McCrumble in the Jungle - Part I (of XXXVII)
We landed in Mombasa and were taken to my favourite hotel where I was to take part in a regional meeting of parasitologists. The next three days were spent by myself in an air conditioned office. Mrs Dr McC meanwhile cultivated a rather deep tan by sitting on the balcony of our room. Here she is a relaxed frame mind displaying her fine legs to the African sunshine.
My legs received no sunshine what-so-ever as the sunshine was kept out of the room (a converted disco) in which we were convening.
So far so dull then. But after the meeting was over, it was time for some R&R, McCrumble style. First we were taken on a one-night package to the local game park called Shimba Hills. The park was empty, save for a couple of herds of sable antelope. In case you've never seen one of these deer, here's a picture of a male. Yes, they are black. And aren't they magnificent?
The evening was spent in a lodge overlooking a waterhole that was devoid of visitors. The steak I ordered was undercooked, and the bar was empty. We shall not be returning.
The next day we were driven to Mombasa and taken to a car rental office in the middle of town. We had previously arranged car hire and recieved a new, shiny, bright white Suzuki Gyspy King!
We drove (slowly - this thing didn't have muchof an engine) up to Tsavo West park where we were booked in for 2 nights at one of the lodges. This place has a climbing frame for leopards:
So anyways, the next day we drove around the park quite happily and come lunchtime opened up the lunch boxes given to us by the lodge:
Now in the lunch box you will notice a sandwhich. This sandwich contained cheese that had been getting steadily warmer during the day, as we had left the lunchboxes in the boot of the car. It tasted good, but such was the smell that it began to attract the attention of a group of nearby cape buffalo:
Now, what you may or may not know is that buffalo are amongst the most dangerous animals in Africa. They can't see past their noses, but their sense of smell is so well developed that they could probably smell Gorilla Bananas' hairy armpits from 2km away. They could certainly smell our cheese, and within no time at all were literally breathing into the car!
Mrs Dr McC, not one to panic, calmy instructed me to 'Get the fuck out of here, Joseph'. I immediately tried to comply, but my lunchbox was rather large and somewhat difficult to clear out of the way. I had also removed the keys from the car to open the boot. So there I was trying to get my act together when suddenly there was an almighty thud on the passenger side. Other crunching thud like noises followed, immediately in front of me, on the driver's side door and to the rear of the vehicle. It was fast becoming most unpleasant, and I still hadn't got the keys into the ignition.
'It's the cheese they want!' shouted my astute wife, and that moment it occcurred to me that she might be right. If so, we had made a remarkable scientific discovery, since to my knowledge the published database of buffalo behaviour did not include a mention of a predilection for cows-cheese. But there was no time to ruminate on this potentially important observation. The buffalo were thumping their great bony foreheads into the car with seemingly muderous intent.
'GO NOW FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!' screamed my normally cool spouse. I fumbled a bit more. The key was stuck down my pants. A buffalo stuck its head through the window, and I could feel its hot foul breath in my ears. It almost made me choke, but I somehow managed to suppress the reflux and drag the keys out of my pocket. It took a few more seconds to start the engine, but then it stalled and in one heart-stopping moment I realised they had probably damaged the engine. It was beginning to look like we had just taken (though sadly not finished) our last lunch together, and that we were to face Death at the hands of a mob of buffalo, something that is famously unpleasant. On top of that, I had a paper back at the lodge on the parasites of porcupines that I needed to finish and submit. Our harmless holiday in the Kenyan countryside was turning into a safari nightmare...
The car turned once, turned twice, turned three times. Sweat was running into my eyes. Buffalo were buffeting the car on all sides. I pumped on the gas, turned the key in vain and looked at my wife. She was trying (somewhat ineffectually I thought) to beat off a buffalo with her Marie Clare handbag. 'I love you Mrs Dr McC' I shouted, fearing that the end was near.
Suddenly, and just as I felt the sides of the car beginning to close in on us, there was an almighty 'CRACK!' sound from somewhere outside the car. We looked quizzically at each other, and then at the buffalo. They looked back at us for a second with their little suinty eyes and then were gone, leaving nothing but a cloud of red dust in their place.
'They sure can turn fast' I noted.
'Thank fucking fuck for that....' sighed my wife, followed by '.....who's that?
The dust behind the vehicle was clearing to reveal the shape of a man carrying a gun. 'Wow, 'I said, 'It must be the KWS. They got here in the nick of time.
'Jambo' I cried, close to tears with gratitude. The ranger waved back and smiled, but did not approach the car.
'Thankyou' shouted Mrs Dr McC. The ranger still didn't move, but instead just stood there, an enigmatic smile on his face. Mrs Dr McC raised her camera for a photo:
'Good grief' I said when moments later I saw the preview on the LCD screen of the camera. He's wearing a mask, and...look there, he appears to be....blind!'
My wife peered closely at the screen. 'Bloody hell, you're right' she exclaimed. 'Hey...Mister...!' But the ranger had already gone.
'Try the engine again' she said. This time, as if by magic, the car spluttered into life. Astonished, I gingerly pressed the acceletator pedal, placed the car into gear, checked my mirrors, indicated and pulled away. Half an hour later, as the sun was setting, the car, with two flat tyres, oil dripping from the chassis and steam hissing from the engine, arrived with its passengers back at the lodge. We alighted (with some difficulty as the doors were little more than twisted scraps of metal) and moments later were surrounded by concerned employees, who gasped in astonishment when they saw what was left of our vehicle:
'It is a miracle!' proclaimed one of the staff. 'But tell us....how did this happen? '
We told our story to a rapt audience. At the end there was an eruption of excited whispers amongst the Kenyans. 'What's the matter? I asked at length.
'You are very lucky people indeed...' said the manager of the lodge. 'by your account you should be dead by now. But it appears the you have been saved by someone....a legend, an almost mythical figure of these parts. No-one has even been sure he existed until now. Some say he was a ranger gored to death by elephants many years ago who now helps stranded tourists. Others say he is a blind madman who stalks the parks and, when he senses people in trouble, he either shoots in the air to scare the animals or listens to the gory spectacle unfolding, depending on his mood. We call him "Wild Bull Tembo - the Unpredictable Blind Ranger who Shoots to avoid the Kill"....'
'That sums him up nicely' said my wife with characeristic curtness. I gave her a hug, and that night we we gave thanks to our saviour before making sweet