Friday, March 19, 2010
Teeth of a Lion
Taking a lion walk is exceptional enough: walking through knee-high savanna grass in 95 degree heat, watching for snakes and other non-fun creatures, bumping up against lions as they run past you and jump on each other--and sometimes you. It's a wonderful way to spend a few hours in Africa.
And if you get Frikkie to lead the group, it's even more wonderful. He knows his way around. And he knows lions.
On Wednesday, I had not just one of this experiences, but two. In the morning, Frikkie took out the newest volunteers who had never been up close and personal with lions. We went with the four 14 month olds and the 6 month old, Martha. He told the vols the rules--don't run, don't scream, don't overhandle the lions--and we headed out. Some of the newbies looked nervous and stayed as far away as possible from the roaming lions.
Cornelia, Willi, and I were allowed to go along with the four volunteers. Frikkie probably had it all worked out before hand with the lions--I wouldn't put it past him--because 10 minutes into the walk, one of the babies decided to test me.
I was walking along with the sun to the right and back of me. I heard a slight rustle and looked left just in time to see my shadow--and a perfect silhouette of a lion flying through the air toward my back. I had just enough time to brace myself so I wouldn't fall down and look like weak prey. Instead the lion wrapped his paws around my arms and chest and put his teeth around my upper left arm.
I didn't scream. I didn't run. I didn't fall. I just stood there, reached around and smacked him in the face and said "nea, nea" (no, no) and pushed him off me--all 200 pounds of him. Frikkie laughed and pointed out that it was the right way to handle an attack. I think it was both good and frightening for the new vols. I'm glad it was me and not one of them for the first attack of the day.
I might add that a few minutes later, Martha jumped Cornelia--and she screamed, ran, and fell down. She laughs and claims that she was serving as a bad example to my good one--so the volunteers could see the difference.
So as you can see in the picture above, the teeth marks (in the perfect arch of the lion's mouth) didn't penetrate the skin--just left a bruise. That tells me it was all in fun. He could have snapped my arm off in one bite, but he was just having a good time. No real harm done. After the walk, I counted only three wounds that were bleeding--a good average when walking the 5 crazy youngsters.
After a few hours of this, we returned to the farm, unloaded the cats, and ate lunch. I fell asleep for about an hour and then got up for the second walk with the 3 bigger Brothers. I felt really tired for some reason, but I wouldn't miss this for anything.
This time we went with Frikkie, his son, and his new daughter-in-law (a very brave young woman who had never been to Harnas).
The Gentlemen Lions were well behaved--no jumping, no biting--just lots of head rubbing and body bumping. No blood. Lots of good pictures for the newlyweds.
Part way through each walk I offered the lions a drink from my water bottle, as did Cornelia. They're used to this because Frikkie often shares his water with them. I stuck the neck of the bottle into a mouth and poured. They lapped it up. And they stood in line for more. When there's a line-up of three big lions asking for water, it's not a good idea to say "no." So on both walks, Cornelia and I ran out of water before we barely got a sip. But it's okay because the lions were taken care of.
That night I felt sooooo tired. I couldn't believe it. Yes, the lion walks were exhausting, the temperature neared 100, I didn't have water--but it seemed worse than it should be. I know I'm old, but come on!!! Everything hurt and I could barely keep my eyes open through dinner.
The answer came a few hours after I went to bed: shivering, sweating, fever, and muscle aches. I have a virus. So I spent all day yesterday sleeping in bed, and today I feel weak but a bit better. With less than 2 weeks to go at Harnas, though, I hated losing a whole day to sickness.