July 2005 - Dangerous Animals
DANGEROUS ANIMALS come in all shapes and sizes and here at Impala we take the welfare of our clients very seriously whether we are running a day’s greenlaning in England or Wales or an Adventure to deepest Russia our aim is to keep DANGEROUS ANIMALS and our clients well apart.
In England and Wales the most dangerous animals tend to be Homo Sapiens,Sapiens and Dogs but once the channel has been crossed this changes somewhat. The list that we compile for our information booklet includes for Africa North of the Sahara such dangers as snakes, spiders and scorpions, while in the North of Sweden, Finland and Russia some 200 miles above the Artic Circle bears are top of the list. A startling attack of a ferocity never seen or heard of by our intrepid crew has added one more animal to our “North of the Sahara” list.
Imagine the scene. Our group has just spent an incredible day’s drive from the river (dry and stony) near Akka Irene across mountain flanked stony plains to the town of Foum Zguid (The gateway to the Sahara) before passing into the Sahara desert and onto Lac Iriki.
Our first night in the desert is spent camping on grey sand spotted every 50yds or so with small spiny acacia trees. On the way to the site of our wild camp I always lead the cars through small dunes of soft sand, the tallest of which are no more than ten feet high. One or two of the cars always gets stuck during this exercise which allows me to run a “real” impromptu lesson in sand driving. Two cars did get stuck this evening and the subsequent retrieval caused a lot of merriment, as the lessons of sand driving were starting to be learnt.
Eventually to the backdrop of an awe inspiring sunset of reds, yellows, blues and purple we set up camp in a small valley of sand and trees. There is always an air of high excitement and expectation at this first desert camp. Everyone knows that ahead of us are 100 miles of sand with dunes up to 200 meters high and behind them are some small dunes where already two cars got stuck. How difficult is it ahead?, they muse quietly to themselves and a little worried tension is evident on their faces. For me and my support this is the best part of our adventure. We revel in the responsibility of guiding and teaching our clients the skills needed to succeed across this wondrous desert and they will all without exception come out the other end feeling exulted, bursting with pride as they proudly wear the “badge”.
As darkness fell everyone started cooking their evening meals under the light of a moon that was bright enough to see easily by. From around the trees gerbils appeared and ran around our camp totally unconcerned by our presence, some of us even managed to take some close up pictures of these harmless rodents.
After we had eaten everyone traditionally gathers around my Rangerover, bringing their chairs over to sit and talk about the day’s adventure over a glass of wine. Gerbils were still running around the camp and one in particular ran underneath our table, stopped and cleaned his whiskers before bounding off back towards the trees. This amused us all and we were all agreeing as to how honoured we felt at this small animals trust in us. It is so normal for people to want to kill such creatures and here we were enjoying a few precious privileged moments with him or her in complete trust.
Then it happened, an attack so unexpected that we were, well not expecting it really………………………..The gerbil rushed out from the trees, ran over to a foot, Simon Streeter’s foot and BIT IT!!!.
“Ow” uttered Simon in astonishment “ It bit my foot”
“Pardon?” we all exclaimed followed by a universal “are you sure”
“Yes and its drawn blood” Simon held up his slightly bleeding toe so we could all see the extent of the damage.
Everyone including Simon roared with laughter which sent the Gerbil scampering for cover. Well he only ran off about two feet before returning to possibly sample some different flesh so we all removed our feet promptly from the sand and hopefully far from his sharp teeth.
Yes it was true. The gerbil has now been added to our Dangerous Animals list. We spent the rest of the evening with our feet up on tables and chairs so as not to fall prey to this monster of a gerbil. The gerbil spent the rest of the evening rushing about and we are sure laughing at his amazing stunt.
I had a lovely run in with some French Gendarmerie in a small village nestling against a hillside in the Dordogne last autumn. We were enjoying a cross country route in this delightful wine producing region on our way back to blighty, just cruising well below the speed limit. As we rounded a blind bend as it entered the village two gendarmes leapt out into the road and gesticulated towards the opposite pavement, which we duly after a quick mirror check drove onto. “What did he want “ I thought. As he strutted over looking very fierce I wound down my window and greeted him “Bonjour ceva” He replied in English “Have you been drinking?” He tried to fix me with one of those glares that a policeman has when his is sure that victory, perhaps even a glorious arrest of a Rosbif will soon be in his hands. I smiled back at him and replied in French “Today no, but last night yes I did have a glass of wine or two” he was not happy and thrust forward a breathalyzer “Would monsieur blow into this please” “Yes, I would be delighted” I replied cheerfully and duly blew into the machine giving it back to him with a smile. His look of disappointment was very badly hidden as I looked him straight in the eye. “Go, Go,Go” was his response and as I started the V8 my reply of “ A la prochein (see you later? next time)” he did not find amusing, but there you are that’s life hay!!!!!