Dropping down low with a buffalo

2016-12-14 11:34
‘Time becomes immeasurable for a moment, as I gaze into the deep pools from which I attempt to fathom malicious or curious intent. I am struck by the power contained within its hide, and the heat of its breath?…’

‘Time becomes immeasurable for a moment, as I gaze into the deep pools from which I attempt to fathom malicious or curious intent. I am struck by the power contained within its hide, and the heat of its breath?…’ (Supplied)

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Sweltering in the boot, six familial bodies of three generations create a maze through which the air-conditioning lethargically makes its way to my sister and me.

Unlike the previous day’s leopard spotting, the afternoon game drive has proved wholly uneventful.

I have a problem. In an attempt to distract me, Gan-Gan asks me what I would like to paint, from my sightings in St Lucia Wetland Park, once we are back at the timeshare cottage. Nauseous and delirious with the heat, I require further prompting.

“A hippopotamus? An acacia tree?”

“That’s it! Dad, I need to get out of the car right now!”

With much reluctance, the Subaru is brought to a grinding halt, kicking up dust and pelting the nearby flora-dwelling insects with scree. Dad opens his door, his eyes skittish, watching for any sign of a predator looking for a girl-sized snack.

Everywhere is eerily still. Dad crunches the ground between his door and me, hurriedly opening the boot for my urgent “pit stop”. I crawl out. The dust makes me cough and my nose wrinkles, irritated, but it is good to be in the open air after so many hours. I shuffle along to the side of the road and into the long, golden grass and shadows.

There is a roar and a flurry of dust as a game driver parks urgently beside our car. He pokes his disbelieving head out the window, indicating that Mum wind hers down. Pronto.

“Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?” he asks.

“This is a game farm. Despite there being no lions in sight [emphasis placed on the words in sight], you may want to tell your husband to take a closer look at that acacia tree.”

Tentatively, everyone in the car turns their head, and for a moment there is silence. Suddenly, gasps ensue and Mum hurriedly whispers to Dad to take a look. There, barely visible under the shadow of the acacia tree, is a gigantic and very displeased buffalo. But for the distinctive horns, the buffalo had, until now, remained easily camouflaged from our sight. With one hoof pawing the ground, and tail a-flicking, the buffalo lowers its head, eyes affixes upon a still-expectant and entirely oblivious target.

“Em,” whispers dad softly.

“Mm?”

“Em!” he whispers more anxiously.

My eyes dart open, looking at his worried face.

“Don’t make any sudden movements. Slowly turn your head and look behind you.”

The ensuing scene can best be described as having a partially “Shucks Shabalala, Monty Python-esque” aesthetic. Doing as instructed, I almost swallow my tongue as I look into the eyes of a buffalo fewer than five metres away. Time becomes immeasurable for a moment, as I gaze into the deep pools from which I attempt to fathom malicious or curious intent. I am struck by the power contained within its hide, and the heat of its breath, which adds to the already unbearable humidity. With one stomp of its hoof, the precarious moment of privilege is broken. I hurriedly crawl from the long grass. A leopard crawl of an entirely different variety.

In a fast-forward-like walking mode, Dad drags me to the car, opens the boot, shoves me in and starts the car, moving forwards, changing gears in rapid succession. Satisfied with my safety, the game ranger pulls off in the opposite direction. And I, uncomfortable, but safe, scrunch my body into a ball, staring up through the glass at the sunlight, the dust, and the elusive acacia tree.

About the author:

Emma Farquharson is a second-year aspirant opera singer, studying at Rhodes University. She hails from Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, and is 21 years old.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  true stories of kzn 2016

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