Monday, November 1, 2010

Have You Ever Been Chased by an Elephant? -gfh

Well we have! Last month we went with the other office couple, Elder and Sister Watts, and drove 3 1/2 hours up north to the Madikwe Game Reserve. It is the fourth largest reserve in South Africa, 75,000hectares in "rugged and with an untouched beauty"! Quite so! The reserve offers the Magnificent Seven (that's the Big Five plus the endangered wild dog and cheetah which we didn't see.) All the other predators beautiful birds (about 340 species). The northern border is Botswana. Would love to have gone across for a visit but we didn't have the time.
The office was basically closed but the phones were manned by Sister Poulsen, President Poulsen's wife, and by Sister Bailey our CDE (convert data entry) missionary. We are soooo grateful to them for making this much needed get away possible.
We stayed at Mosetlha Bush Camp which has "Get the Dust Of Africa On Your Feet" as its slogan. And that proved to be very true. The rains hadn't started yet and all was very hot and dusty BUT it was AFRICA!
President Poulsen says that the Mosetlha Bush camp is the best way to see Africa! The camp is unfenced and rustic and accommodates only 16 people at a time. We stayed in raised wooden cabins with open sides ,oil lamps, safari showers and meals prepared on the open fire. No electricity or running water in the camp. The water is trucked in. Here is a picture of our water source

The safari shower is a bucket with a spicket on a pulley and the water is heated by a donkey boiler.

And did you catch that it is "unfenced"? There is an electrical wire about six feet off the ground that surrounds the camp and is to keep out the really BIG animals like elephants and giraffes. All others are welcome to come and roam. During the night sounds of Africa can be heard very close by and foot prints are often seen in the camp the morning. We were told that just the week before a lion walked thru the dining area at night. One is cautioned about going out at night to use the Loo because of possible night visitors. The path to the loo was highly fenced and our cabin was right next to the gate. However, there was a chamber pot provided in our cabin if one was feeling timid about a night walk.

The cabins are uniquely set up so that lions, etc won't be able to share your cabin with you.

Two Safari rides are offered each day. Each ride is about four hours long. The morning starts with a wake up call at 5:30 and guests are expected to be ready for the first ride of the day by 6:00AM. I'm an early riser so 5:30 was no problem but leaving without breakfast was a challenge. If one got up quickly enough there was a chance to get hot chocolate and rusks before leaving and then about 2 1/2 hours into the drive we stopped for more hot chocolate and rusks. (rusks are very very hard crunchy cookie biscuits kind of lie biscotti that are meant to be dunked in tea or coffer and are delicious in hot chocolate! Elder H has developed quite a taste for them and bought some after we got back. We returned from our drive about 10:00 and had breakfast waiting. Then time for a safari shower and a nap and then lunch and a nap AND then the evening drive started at 4:00 and went till about 8:30.

We stopped again during the evening drive for cold drink (that's what soda is called here) and chips & dip.
Let me introduce Johnny, our Game Drive Guide. When we first met him we were impressed by his modest friendly nature. A very unassuming fellow and at that time we didn't really appreciate his ability or his responsibility. He has been a game guide for eight years and really knows his stuff. While driving the game vehicle along dusty bumpy roads/no roads, he is constantly looking out for signs of game. He would hang his head over the side slowing down looking for tracks in the dust and then follow the clues. As it got dark he turned on a spotlight and scanned the bush while driving. Suddenly he would stop and say "Look! There is a "such&such" in that tree out there" We'd all strain our eyes to see what he was seeing. Sometimes we could and sometimes we couldn't. Once it was a small bright red bird in the bushes. When we found it we marveled at Johnny's visual acuity. Sometimes it was a big gray shadow that turned out to be an elephant walking along side the path or hyenas or jackals running through the bush.
Now, look at the picture again. Notice the unzipped rifle case just in front? The guides are trained to use that if necessary. They are trained at 30 meters, 20 meters, 10 meters. It is used only as the last resort. The game guides are very concerned about the lives of the animals as well as for the lives of the people in the trucks. We were strongly instructed to stay seated in the truck. If we remained seated and inside the truck the animals perceived us as just a large animal.
Now this is where being chased by an elephant comes in......
On one of the night drives we were rumbling along in the dark with Johnny's spot light scanning here and there when we went around a corner and there in the spot light in front of us was an angry bull elephant. His ears were flapping and he was snorting and running towards us. In what seemed like one move, Johnny leaned over the side, directed his spotlight directly behind us, shifted into reverse and revved back up the bumpy dirt road full speed. He didn't pause to consider and he didn't even look back at the elephant. He had a responsibility for the lives in that truck. It was all very exciting..especially to talk about now. But at the moment it was scary! It seemed unreal. All was black except for the light showing the HUGE grey elephant charging at us. Like maybe it was projected on an IMAX screen for the benefit of the tourists. OF course the elephant gets bigger each time the story is told but hey, He was really big!
We truly had a wonderful R&R at Mosethla Bush Camp. We recommend it highly for a real South African Bush veld experience! Come see us and we'll take you there.

Below you will find lots of Safari pictures. You may say you've seen enough African wildlife on our blog BUT try to imagine being here and being chased by an elephant! WOW!

A herd of elephants tramping through the bush

This is a termite mound! They are everywhere!

And very early one morning we went to what I called "the valley of the baboons"

This is Mike and Christine.They saved up their money for two years and are doing a one year around the world honeymoon!

There are many many more pictures we could share. But I hope this gives you an idea. Many times the animals were so close it was a little unnerving. The animals in the reserve are not fed. It is strictly survival of the fittest!

As the sun set on the bushveld we marveled at the beauty of South Africa and how blessed we are to be here! Sala Kahle!


  1. Wow!! What an awesome "African" experience! I don't know that I could have done it, but you guys are experienced at roughing it after your bike rides. Love the pictures, love the chased-by-an-elephant story, love even more that you're safe, love that you got a break, and love you both!

  2. I didn't have time to be scared during that elephant chase - it happened too fast and by the time we were clear, it wasn't scary any more. I was amazed at Johnny's quick reaction and his skill in backing up that Range Rover in the dark. What I liked best about the trip was the quiet.

  3. Sounds like a a great trip. I know how fast those drivers can move when an elephant starts in your direction. We're glad that you got to go and that you got home safe and sound.

  4. When I read this to the kids Abby and Isabelle said "COOL!" Jacob and I said "how scary!"

    I'm glad you're safe but it is pretty cool to be able to tell that story...

  5. Carson just reminded me that when he was about 7 years old one of his friends told him that the 13th article of faith starts like this: "We believe in being honest, true, chased by an elephant..."