Tough french cookie

One of the most exciting things of travelling is meeting new people. This post is about the toughest Frenchman I’ve ever met.

Pierre on a sand dune at Kasaba Bay

During my stay at the camp side of Ndole Bay, I met Pierre from France who is 74 years old and travels whole Africa in his four by four. We instantly became friends and spent quite some amazing days together. I will never forget the legendary day in the national park on the trail of the elephants.

The heat in Pierres car is unbearable at 7 am. No air condition. Windows closed. Sweat is running down our faces. Shall we try to open the windows? Such a relief. “Close, close, quickly!”. A swarm of tsetse flies tries to enter the car. Some of them managed. With hats, shoes and books, we try to kill them before they bite us. Some of the dead ones stick to the window. “Just leave them there. If I should be close to starving, I’ll eat them”. I don’t doubt for a second that he would actually do it.

Each morning at 10.00

At exactly 9.58 am, Pierre jumps off the car like a grasshopper, his satellite phone in his right hand. He calls his mum in France who is 108 years old. Each day, 10.00 am. “Je t’embrasse”, he ends the call with. May she be blessed with many more years to come.

Five hours later….no single elephant. We try another route. The flies are still around. Cooking in the car. Thermometer shows 41 degrees. Pierre smiles. “ I love that live”.

We arrive at an abandoned lodge: Kasaba Bay. Another dream gone wrong. It’s a post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Birds nest in the chalets, bats over the bar. A huge crocodile in the water focussed us…is it making a plan? Pierre is not scared. He climbs the high sand dunes like no tomorrow. The view from up there is breathtaking. The white sand merges with the dark green of the valley that borders the blue lake. Wild pigs and pukus are grazing peacefully.

The heat is shocking. We hide in the shade and rest for a bit. Thankfully, no flies at the deprecated lodge.

Until 4 pm we followed elephant footprints and poo. We could nearly smell them. Pierre was bit willing to give up on the mission and tried a third path. The end of the story is that we didn’t see a single elephant but it was an amazing and unforgettable day. Probably the sweatiest day I’ve had in my life as well but totally worth it. Thanks Pierre!!!

Published by caribiologist

Postdoc at the University of Basel, Switzerland

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