What snaps trees in the night?

Elephants! It is sometime between 3am and 4am and dark, when the first crack of a tree being broken near our tent wakes me. We are camped deep in the bush, surrounded by trees. I nudge Woocash and Robert awake (who both claimed to be awake already). Woocash, Robert and I are sleeping in the tent on top of the car, the guy ropes are tethered to the ground and the occasional tree. I really hope an elephant won’t snap a tree attached to the tent and get frightened. Emma and Mike are sleeping in Mike’s tent on the ground. We hear them get up and head to the car. Happily, they don’t step on a snake or scorpion. The car door slams on their way in. Above them, we tense a little.

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Emma and Mike were sleeping in the blue tent when the elephants came by

Knowing the risks makes no difference to the magical moment of seeing the dark shapes moving slowly around us and hearing elephants snapping, munching and making deep contented noises. We are silent and still. Eventually, the elephants move off into the darkness and we all breathe out with joy at the experience, and having come out alive.

We all get up and head onwards to the ocean. Not far now.

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Day 81 distance run: 67.18 km, 41.74 miles
Day 82 distance run: 65.11 km, 40.45 miles

Number of Days: 82

Total distance run by Emma: 3569 km, 2217 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.5 km, 27.0 miles

Elephants!

“There is nothing beyond here, only the bush.”

The policeman, at the entrance to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, is laughing at me: I have just asked about shops.

This thin wedge of land between Botswana and Angola is renowned for lions, elephants, buffalo and wild dog. Every day is a risk assessment. It will take Emma several days to run through it and her safety is paramount. Lions and other carnivores chase moving objects. We will also be sleeping in our tent on the side of the road. Lions usually hunt when the heat of the day is over and during the night. We enter the area with caution, armed with knowledge from Charlie Paxton as to where along the way we are at risk from which animal. Initially, there are houses and people but these eventually stop and the stillness is eerie. We cannot see any animals at all.

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We aim to keep the car a few metres behind Emma and Mike. This annoys Emma, who hates the car being so close and noisy (it’s really noisy) and creates tension with Woocash who worries Cleopatra (the car) will overheat: stopping and starting is not good for her. I am sitting on top of Cleo with binoculars, wrapped up in clothes in the early morning, as it’s cold, and in the afternoon, as protection from the sun. It is wonderful to be out in the fresh air. The others seem unduly worried that I will fall off. But I have myself snuggled in well, with handholds planned in the event of sudden breaking or accelerating. In my turn, I am constantly checking out for buffalo (we are in the buffalo hunting area). I have a fearful vision of an angry buffalo or elephant charging out of the bush at Emma and Mike.

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Then, in the silent trees, we see a family of elephants. Well camouflaged, little ones, medium ones and a big mama. We are all delighted. Woocash utterly fails to follow the safety plan, to keep the car beside Emma and Mike, and picks up a camera whilst driving. We really need a cameraman for these moments. I would have loved to have taken a photo of Emma as she ran past this family munching quietly in the heat. But I was busy assessing safety. Luckily, Woocash did do some filming as I can show you this lovely film:

That night, as always, we are in the tents soon after dark. Whilst the rest of us slept, Emma heard an elephant snapping trees around us. The following day, Charlie calls to check that we are okay, nearby villagers had had to flee their homes in the night, as angry elephants damaged human property. As so often during this trip, I wonder if there is some stronger power keeping us safe. And if so, I wonder why.

We keep going, out of the elephant area and into an area, apparently, inhabited by lions.

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Have you had an encounter with elephants? Please feel welcome to tell your stories or thoughts in the comments below.

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As this is all in the same day as crossing the border, the distance travelled and day are the same as the previous post.