I’ve made the mistake of failing to check my surroundings before I went for my bush shower. Usually it isn’t a problem because the animals know when an area is occupied, they tent to keep their distance from humans whenever possible because to them, we’re too loud and we smell funny. Probably why I decided to go for a shower, you don’t want to scare any animals off.
When you work in the bush, the clients safety and comfort always comes first so when we’ve packed one shower partition short, you have to make a plan. We just ensure we manoeuvre our tents and use a few bushes to create a cover for us bush girls to shower and we’re out of sight and therefore out of mind. We hang the bucket shower from a branch extending outwards of the tree, use some parachord rope to create a wash line between two trees to hang our clothing and towels and crack some young, dry twigs to hang our wash sponge and soap.
I leave our dome tent to go and bathe in the make shift shower area and in front of me a spot a large grey moving object. One of the resident elephant bulls starts to head in my direction feeding on the grasses and leaves. Its always fascinating to watch how they hit the dirt of the roots of the grasses to preserve their teeth. He starts to move closer and start to feel a little vulnerable, being naked in the middle of the bush I think anyone would. Elephants don’t have great eye sight but they do have a great sense of smell and a good ear. He moves to about 15 meters away from me and got a whif of my soap and flared his ears to intimidate any nearby threat that he couldn’t see. It worked. He held his pose, moving his head left to right, trying to scan the area for any visible threat. I decided to let him know of my location so spoke, “Big boy” in a calm tone. “Big boy”, I repeated a few times so he could hear where I was. He continued to move closer to me and was now about 10 meters away. I spoke again, “Big boy” his ears flared and he shook his head, another threatening stance. My heart pulsed, I got a fright. I knew as long as his ears were out and not tucked into his body, I wouldn’t fully commit to a charge. I cut my shower short, grabbed my towel, wrapped my body and slowly moved towards our dome tent. The colour of the dome tent was olive green, in a shaded area. For someone with poor eyesight it wouldn’t be easy to see. My partner was in the tent with me, she could see him though the netting in the tent. His ears
still flared, he lifts his trunk in the air to see if there is a scent of what could be near him. He moves closer and closer. The closer he moves, the more our hearts start to race from the adrenaline. We both know the signs of a dangerous animal who is fully committed to a charge but when you’re so close to such a magnificent animal, you start to appreciate the sheer size and power the gentle giant has. It’s that appreciation and the occurrence of having an elephant so close on foot (which is rare).
We all walked away with a memory – good and bad. Good for us because we now have a story we will never forget of the time the elephant cut my shower short. Bad – because the elephant will remember the time he couldn’t find the threat which startled him for a good 10 minutes and the confusion of smelling fresh running water with just a hint of coconut. Elephants never forget.
This is why we work where we do and we do what we do. You never work a day in your life if you love your job. For us, its not even a job, its a passion, a way of life, a place where we can escape the stresses of town. Being immersed in wildlife makes the job so much better.