Camping Among Giants

A Kansas Boys First Encounter with African Megafauna. By: Adam Parkison

 

From a deep sleep, I was suddenly awoken by a firm hand that grabbed my ankle and shook it furiously. In a millisecond, I was sitting up alert, my heart racing. The air was electric and full of expectancy. Someone was hissing at me. I eventually deciphered the voice belonged to a man named Ali; he was trying to tell me something but I couldn’t make out the words. Frantically searched my mind, I fumbled over my small vocabulary of Sango, then it hit me: Big animal, down by the water!

I grabbed Ali’s arm and tried to calm him. I needed to catch my breath to process the situation. Everything was moving too fast. Ali and the others were all awake, whispering and moving frantically in the darkness. I just wanted everyone to calm down so I could process the situation.

Then I heard it. In the distance, down the riverine forest- splashing, drawing closer and closer. There was a large animal, or animals, moving towards us in the darkness. I tried to imagine what kind of beast could make such a noise, but only a dinosaur filled my imagination.

“Buffalo! Buffalo!” Ali kept saying. But it did not sound like buffalo hooves hitting gravel. It simply sounded massive. Every curious cell in my body screamed for me to move forward, but the rational side of me hesitated. Before the logical side could even intervene, Ali was grabbing my arm, and we hurried forward in reckless abandon.

The others stayed back, waiting next to their extinguished fires. Ali was beckoning me forward, but I could only manage to crawl. The sound of large footsteps drew closer, and I dreaded their small earthquakes beneath my feet. When the beasts were just in front of us, crashing through vines and river rocks, they suddenly stopped. Ali and I stopped. In the darkness, we all held our breaths. We were now only 30 yards away from the mystery creatures, staring across a small black abyss.

In the strain of that awful silence, I reached in my pocket and pulled out a bright flashlight. I aimed it, like a gun, in the direction of the villainous sounds across the creek. In a climax of anticipation, I switched it on. The sight knocked me to the ground in cowering reverence.

There, frozen like two gray statues towering above us, stood two elephants. The one in front had small, straight tusks. The other had four-foot long, curved tusks. For a long, breathless moment, the two remained unmoving, their ghastly eyes blinded by the bright light. Suddenly, the one up front let out a tremendous trumpet, and they both crashed forward, pushing massive trees and tangled lianas in their retreat. The ground trembled with their step, and their heavy breathing sounded like it came from the bowls of the earth itself.

Before fully processing what we had just seen, the animals had vanished, and the sight of them was left faintly lingering; gone like a dream into the night.

(This is an excerpt from my upcoming book)

 

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( Tags: Africa , Elephant , Camping )

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