Apr 25, 2012

Mock charge (ignorance is bliss)

Woke up in Liwonde NP after sharing the area with some hippos and a monkey troop, whom made good watchdogs for something else, my every move was well publicised through the bush. What not to do when you do have intermittent access to inet and cycling through a NP, go to their website. 'predators include lion, leopard...'. Thought i saw some funny tracks yesterday. The locals only ever went on about the elephants which i'm pretty ok with so made the mistake of assumptions.

My bundu/elephant trail ride in hindsight was probably not the best idea. Or riding untill dark, but ignorance is bliss as they say. Funny how certain things become more or less relevant. Packing up i was constantly scanning around for anything. After a few minutes on the bike i was thinking about food and water again. Having a bit of a zombieland moments, if i can only have a tinkie...

My attention was brought back down to the thick sand, which the tank is slowly getting the hang of, and the lion spoor. Now the road has finally improved, for which i was eternally grateful, the previous 15km was a real nightmare, and this section has been scraped recently. Found the scraper on the way out (interesting reactions) and since they ride out everyday and back at night a fair assumption would be that the lions passed my camp somewhere in the night (tracks about 300m from camp). Helps to sharpen the senses to an amazing degree.

I was also relying on sound and smell a lot more than one would think, both times smelled the elephants before saw them. Also the actions/reactions of the other animals. With the heavy sands a lot of attention was also lost on the road and trying to keep upright. Finally fought through the last of the sandy sections, quite an experience.

Caught the very distinct pang of elephant and then saw ot crossing the road about 150m ahead of me. Some very quiet and cautious ( well the bb and brakes cannot be classified as silent anymore but i was trying). Since the wind was blowing from them, i really didn't want to surprise or startle them. Slowly made my way to where i thought they crossed. Edged along and then caught sight of them about 50m off. Bit closer and stopped. Didn't see the second elephant which heard my stop and he was quite a bit closer. Two musking bulls, less than ideal. Still he had heard me and flapped his ears looked at me and kept going. Seemed like they were pretty ok with my presence there, they were also probably unsure about what to do about this funny sqweaking animal and they came back to the mountains side of the road.

After they moved off a bit (as far as the hill) they kept parrallel with the road which was not ideal for me. The next 300m or so was still reasonably clear/grasland, while further ahead the road started swinging towards the hill (and the elephants) and into a mopane thicket. So i could either wait and lose sight of them, in which case i could easily ride up alongside them in the bush without knowing, and wind the wind in the wrong direction that option was way down on the list.

So thought i would slowly start cycling again and test their reaction. This time they took much more notice of me. The bigger one turned aroud and greeted me with a loud shriek followed by trumpeting (is dit ooit reg v trompetter?).
Ok so i was a bit intimidated, but they immediately moved off again at a pace towards the start of the trees where they stopped and quieted down. Gave them some time but just stayed there.

So the next bit (mom please skip) was probably not the best move, but if i was in a car this behaviour would just tell me that they don't like me there and moving on is probably better. Combined with the fact that i was in the way of where they originally wanted to go, plus the road looked super good,'almost' like tarmac. Decided to go slow till bit closer and if no reaction to move it. Got in line with them, while they kept on standing there, dropped a few gears and kicked hard. Doing about 25km/h they caught my scent and a much more serious trumpeting followed with some crashing and breaking sounds. Excellent sprinting conditions and i was flying. Looking back didn't see anything though. Feeling very much alive, adrenalin pumping! Had the ION on the whole time so should make for some very funny and entertaining viewing later.

Met the scraping team, thought they were going to give me a good working over, no such thing great conversation although filled with disbelief.

Same thing at the gate. If this was SA i would have tried to sneak out, but had a chat with the ranger on duty. Met some dumbstruck/amazed people. One guy said no i'm not crazy, you diehard. Funny. Had some tea with them and loads of laughts about my escapedes in the park. Apparantly camped out in the area with big bulls, and they don't even have walking safari's since the elephants are too aggresive and unpredictable. Thanks everyone for all the prayers, needed and used them today.

Finally departed Liwonde NP and some new friends.
Because of detouring and exiting 15km closer to Liwonde decided not to detour back over the mountain but to take the tar road through. A quick pit stop in Liwonde and i was on my way. Only realised 40km later haven't really eaten today.

The whole ride was on tar, which was mind numbingly boring and i became just another tourist, shades on, earphones in and gunned it. Looked at map and realised only have 80km to Mulanji. My dates kinda worked out so i'm going to take a bit of a break from the bike and climb the mountain with a few friends. Although only starting on saturday so i'll cycle to the mountain tomorrow and then start to cycle around. A rest day, or half wouldn't go amiss either, really need a wash day (maybe that was the trigger for the ellies, me smelling so bad).

Mulanji here we come

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