Monthly Archives: November 2013

Riding Giants

Elephants have long been one of my favourite animals with dogs (big dogs, not the small ones that can fit into purses or rolling bags – I mean real dogs, the ones who when they get in your lap they cover you and then the rest of the couch because that’s a real dog – and another story entirely) being number one. So when I was presented with the opportunity to go on an elephant ride, I jumped at it.

It was an early morning at the Botlierskop Private Game Reserve & Safari Park, but not too early for riding elephants.

I stood on a wooden deck overlooking a vast green valley surrounded by hills and watched as a trio of elephants, a mom, a dad and the baby (in that order) made their way to the deck slowly from a building in the distance. The anticipation nearly killed me. I wanted them to hurry up and be right in front of me so I could finally sit on one of Africa’s Big Five (the lion, Cape buffalo, rhinoceros, and leopard round out the five).

It was a strange experience mounting the the elephant as it was similar to a horse only much, much, much wider and taller. Once seated on the padded saddle and holding on to a strap, we were off. Slowly, but we were off. Elephants only step with one foot at a time leaving the other three on the ground which is why it takes them so long to go anywhere but when they break into a run they can reach speeds up to 40km/hr which is not exactly Usain Bolt, but it’s surprisingly very close. The elephants did not run and that just meant that I got to enjoy the ride longer.

At a river bank the elephant stopped to get a drink of water and the guide allowed me to feed her. He gave me a slice of apple and I held it in my hand and felt the wet and slightly hairy trunk grab the slice of apple right out of my hand as she then put it into her mouth. A messy and unique experience.

I didn’t try and fight the movement of the elephant as I sat on its back because swaying back and forth as it stepped over fallen trees and trudged through creeks was part of the fun.

By the end of the ride my thighs were a bit sore and my hand was red from gripping the strap too tightly for fear of falling off – which of course did not happen – but that discomfort was temporary and the memory of riding this giant will last a lifetime.


Tagged , , ,

After 26 Years, A Boy From California Finally Surfs

And subsequently falls face first into the water, wiping out any hopes that he may have had of being a prodigy of the sport, even at his age.

Who would have thought that it would have taken 26 years & 11 months before a boy from California finally got up on a board in an attempt to ride a wave? Certainly not me, and if you would have told me that I would have done it while I was in South Africa I would have laughed at you. I mean South Africa? The place known for Great White Sharks. That’s where I would go surfing for the first time in my life? As it turned out, yes. I did not receive any coaching or training, I just went out there with a friend and decided to give it a go.

I had already been cage diving and bungy jumping, two of the more dangerous things you could do, so how dangerous could surfing in shark-infested waters really be? Quite dangerous actually. While that story is from a swimmer being fatally attacked, the prospect of being attacked a few weeks after, honestly, did not phase me – mainly it’s because I had forgotten about it by the time I actually got into the water and I had been in those waves for the previous four days leading up to the surfing attempt. I was comfortable in the water and made sure to not venture too deep or get caught in any rough currents.

After about what felt like an hour but was actually 25 to 30 minutes I knew I was done. My arms were dead from paddling all over the place and the pounding my body took from the waves made me incredibly sore, tired, and thirsty. I never got my footing and the best I ever did was when I stood too far on the nose, fell over it and into the water which then sent the board soaring into the air and me under the wave…and that was the best one.

I’m not sure if this experience will bring out a side in me that will make me more active in surfing – or what is more likely is that I will turn to bodyboarding – but either way I feel that the ocean is calling me.


Tagged , ,