Running Away, Feeling Small

 

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The Ruaha is spilling and swallow-you-whole enormous. When we fly in, we float up the river’s throat like an eagle riding a thermal and I-spy elephants drinking. And then it’s to camp and to work as the heat sinks into my bones and makes me move too slowly. That and lunch.

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This is the funny thing about the work I do. Like living on a virtual magic carpet; I write for a paper in Hong Kong from my African mountainside office with a Labrador curled at my feet using one foot as a pillow. Or I write from a canvassed verandah above a sandy korongo where the occasional wheeze of a breeze tempts you briefly to believe it really is cooling down. It’s not. The rumble I hear is not thunder, it’s the soft pachydermic purr of a bull elephant as he ambles through camp. How silent a foot fall for so big an animal.
We are a flurry of activity – this little media crew – we bundle into and out of landcruisers with camera equipment and hats and water bottles and breakfast and I am astonished – at 6am – at the bracing chill of pre dawn. When the sun clambers languorously into a sky the colour of duck-down, it’s hard to believe you’ll be willing it back down by eleven.
I interview Masai herdsmen, scientists, a conservationist (whose encyclopaedic knowledge of wildlife delivers drama to even the tiniest ecosystem, the smallest creature) and a poacher turned safari scout. I think that’s the best bit about what I do: when I call myself ‘writer’ I am afforded license to ask questions I mightn’t otherwise.

 

We spend hours on game drives, catching wildlife, distilling a huge sprawling wild space into the scope of a lens; the leopard we see is fleet of foot; a blur through the grass. The nine lionesses are so fullfat of antelope that they barely stir but lie flat on their backs playing dead.

 

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But the chalk striped kudu mill amongst the combretum calm as can be and delicately pluck off the plant’s fire engine red tooth brush bristled flowers whcih they nibble daintily and I marvel at their contentment.

 

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That ought to be my takeaway: find inner peace and steady a while. That and remember how small you really are.

 

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