(c) DJT 2002

Dangers of Solo Bushwalking

African safaris are interesting and exciting but there are dangers, especially if you are on foot and by yourself. You may think that the dangers are too obvious to forget but anyone can become complacent if they are tired or temporarily bored.

During my walks near the Letaba River in South Africa, many years ago, I had a number of experiences that taught me useful lessons. One taught me two things. One was that it is dangerous to go bushwalking by oneself. Another was to be very careful of thorns, even while they are not physically hurting you. Where I was walking one day, the river bank was in the form of a ledge. I could see that on a lower ledge, some baby crocodiles were basking in the sun. I had seen many crocodiles during my years in Africa but did not have a photograph of baby ones.

I crept carefully along the path to get a closer look at the baby crocodiles but I had to walk very close to the edge of the ledge because of dense bushes and undergrowth. When I got to just above where the crocodiles were, I meant to crouch on the ground and safely look over the ledge to take the picture. However, when I tried to do so, I found that my shirt had caught on a bush with both straight and hooked thorns. These are called "Haak-en-Steek" by Afrikaners and are very tenacious. Whenever I freed one part of my shirt, another part seemed to get caught. I tried pulling away from the bush and nearly went over the ledge.

I would have fallen, probably to my death, if the thorn bush itself had not pulled me back. It would probably not have been crocodiles that killed me but the rocks below. I started to panic, as there was nobody else about and I feared that I might be stuck there all night, if I was lucky enough not to fall over the ledge or get killed by a wild animal. I calmed down and did manage to slowly and carefully get free of the thorns. I never did take the photograph.

To me, the incident was worthy of an Indiana Jones movie, with the hero precariously balanced on a ledge over a crocodile-infested river (even if the visible ones were only babies). I suspect, though, that if anyone had been watching me, they might have been reminded more of The Perils of Pauline.


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