The nature of the beast is to surrender
Please excuse me, but I was really pressed. My bladder had reached its bursting threshold.
I am in Ballito, also known as mamba country.
There are monkeys everywhere, as if they had come for a national conference of some sort.
I imagined that I was going to wet my pants anyway. If I saw a mamba, I’d be so scared, the bladder would just let loose, and I’d probably be one of the 20 000 people who are killed by snakes every year.
“Where there are monkeys, there are leopards,” a friend of mine, whose name is Happy, once told me.
He would know. He lives in Sabie — that little town that’s nested in the forests of Mpumalanga, not far from the Kruger National Park.
His wife, LaMasuku, is a forester, and was brought into the business by her father, who practised “take a girl child to work” long before it was fashionable. She now runs her own company, Nandi Forestry, and knows that entire forest ecosystem — from the antelopes that live there and the monkeys, down to the mushrooms that most of us don’t even see.
There are no mambas in those timber mines, because it is too cold. The only snakes that live there tend to eat rodents, so they dash when they see human beings.
One day, LaMasuku told me, she was working in the forest and had to get to a meeting back at the office. Like a true business leader who has her eye on saving costs, she decided to leave the truck with the workers behind. There are always vans driving through the forest, managers, inspectors, and so on, and it is always easy to find a lift. Indeed, she had hardly walked 300 metres and she found one. She jumped into the car and as they drove off, around the corner, at a distance no further than a toddler could run without falling, there it was – a leopard.
LaMasuku and the driver were shocked, imagining what could have happened. She was traumatised and for weeks she couldn’t go back into the forest.
Whether the leopard was stalking LaMasuku or whether it was a coincidence is still a matter of great debate at the Nkhoma dinner table. He thinks the leopard wasn’t interested in her, and was probably not even aware that she was in the vicinity. Every time this topic comes up, I take sides, and stand with those who think it was stalking.
Another friend, Morné du Plessis, who is chief executive officer of the World Wildlife Forum, was driving in Zimbabwe north of the Victoria Falls. He was with his wife, Lindi, and their daughters. They stopped for a leg-stretch. Morné felt a little uneasy, and told his family to return to the car.
Women – the menfolk must admit – are braver. Lindi suggested that they stick around and take in the vegetation. Morné didn’t ask any questions, he simply took the kids to the car. Lindi followed, and as they walked back, they saw lion tracks on their footsteps.
Basically, a pride of lions had moved between the family and the car. These lions were lucky, because human mothers are deadly when their children are in danger.
All these thoughts had buried themselves in my subconscious and they all played simultaneously even though my bladder was full.
As I approached the tree, I heard monkeys whoop and screech, throwing branches on the ground. I just said to my bladder, “behave”.
Maybe monkey don’t attack humans, but hey, I didn’t want to be the city slicker who got beaten up by a troop of monkeys.
Sometimes to surrender is not a bad idea.