The engine let out a deep roar before the tell-all high-pitched whine. Our mismatched tires spun, we felt the truck and our hearts swivel and sink. We were stuck and 200 massive elephant heads twitched in our direction. Surrounded by the herd, Logan gathered wood in the brush and shoveled sand at super-human speed. The elephants were agitated and never let their gaze wander from the spectacle we had created.
It has been said that modern man originated in Africa. And when a 12,000 pound elephant stares you down snorting and kicking up dust, the instinctual fear that pulses throughout your body feels like the most certain evidence of such a claim.
Our second attempt at escape was a flop, the engine squealed and sputtered, defeated. They made it clear, we had overstayed our welcome. Our latest vehicular eruption caused the nearest group of 15 elephants to charge. Exhaling expletives, we watched them gain speed and then unexpectedly turn, crossing the road just ahead of us. For a moment we believed we were safe. Until they rounded on us, in what appeared to be a well-practiced and exceedingly graceful surprise maneuver, they turned at the last moment and stopped to face us head on.
Previously, the safety of our Toyota Hilux felt certain, but now I knew I was trapped in a tin can of terror. Everyone had warned us to be careful. I pictured our friends and loved ones shaking their heads sadly at our double funeral, what a way to go, trampled by elephants. And later, whispered in confidence, “I heard they were drinking.” I voiced these and other mortal concerns to my ever calm and stalwart husband. He whispered, “Relax.”
Seemingly disgusted at our thumping hearts and immobile response, the leader raised his trunk and took a few menacing steps forward. He trumpeted, the threat echoed across the plains. We sat staring at each other for a few moments before the group retreated back to the herd. They had certainly made their point.
Seconds later we were digging with hands and shovels, still surrounded. Finally, swaying and bumping backwards, before gracelessly spinning the truck around, we were free and leaving certain death in the rear view. And wouldn’t you know it? We only got stuck twice more before reaching camp where we found the real test of our courage was just beginning.