One Okavango Night


We settled into our tent aware that the noise of the night did not observe fabric boundaries. I thought I heard a crunching sound coming from the far end of the tent clearing. The crunching crept closer and closer and became louder and louder.

‘That sounds BIG,’ I blurted out.

‘No, it just sounds big because it’s otherwise very quiet,’ came Nora’s confident reply, ‘it’s probably just a bush baby.’

The crunching sound had grown to include a crushing percussion and the ensemble became more tangible as my body began to absorb the vibration of a resonating, earthy thud.

‘Oh well…maybe it’s a Loris…that’s a bit bigger than a bush baby,’ Nora opined feebly.

Even Nora’s African upbringing did not convince me that this was simply the nocturnal rummaging of a slender, wide-eyed primate.

‘That’s elephant big, not Loris big,’ I sat bolt upright as there was a deafening crash outside the tent next door.

Deep snorting had now joined the crashing and both filled the air around the tents.

Palms trees shook and palm nuts tumbled to the floor, some deflected by the tent roof on their way.

I noticed a light go on in our neighbours’ tent, it moved towards the rear and seemed to be getting closer to our tent.

We threw on some trousers and shoes and slipped the front zip of the tent down gently but firmly. As we made our way to the far side we were surprised to see our two neighbours clinging to our tent wall.

‘Oh, that’s why the light got closer,’ I sighed.

‘Yeh,’ David whispered in shock,’ we made a break for it out the back of the tent.’

‘I didn’t realise the tents had a zip at the back?’ I looked at his wife Gemma who was quite pale.

‘They do now,’ her eyes widening as she raised up her right hand to show me the camping knife she was brandishing.

We could make out the figures of two enormous elephants in the starlight that broke through the trees.

They appeared to be totally engrossed in the palm tree they had just run into and so we decided it was an opportune moment to make a run for it.

We headed straight down the track to the bar, we didn’t dare put our torches on in case we spooked the elephants and caused them to charge us down.

As we ran we could hear a chorus of tent zips flying up all over the campsite; two heads popped out of one tent and asked if we were okay. We stopped long enough to mime out our dilemma before continuing along our escape route.

As we ran up the steps to the bar three or four splashes kicked off to our left, crocodiles that we had disturbed in our haste.

We sat down, rigid, in total darkness, saying nothing but listening to the pounding of our hearts and the rasping of our breath.

A Beadsmoore

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