Everything in America always seems to be bigger and better. A few years ago we had 2 older gentlemen visit us from Texas. These 2 farmers were huge by anyone’s standard, tall and fit for their age, and ex American football players as we were often reminded.
I was their safari guide during their stay and the other guests and I was kept entertained by their various exploits. They always somehow managed to be the heroes in all their magnificent adventures making us and everyone else seem very ordinary. As the wine and beer flowed during dinner one evening they managed to turn the conversation to hunting. They seemed to really excel in this, to the point where I started to think that they might have missed their calling. No deer was fast enough or too far away. Grizzly bears and mountain lions were shot from only meters away, always charging at full speed towards them fully intent on killing as many people as quickly as possible.
They were not bad people, just 2 retired gentlemen yearning for the testosterone driven days of their youth, but it did start to get slightly irritating over time. The safari drives actually went quite well with the predictable outcome of our antelope being smaller that their deer, elephants not quite as big as the ones they saw in Asia and lions a lot smaller that they thought.
They found themselves alone with me on the vehicle during the last morning of their safari and being a wet and miserable morning we did not see much at all. My tracker, Kenneth, then saw fresh male lion tracks and the two of us left the vehicle following the tracks on foot. We found the male lying on a big flat rock after about 5 minutes of walking and tracking. The lion was looking the other way and did not see us although I could clearly identify him as one of a coalition of 2 brothers called Mazinyo. Upon seeing him we quickly sneaked back to the car where I left the guests.
This now left me with a predicament. I left the rifle back at the lodge when we left the morning as it looked like rain and I did not want the rifle to get wet. We were also not allowed to do any off road driving in the area where we spotted the lion. Now what?
I looked at Rocky and Rambo, thought of all their past bravado, and then made a terrible judgement call. “ We found the lion lying about 200 meters away. Only problem is that I left my rifle at the lodge. I would be willing to take you as long as you understand the risks and would exonerate me should anything go wrong ”, I volunteered. Never have two more eager people jumped from my car!
I then explained the risks and procedures to follow. “Walk closely behind me in single file, as silently as possible obeying all my commands, always putting my tracker and I between you and the lion”, I instructed. No sooner had we left than the trouble started. One would lag behind and then try to sneak round throwing rocks at us in order to scare us and show off his nonchalance in the presence of lions. Then another ridiculous effort of bravado would be made by his friend irritating my tracker and I while we were doing our best to find the lion again.
My efforts to control them fell on deaf ears and they were now making disparaging remarks about our nervousness regarding the situation. Then from the left a low, but unmistakable growl emanated from very dense scrub, not even close to where my tracker and I saw the lion first. It did not stop, but increased if anything in intensity as the seconds ticked by. Time stood still. Somehow to hear a lion growl, but not seeing it intensifies the situation. No need to give any orders anymore as the two distinguished gentlemen placed Kenneth and I strategically and very quickly in the middle between the lion and themselves.
There were now obviously 2 lions. The 1st one I saw was called Mazinyo who was more gentle in nature, if one can call a lion that. We called the 2nd one, growling from the bush to our left, Big Boy and he was as mean and bad tempered a lion as you could find anywhere in Africa. Seeing the tracks of only one and seeing only Mazinyo made me think that it was alright to walk in unarmed with guests. Big mistake!
Upon hearing his brother, Mazinyo quickly came closer to investigate and join in the fun. Very predictably, the lions charged. Twice I think. Now do not misunderstand me. I am not brave, but have the advantage of being charged by lions before. So I knew what to expect. My heart also races and the saliva also dries up very quickly. After the 2nd charge I turned around and wickedly asked, “ Have you seen enough or should we stay a bit longer?” Never have I seen guests nod their heads more eagerly to leave a place and get the hell out of there. I requested them to lead the way with my tracker and I following behind, which they did orderly and silently making sure go as quick as possible but at the same time never further than half a meter away from Kenneth and I.