It was the final day of my two week safari in Tanzania, and I was determined to bag myself the ultimate prize. A lion. The King of the Jungle. Myself and three others left the comfort of our five star hotel and drove to the Savannah upon which our days excursion would begin. Kanu and William were the guides, and George the driver. All were local and hired on the recommendation of an old army pal.
We drove for a while through herds of gazelles and buffalos, who glanced up now and again to take a look at who was passing through.
I pulled my cap down and donned my sunglasses to keep the dry dust that the truck kicked up from getting in my face and eyes.
“How much further?” I asked Kanu, after a couple of miles.
He pointed in the direction we were headed. “Not much further now Mister Cecil. We’re into lion country now.”
A few minutes later we pulled up under the shade of an enormous baobab tree. We all stepped out and unloaded our weapons and proceeded to do all our checks and sort out our ammunition.
William produced a hip flask, took a swig and passed it around.
“Just to settle the nerves,” he laughed while screwing the lid on and clipping it on his belt.
Across the way was a magnificent watering hole. Zebras and elephants were at the edge drinking and cooling off. Flocks of various birds crash landed into the water and swam around, chasing and splashing each other in some ritualistic game. A mating thing perhaps.
“If we just wait a while a lion, and maybe even a pride if we’re lucky, will soon come to quench their thirst. It is nearing that time of day,” said George.
I checked and double checked my rifle and ammo and occasionally William would unhitch his flask and offer its contents to the three of us.
We sat in silence for half an hour or more before Kanu raised his hand to his lips and shushed us, pointing to an area at the edge of a patch of small baobab trees.
I glimpsed a golden body in between the tall grasses. My adrenaline started to kick in. I rested my rifle on the bonnet of the truck and waited for the lion to leave the camouflage on the outskirts of the small forest.
I lined the crosshairs of my rifle at the heart of the majestic lion and squeezed the trigger. The lion roared, and tried desperately to flee as the bullet tore through its body.
After my second shot, it keeled over and lay there, panting out its final breaths. I whooped in delight at the sight of the slain animal, my tenth kill on this safari. George, Kanu, and William applauded excitedly, and out came the hip flask again.
The lion’s head would take pride of place mounted above my mantle piece, surrounded by my other trophies of elephants, tigers, and rhinoceros.
The hired local help hauled the huge beast onto the back of the beat up old truck, which was to take us to the nearby town renowned for its black market trading.
I climbed into the passenger seat and fiddled for several moments to fasten the awkward seatbelt. This drew laughter from my three guides, in between deep, satisfied, celebratory slurps from William’s hip flask.
As we set off for the five mile drive across the dry, dusty terrain, a voice crackled over the radio telling us of an incoming storm. George, put his foot down in a foolish attempt to get us to our destination before we would be consumed by the inevitable storm of sand and then torrential rain.
About three miles into our journey, on our descent following a steep incline, the truck hit an enormous pothole. It bounced once or twice, before flipping over. The lion and my three companions were flung clear of the truck, but being strapped in, I was crushed underneath the wreckage.
The blazing sun beat down, while the sand started swirling around me and my eyes closed. The hungry cries of circling vultures above and the frantic pleas for help from my guides was the last I heard as my life ebbed away.
It’s true what they say, your life flashes before you, all of it. And then there is this tunnel that leads to two paths: the light on the left for life, and the dark on the right for death. For some unknown reason I was drawn to the left.
I pushed my way through the mucus and emerged into the light. The first thing I saw was the loving eyes of my mother. I snuggled into the warmth of her coarse body hair. The first sound I heard was the deep boom of a gun. I watched the light go out in my mother’s eyes. I tried to call for her, I tried to call for help, but all I could muster was a low grunt, followed by a shrill cry.
I stumbled to my paws, spun my head and saw the muzzle of a gun pointing at me as the hunter lined up his crosshairs.
Karma’s a bitch!