Africa, Animals, Safety

8 September 2010

My room 101 nightmare is to be eaten alive by a lion. A bicycle trip in Africa seemed like a good therapeutic treatment to get rid of that fear. However, not only I didn't see any lions, but saw relatively few animals in general. And the ones that were there, were fast to run away as soon as I approached.
The most numerous were warthogs. I really liked them. With their solid, powerful bodies and uplifted tail with a haired tip, I found them really beautiful. They were usually foraging by the side of the road and when they saw me rushed straight into the fence and after several attempts managed to push through. My second best favorite was a mountain zebra that I met while climbing on the dirt road of Namib Nauklft NP. It followed me or run in front of me for about 2 kilometers until it got fed up by my slow pace. Then there were a couple of ostriches, a young eland, a few dic-dics, a jackal, a herd of oryxes, kudus and hartebeests along the fence of a game park, and quite a few species of birds. Most of the animals, though, I saw as a road kill.
Most of the big game is obviously safely confined to a few fenced game parks and riding across Africa, at least on the main roads like the ones I took, is completely safe. The biggest animal danger probably comes from the other side of animal scale: a guy I met in a hostel in Durban had been bitten by a small jumping spider, and it left him without a piece of breast and a terribly looking leg that the doctors were still fighting for.
I was also worried about a different kind of animal, the homo sapiens. The kind that drives in a car was probably my greatest threat. I developed some particular techniques to avoid being run over from behind. The obvious one is to have a mirror. The other was to lift my hand up as I saw them in the mirror (or heard them coming) and give them signs to slow down. It helped sometimes, and sometimes it made them even more annoyed. The best strategy was to stick a tent pole at the rear rack so that it was half a meter sticking into the traffic lane. Not a single car - including the big trucks and ever-annoying buses - ever drove close enough to touch the pole. 

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