linyanti riverine forest and are driving up the cutline that defines
the border of Chobe National Park and the private concession areas.
The sand track rolls out ahead of us like a bent and buckled gun-
barrel highway. Hemmed in on either side by dense green bush and
occasional tall mopane trees.
We pass a bright pool of water - remnant of the summer rains. A sky
blue pan with a small group of impala who raise their heads to watch
us pass. Ahead of us occasional herds of elephants cross from green
curtain to green curtain. The sky is a dome of deep blue, the horizon
is flat. The smell of sand and wild sage fills the air.
We are moving along at a steady pace, rhythmically rocking and rolling
with the dense sand of the track. Far in the distance we see an
elephant next to the road. She picks up her head and watches our
approach. As we draw near she raises her head and sways from side to
side focusing her attention alternatly on us, and a bull elephant who
slowly emerges from the bushes and strolls across the open cut line.
Once the bull has crossed, the cow elephant turns her full attention
on us. She puts her head down and starts running towards us
soundlessly. We start to back up as the gap closes suprisingly
quickly. She doesnt falter. Her ears are back but still flapping
slightly as she runs. Her eyes are focussed on us. There are no
trumpets of warning or mock charges - just a silent full speed run.
She looks remotely comical and undignified at this pace, but my
imagination does a forward leap and starts to picture how it will be
when she connects with our vehicle. We get the message. Reversing is
difficult because we are fully loaded with goods for the safari camps
and cannot see out the back windows.
At last she slows and so do we. We reverse onto the side in
preparation for a turn if necessary. There is a waiting period while
she decides whether to chase again. We watch and wait, willing her to
move off so we can continue with our journey. We still have a long way
Holding her head high, she draws herself up to her full height and
still watching us, starts to move off into the trees. We wait to see
her grey head emerge from between bushes. She hovers on the periphery.
Eventually we take the leap and decide to carry on. She sees us
passing and races out of the bushes again - erupting through the
trees, head down, running at us. But we are past this time and can
soon widen the gap between us. I watch her recede. She stops and
stands guard over that particular stretch of road. Waiting, I think,
for the next unsuspecting traveller.