Thursday, June 7, 2001

Savuti Marsh, Botswana

In the depths of winter here, the nights are quite long, which gives me way too much time to think. I spent much of last night pondering mortality, but only after nearly stepping on a puff adder. I’d taken one step too many in the dark, heard a long, low hiss and hopped back swearing. Grabbing a flash light out of the truck, the light showed a stout snake with small head and ugly disposition.

After I disturbed him, he weaved through the tall, dead grass and leaves in no particular hurry, allowing me time to fetch my guidebook, turn to the reptiles page and to authoritatively identify him as one of the more lethal snakes on the continent. Shit.

I follow after the snake with my flash light for longer than necessary, inexplicably drawn to him. It’s as if Death itself brushed past in the darkness. Instead of being suitably chastened, I cape along behind, tugging at his robe. “Hey, mister. Is that really you?...”

It occurred to me later, sometime after midnight when the lions began to roar near camp, that this is all an exercise in blind faith. In particular faith that my thin nylon tent will somehow discourage a lion or elephant or hyena from sending me to an early, unpleasant demise.

I followed the lions’ progress through camp, debating whether to start being officially worried. I apparently wasn’t that worried, since I drifted back to sleep instead.

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