Monday, March 9, 2015

Children, don't try this at home

About every 6 weeks, some of us have to go to Nairobi to bring us back precious resources that we can’t find in the Mara (e.g. LN2 for our samples) and vital for researchers (e.g. cheese, Nutella, green apples, etc.).

A couple months ago, it was Ashlei’s and Chase’s turn to go. So, I was the only mzungu* left in camp. Also, Joseph (Kenya’s best cook) had left to visit his family. Sad, sad days…

One afternoon, I was working at my desk in my tent when I heard some fuss in camp coming from “the guys’ tents”. 

My cozy work space, even cozier when it’s not 35°C inside

Now that I have presented the setting, let me introduce the protagonists (in order of apparition):

So, I was hearing some fuss coming toward my cozy tent. A few seconds later came a poor female warthog harassed by Maasai dogs. For their behalf, they are not really fed by people around here, so they need to eat what they can find, eh. Note that the pictured dog (who was probably not part of the hunting party) has found it safer to beg at our table with her cute little face. It works.

Anyway, I found the warthog chase by my tent very cool, but was not quick enough to get a picture with my phone and they were gone by the time I got outside my tent.

Here comes the stupid postdoc. I could still hear the barking dogs not far from my tent. I kind of knew that a warthog could be a little bit angry sometimes, but I figured that the poor beast would have enough on her plate (i.e. saving herself) and would not notice me. Besides, I could also hear the guys (Chief, Benson, Wilson and Samwell) coming from the same direction, so no big deal, if they could be there, so could I (as I said, stupid). And so I went on the driveway (right by my tent) to see what was going on and if I could get a cool picture.

BUT (there is always a but), meanwhile, the guys were trying to save the warthog from the dogs in a mad chase that lead them to a resting lion in a bush by Kay’s tent (the other side of camp). Uh oh. 

The lion did not like it very much. He ran away and, as result, was getting closer to the busiest part of camp.

On the other side, I was standing in the driveway not knowing what was happening (looking stupid with my smartphone in hand). I saw Samwell running toward the kitchen, and kept running when I called him. That gave away my position to the guys who were on the other side of the driveway behind some bush.

That’s when I heard one of the guys crying “Agaaaaaathe” (my name) and saw a roaring lion running past me toward the solar tent (the center of our camp). Unfortunately I was too surprised to get a picture.

A few seconds later, Wilson emerged from the bushes, panting, kisu in hand (the big knife he’s sharpening on the picture above):
Wilson: “Are you ok? Go to your tent! There is a lion in camp.”
Me: “What’s happening? Don’t kill him!”
Wilson: “I won’t! I’m saving you!”

And so I was quarantined to my tent for half an hour, when I decided it sounded calm enough to go out (meanwhile I had texted everyone and called Ashlei and Chase in Nairobi to brag and tell them that I was standing not 10m/32ft from a roaring lion). I sought out the guys to know what had just happened.

Poor Wilson almost had a heart attack because from where he was (behind the lion, chasing) he could see me standing on the driveway and I was, for a time, on the big cat’s trajectory. He veered off at the last second, obviously. Benson told me later that a cornered lion can run someone over if he’s trying to escape, so they were a bit worried when they heard I was around.

Finally, here is the only picture of the lion I could get:

The runaway lion’s footprint, by Wilson’s tent

Long story short, everyone was fine (including Samwell) and the warthog was saved from the dogs. They only got a small taste of the warthog’s juicy butt. I became famous for a day as “the mzungu who was almost killed by a lion” (not quite, but I did not disagree with the guy’s version of the story…).

*white/European person, who knows nothing about lions.


Ignacious Gman said...

What a story!!

Anonymous said...

How do you pronounce 'mzungu'?

Agathe said...

Pretty much how it's spelled in fact!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science