  We took cover behind a tree that would have snapped like a twig if the elephants had found us.  Again, I tried to have the guys just remain still.  Teddy rustled his feet through a patch of grass, which was just enough for the elephant to re aquire his targets.  Another trumpet sounded from the beast, and that is when our survival instinct kicked in.  RUN!!!!!!!  We had no idea of where we were or how far off the driveway we were, we just ran.  We didn't know if the beast was 10 meters behind us, or right on our tails, but I still swear I could hear it's massive feet right behind us.  By luck, we somehow stumbled back on to the driveway.  Thank god for that, cause if not, we would have just been running wildly off into the Zambian night with nowhere to hide.   The driveway zigged and zagged for several hundred meters still till the house.  I turned on my flashlight just for a split second to see what the terrain was like that we were running on.  I did NOT want to fall on my face now.  This helped me momentarily, but it also helpped the elephant know where we were too.  John had lost his shoe during this mad dash.  When I thought we had put enough distance between us and the enragged animal, I tried to convince the guys to slow up a bit.   Yet AGAIN, the animal trumpeted.  Fuck this i thought, and we sprinted the rest of the way back to the house.  The total distance we ended up running was about 700 meters, full out sprinting.   Dalene was waiting for us, because she could hear much of the comotion.  She couldn't help but laugh at us because our eyes were wide open.  I'm pretty sure I would have done the same in her shoes.  The two cab drivers were more shaken than me out of this whole ordeal.  We tried to explain everything that had happen to us in the last couple mins, but we had far too much adrenaline running through our systems to sit and calmly tell a story.  I had left my backpack in the taxi, which had all my important equipment, ie laptop, cameras etc.  I really wanted to go back and get it before the elephant decided to crush the little car.  Dalene had called one of her neighbours to come over and escort me back to the car in his Land Cruiser pick up truck.  Appearently, the elephants don't attack the trucks, but I found that a little hard to believe.  It would still look like a little toy to it.  As we drove back down the driveway, you could see our foot prints in the sand, Johns foot prints however wer funny, cause it was sock shoe sock shoe, from losing his one shoe.  On top of our prints though, were the elephant prints.  Dalene had told us that the elephants usually do mock charges just to scare off any potential threats.  This, however, was no mock charge.  It followed us over 500 meters.  This is when the reality of the whole situation hit me.  I could have died.  I was lucky that everything worked out the way it did, or else I would have been mince meat to this thing.  That night, I had a stiff whiskey and explained the whole story to Dalene.  She explained to me also, that this was likely a teenage male who was just having fun scaring the shit out of us.  Since there was no adult male to keep them in line, they can do what ever they to.  Damn teenagers!!  What a friggin night.  John and his brother Teddy were far to shaken to go back to their car, and decided to stay the night.  That night, I think all three of us barely got a wink of sleep.     We were up early in the morning to escort John back to his car when it was safe.  The car suffered very little damage thankfully.  We could all laugh about the whole situtation at this point, because really....nothing bad came of it.  Perhaps a few new pairs of underwear were needed, but that was it.  I told John, that I am one cab fare tourist that he will never forget, and he totally agreed.     For the remaining days at Crocodile creek, I was having Vietnam like flashback of the whole scenerio.  I would be walking up the driveway, in the day time now of course, and a flock of birds would take off beside me, freaking the shit out of me.    I would have to talk myself back down and try to remain calm.    I guess if you are going to do the type of traveling I am, things like this are bound to happen.  Another story for the journal.  I can tell you all now though, I learned to fully respect animals and their space.  Not that I didn't before, but I think you get the picture.  Many of the people I told the story too from Zambia and South Africa got a kick of how the Canadian got chased by and elephant.  For me, I was just impressed I could keep up running with two african guys!!  Thanks for checking out the blog.  I will update you all again soon, from sunny and hot egypt.  Chow for now.   
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Comments

Gregório Paraty on

Hi Matt , you are like a Santa Claus. How are you doing man? Everything is gonna be all right. Have a ggod time in Africa.

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