Exercise, Afrikaaner Style
Lindsey and I are up at 5am, having accepted Andreas' offer
of an early morning run. Rueing our lack of sleep and breakfast, we shuffle
groggily toward the kitchen tent, where Andreas is leaning easily against a
big jackalberry tree, a rifle resting casually on his shoulder. Andreas is possibly
the most impressive human being I have ever met. He studied accounting in college
and then went to live with the Bushmen in the Kalahari for several years, so
he has a vast knowledge of tracking, hunting, the use of native plants, and
pretty much anything else you'dwant to know about the bush. At some point, he
was a member of the South African Special Forces, so he has a bunch of commando
training, and, although he's reluctant to discuss it, I get the impression that
he's been involved in a few skirmishes around the African continent. He told
us a story about how he once became annoyed with the Johannesburg's police force's
inability to catch a murderer, so he decided to track the guy halfway across
the city and apprehend him himself. He's also done a fair amount of biological
research, including stints living with elephants and hyenas, and he enjoys taking
week-long treks alone through the bush carrying only water and a hunting knife.
Currently he splits his time between running this camp, a tourist lodge in another
reserve, and a dojo in Johannesburg. He is thirty-two years old.
At the moment his most pertinent quality is that he is a competitive triathlete,
so this pleasant little morning jog could turn out to be very interesting, notwithstanding
the reality that we will be traveling through lion/leopard/elephant/rhino/buffalo
territory. Andreas nods us good morning, turns, and sets off down the dirt two-track
out of camp at a not-too-sluggish pace, rifle gripped easily in his left hand.
Lindsey and I exchange apprehensive glances but quickly set off in pursuit;
a little exhaustion never killed anyone, I think, and the opportunity for a
jog through the African bush is simply too good to pass up. And as the scarlet
sun breaks the horizon, I do not regret my decision. The air is still cool,
exercise combats our sleep deprivation better than a strong cup of coffee ever
could, and we are moving through one of the most incredible landscapes on earth.
Every bush, tree, and wisp of grass is awash with the golden light that comes
only in the first few minutes of each day. We pass by a pair of giraffe, who
stop their feeding to stare at us through long black eyelashes. A group of impala
is less tolerant of our presence, bolting across the path in front of us and
disappearing into thick brush. I can think of no better way to begin the day.
Andreas suddenly points down to the dirt, and as I pass over the spot I see
the paw print of a substantially-sized feline. "Lion track," he informs
us nonchalantly, "freshly laid." Lindsey, who is always a bit apprehensive
about large animal encounters, mutters something that sounds an awful lot like
"Oh shit you've got to be kidding me." Andreas had given me the rifle
to carry a few minutes ago, and I now fight the urge to thrust it back into
his hands. But we continue on, as do the tracks of the lion, who had evidently
used the road for a good portion of his recent travels. A minute later, the
road splits, with the lion tracks heading to the right. Andreas turns the same
Lindsey mutters again, this time a bit more vehemently.
Several hundred meters later, the tracks veer off into the bush. Andreas stops
and announces this would be a good place to do our mid-run pushups and situps
session. Lindsey is not amused, but we perform our exercises obediently, spurred
on by the adrenaline of knowing there is something in the vicinity that can
eat us for breakfast. The run is resumed without mishap, and half an hour later,
we return to camp, sweaty, dusty, and with an even greater appreciation for
the physical frailty of humans in a place like this. Andreas is barely breathing
Back to Main Page
Last Updated: 13 January, 2003
This page © 2003 by Zenmervolt.