John Pear­son

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to. And never mind the ele­phants, hye­nas or hip­pos, says John. And speak­ing of go-go-go, there’s his new Disco 4

LRO (UK) - - Contents - JOHN PEAR­SON

Hye­nas (no laugh­ing mat­ter) and speedy D4

Afew col­umns ago I wrote about the night when about 30 ele­phants passed through where my part­ner Pat and I were wild-camp­ing in Tan­za­nia’s Serengeti Na­tional Park. That was an ex­hil­a­rat­ing, mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence – but it wasn’t as scary as an­other close en­counter of the wild an­i­mal kind we ex­pe­ri­enced ear­lier on that ad­ven­ture.

It was our first night in the Serengeti. We found our camp­site af­ter di­vert­ing the Sa­fari Drive 300Tdi De­fender 110 off the main track and driv­ing a mile or so to our own ex­clu­sively pri­vate piece of Africa. Once there, we set up the roof tent and got a camp­fire go­ing to pre­pare our evening meal.

Dark­ness had de­scended by 8pm and we sat by the crack­ling wood fire, en­joy­ing steaks and a cool beer while chat­ting about the wildlife we’d seen ear­lier in the day. Then Pat started to feel un­easy. She’s not eas­ily scared and I trust her in­stincts – which are gen­er­ally more per­cep­tive than my own – so I grabbed a pow­er­ful torch from in­side the De­fender and did a 360º sweep around the camp.

I was look­ing for tell-tale eyes, which would alert us to the fact there was wildlife around. I couldn’t see any, other than those of a small crea­ture that was hop­ping around in the branches of nearby trees. But Pat’s un­ease didn’t go away, so we washed up, packed away our ta­ble and chairs and turned in for the night in the rel­a­tive haven of the roof tent, two me­tres off the ground. Just a few min­utes af­ter climb­ing into the tent, we lay there read­ing by the light of our head­torches when there was the un­mis­tak­able call of hye­nas in the camp – pre­sum­ably check­ing whether we’d left any food ly­ing around. We hadn’t – ex­pe­ri­ence has taught us to keep anything ed­i­ble in­side the ve­hi­cle – and even­tu­ally we heard them mov­ing away into the bush.

Pat’s in­stinct had been proved right; I may not have spot­ted any eyes, but the hye­nas had def­i­nitely been out there wait­ing. I’m not say­ing we were in any danger, but they do have sharp teeth and ex­cep­tion­ally strong jaws – so you wouldn’t want to cor­ner one.

Any­way, ex­cite­ment over, we car­ried on read­ing for a while when we heard the rustling of some­thing big ap­proach­ing the camp, ac­com­pa­nied by deep grunt­ing sounds. ‘I don’t want to worry you,’ I said to Pat, ‘but that def­i­nitely sounds like hip­pos.’ I’d thought we were a long way from any water, but ap­par­ently hip­pos will travel some dis­tance at night search­ing for food. They also have the rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing quite bad tem­pered crea­tures and are re­spon­si­ble for more deaths of hu­mans in Africa than li­ons. They’re also big – weigh­ing up to 1800kg – and can in­flict se­ri­ous dam­age on a ve­hi­cle.

They soon moved on and all was quiet again. I’m not nor­mally scared of an­i­mals or the dark, but I have to con­fess I was rather re­luc­tant to get out of the tent when I needed to re­lieve my­self later in the night. I tried to get back to sleep, but the pres­sure on my blad­der meant that even­tu­ally I had to go. I had a good look around be­fore de­scend­ing the lad­der, coughed a few times and then hummed to my­self while go­ing about my busi­ness. Yes, I was a bit on edge. And since then I’ve al­ways taken with me a re­cep­ta­cle for pee­ing in dur­ing the night, so I don’t have to leave the tent. Pat’s blad­der is stronger. Glad you asked.

Captain not-so-slow

Af­ter driv­ing around in a heavy De­fender 110 and not-par­tic­u­larly-rapid Dis­cov­ery 2 over the years, I have to ad­mit I’ve be­come a fairly slow driver, by the nature of my Land Rovers. I’ve al­ways stuck rigidly to speed lim­its in built-up ar­eas, and nei­ther of my ve­hi­cles feels par­tic­u­larly com­fort­able at speeds over the 70mph limit on mo­tor­ways and dual car­riage­ways. But getting my Dis­cov­ery 4 has turned me into a law-breaker.

The trou­ble is, it’s so re­fined and smooth, and its en­gine is re­ally low-revving, even at speed, so it’s all too easy to let it drift over the le­gal limit. Which is what hap­pened when I was driv­ing home on a lo­cal ring road.

The sun was shin­ing, the ra­dio was pound­ing out some de­cent mu­sic and ev­ery­thing was good. Well, it was un­til I over­took a con­voy of trucks, only to spot one of those pesky po­lice cam­era vans at the side of the road.

I checked my speed, think­ing it was about 70mph, but got a shock when I saw it was over 75mph. I slowed, but they would have clocked me as quickly as I saw them. My mind went through the var­i­ous sce­nar­ios of be­ing fined and getting points on my clean li­cence. Then I re­mem­bered of­fend­ers can be of­fered a speed aware­ness course in­stead, and I thought I would take that op­tion if pos­si­ble.

I waited for the of­fi­cial let­ter to ar­rive in the post, but it never came, and that was more than three months ago. Even so, I may not have been on a speed aware­ness course, but be­ing ‘caught’ by that po­lice van has had a sim­i­lar ef­fect. I am now more aware when driv­ing the D4 – and not just of cam­eras. I won’t be let­ting my speed creep up again.

‘I’m not nor­mally scared of an­i­mals or the dark, but I was re­luc­tant to get out of the tent to re­lieve my­self that night’

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