The early days…

“Run Alistair, its coming run”! My older brother yelled over his shoulder as he took off up the path ahead of me. I turned to the rushing noise on my right to see a large, hairy brute of a baboon come crashing through a small bush towards me. My heart stopped in my chest as did my originally steady stream of piss that I had been so proudly ‘drawing’ in the sand with. Well not stopped altogether. I turned to run after my already fast disappearing brother, but before I could follow my leading step with another, my shorts and underpants that were so conveniently dropped around my ankles, held fast and I felt myself crash forward. My ‘half shut valve’ continued to betray me, mixing with the deep Kalahari sand and staining my already tatty shirt and pants as I scrambled to pull them up and place my feet beneath me. Just as I felt all hope disappear, my feet gained traction again as my now very high sitting shorts gripped onto my navel area, freeing my scrawny legs to run. I accelerated forward, tears streaked across my cheeks and felt sure I would feel the vice like grip of the baboon’s hands as he sunk his large canines into my calf. The hold never came and so I hurriedly glanced back for a moment, only to see the big male baboon skidding to a halt, hair bristled as he dug his hands into the sand so stop him. Dust and leaves swirled around him, creating a more than awesome appearance! An image I will be sure never to forget.

I eventually caught up to my brother up the path as we both came scrambling into camp. We had attracted a few more than quizzical looks from our parents and their clients as they paused from their brunch, fork in hand to see what all the commotion was about. Although our parents looked a little curious as to what all the fuss was about, their look of concern quickly vanished as our un-avoidable nervous giggles began to take hold. We quickly composed ourselves and sheepishly slunk past to the back of the kitchen to let out our hysterical bouts of laughter in privacy. We would let our nerves settle ‘back of house’ with our staff, we far preferred a lunch of ‘Pap and stew’ to lodge food anyway.

I don’t think one could say we had a particularly “normal” upbringing, but then again, what is normal? Growing up in a quiet suburb, in the house you used to visit your Grandparents in before their ‘great safari’ came to an end might ‘seem normal’, but to me it goes against every natural instinct we have. I feel we are meant to move. Meant to explore. Meant to discover. It’s how us humans came to be so successful, so adaptable, and ultimately in today’s modern society, so weighed down with a feeling of un-fulfillment. Now before you think this is going to be another blurb on the “decay of modern society” (and in so doing be yet another reason to feel guilty of being human) I am happy to tell you that the only reason I make reference to the ‘normal’ life above, is to hopefully help some of you understand that the way we grew up was ‘normal’ for us as kids. It was only later on in life, as we grew older did we realize how incredibly unique and special our up-bringing was and how important it was in shaping us all to this day. Now I am not saying that in order to have a fulfilled life, that nurtures our most primitive instincts needs to be one filled with baboon’s and piss, but what I am saying is that I feel there is a definite lack of empathy and connection to our wilderness areas and the animals that inhabit them. I hope that by sharing some of my stories and memories of growing up in one of the world’s last ‘big game’ Eden’s, will somehow inspire or ignite people’s desire to reconnect with these wild places and these neglected ‘wild’ feelings we have inside.

Myself and my older brother at the hide from the baboon incident. Savuti 1994

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