So I’m fast asleep. I directed the drive last night, and well, I think I deserve a lie-in. Pieter, very gingerly knocks on my door at 4.45am. Rexon has had to deal with an emergency in the village, and I’m the only one left to direct. How can I refuse?
Just as I turn up, so does Rexon. Fantastic. I can hear my duvet calling.
It felt like about 1 second after I had fallen into the most beautiful sleep ever – yes,another knock on my door.
A rather dishevelled Jan arrives saying something about lions. Maybe I’m still asleep? Then there’s Jan and Nonhlahla at the gate with the bubaloo. Definitely a dream.
Fortunately, and this is very important, I remember my manners, even if it is a dream, and I take the really uncomfortable seat in the middle, between Jan the driver/guide, and Nonhlanhla, on the outside edge. And off we go.
Jan is in radio contact with someone. I can just about make out that Pieter is on the other end. This is getting stranger and stranger. After a short and quite bumpy ride we come to a bend in the road, with a few scrubby trees on either side. I am worried that my unshowered self might be causing my close companions some problems, but the atmosphere is so tense, I don’t want to say anything. Anyway, the bub is a very, very open vehicle, so hopefully that fresh air will disguise my lack of soap this morning.
Jan tells us both to keep quiet and not make any large movements. I am pinned to my seat, and still half asleep, so no problem there.
Then I hear a sneeze. The air is now electric with anticipation. That was a big sneeze, a lion sneeze.
Unbelievably, a huge male lion appears in front of us. Plodding along the road, without a care in the world, and weighing in at about 200kilos He’s not stopping. He’s coming straight at us, in our extremely open bubbaloo.
I feel Nonhlahla start to shake, or it could be me reverberating off Nonhlahla. I remember thanking my lucky stars that I’m in the middle, and that he’s going to eat either Nonhlahla or Jan first because I’m in the middle.
Then the sheer adrenalin kicks in. I am unbelievably thrilled and excited to see this guy. A real live lion now inches from the vehicle, and Nonhlanhla. I feel compelled to look into his eyes. You are so right about that, Jan. I manage to look the lion straight in the eye for about one second until blind terror takes over and he stares me out. He’s now passing us really close by. Yes, I may have shifted a few centimetres towards Jan, and away from the big guy.
I remember thinking that he’s a really strange colour. Not what I would have expected at all. He’s a sort of greenish grey, with a bit of brown thrown in. He has the most unearthly shining huge yellowy eyes. Then the other four turn up and silently, carefully tread the same path as their leader. They all glance at us, in a really disconcerting way. Like they’re thinking: “ which one shall I munch first? “ At one point I realise we are surrounded by four of the most threatening and dangerous lads in the area. They pad off.
It turns out that Piet, Rexon and Jan’s skills have guided us to this spot, and that Piet and Rexon are filming from the vehicle ahead of us. Those pictures tell their own story, and thanks to the guys for giving me one of the highlights of my life. Who needs sleep, anyway? I’ve heard a lion sneeze.