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Mister Elephant

Somewhere in the remote distance I hear some foreign sounds. My sleep limits my ability to focus. I try to concentrate and slowly the sounds become clearer. It starts with a crackling sound, with deep intermitted humming and from time to time some chewing with big sized molars. I hear how air, a lot of air, is being exhaled - in prolonged pushes. I open my eyes and slowly turn my head to the side so that I can look through the mosquito net from my tent. At first I do not actually see anything or maybe just a shadow, But ah no, it is a huge grey body. A leathery skin, the belly area with deep furrows and at certain places covered with fine hair. I smile and sit up to grasp and devour this unique and intimate moment with all my senses. It is lunchtime now and I took a short nap until a few minutes ago mister elephant decided to wake me up. I lie down again and snooze with the elephant visiting next to my tent.

This morning I was the lead guide and it was pretty challenging. After breakfast and as soon as the sun had risen, we left camp and I drove the Landcruiser into the Kwapa concession. My goal was to walk as many different terrains as possible. After some 15 minutes of driving time I stopped the vehicle and put my rifle in ‘carrying mode’. Before we took off on our walk, I gave my ‘guests’ the trails briefing. When we started walking the wind was in our favour and we had the rising sun in our back. Optimal walking conditions! I enjoyed the cool morning hours and the birdsongs, which underlined the scene like music. We encountered a herd of impalas whose skins were still puffed up to protect them selves from the relative cold of the night. I stopped and explained this sighting while integrating the thoughts of my trainers: "Yes, impalas are quite common and as we see so many we may somehow loose interest in them. But these animals are common for a very special reason. They have a phenomenal survival strategy: they benefit from the size of their herd - the more eyes, ears and noses, the faster a danger will be sighted. So there is safety in numbers! You have to admit, impalas are always alert and quite quickly warn each other of possible danger with a snort sound. This immediately makes the herd jumpy and scatter all over the place without them knowing why. So they really put their motto into practice: "better safe than sorry". Next time we might look at impalas with a different perspective - we see them as successful and not just as common. Maybe we can integrate this thought for "common things" into our everyday lives as well?

After putting this life-lesson question in everyone’s head I turned around and walked goal-oriented from one bush to the next. It felt a bit like life: we move in our comfort zone, protected and somehow hidden. We see possible ways but also dangers up to the next "hiding place". But if we want to make progress, then we have to venture into the open field of uncertainty. But uncertainty also presents a great number of possibilities. This is how it always feels on walks in the bush – looking for the next safe spot and moving from one comfort zone to the next.

On the rest of our walk we did not encounter any of the larger animals and fortunately I managed to find the vehicle again without any problems - not like on my previous walk (more here). The day passed on without any big surprises, apart from Mister Elephant, who woke me up for lunch. Later in the afternoon we had a lecture about ballistics and then went on another walk at the end of the afternoon.

In the evening I went to bed and felt grateful for another great day in the bush. I fell asleep quite fast, but in the middle of the night I woke up. I heard those familiar sounds again… A crackling sound, with deep intermitted humming and from time to time some chewing with big sized molars... With a big smile on my face I turned around, nice that my visitor Mister Elephant also found the way back.


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