Stories From The Wild - Unexpected Encounter, Sam Turley

by hello beasties

Our first story in our Stories From The Wild series comes from Sam Turley, conservation zoologist and wildlife photographer. Sam shared with us a beautiful and profound encounter in the bush with... Well, we won't spoil it. 
Sam has a wide variety of skills and knowledge, from videography to photography workshops, but his writing offers an extraordinary perspective to his experiences in the field. 
The beginning of Winter in Zimbabwe is by far my favourite time of year. The mornings are beautifully crisp and the days fair and warm. The bush is teaming with life as creatures both great and small frantically gorge themselves in anticipation of the annual drought. There is an intensity that suggests it’s common knowledge, only the fittest will survive.
In preparation, the trees begin to shed their leaves, a burden to bear in times of adversity. Once vibrant and green they slowly transition into deep earthy tones of crimson, coral and cream as they cling to the spindly branches above. The faintest of winds is enough to loosen their grip, laid to rest as a carpet of colour below. 
A place unchanged by the passage of time, trees with trunks you’d struggle to embrace and volcanic boulders that dwarf the tallest of men. Gargantuan dragonflies buzz overhead, relics of their prehistoric past. Their mere presence strays the mind to times long ago, welcome apparitions of dinosaurs begin to encroach my vision, deceiving my perception of reality. Weaving my way through this labyrinth of wonder, time becomes warped. I zigzag along well-trodden trails becoming enchanted by their charm. I wish time would stand still but the day cares not for my evening stroll. Eternal enemies, a never-ending tug of war, day turns to night. She doesn’t give up without a fight and with one last breath her rays blanket the bush in an auburn glow. It’s time to go.
The metallic shine of my car begins to peer through the dense vegetation and I am slowly snapping back to reality, but this enchanted area has yet more magic to share. I am alerted to an unmistakable sound. One that sends shockwaves down my spine and excites like nothing else can. A wave of adrenaline crashes over me and my senses are heightened. I can feel it’s close, but where I don’t know. Which way should I move? The upper hand belongs not to me.
I freeze. A situation fraught with danger, one wrong move could be fatal. The bush begins to divulge, the faint sound of crunching leaves and snapping twigs. I gain a glimpse of her weathered, stone-like skin as it scratches against the shrubs like fingernails on timber. Her veil is gradually removed, one sword after the other, demanding my respect. Like a joust, she swivels to face me, starting to move closer. To see her alone would be but a privilege. She is however, not. The pitter patter of tiny feet suggests a more recent arrival. My thoughts shift to sheer joy and excitement shadowed by angst. Mothers by nature are fiercely protective and unforgiving and they don’t come more motherly than this. The stakes have been raised. They move inquisitively but with intent and it’s decision time. Stay or stray? I glanced back at the car, and back at them. Car, them, car, them. They’re closing in.
My indecision has left me with no option but to stay. They approach warily but without aggression. They keep coming, determined to pinpoint the source of my peculiar aroma. They’re now close. Almost too close.  Just when my flight instincts begins to kick in, almost telepathically, they stop. Vulnerability is such a primitive feeling fitting for this location. A feeling that has become so foreign to us modern day people with our lives of comfort. In this moment, I’m reminded of why I am here. It wasn’t my indecision that made me stay, it was me. I live for moments like this. Far from technology, phones and internet, I am truly present. Wide eyed, open eared and fully immersed, I’m downloading more information than the fastest of networks ever could.
She raises her head as a sign of superiority and with their tails saluting the sky, they melt back into the bush. I am frozen to the spot, left in awe, star struck by these secretive local celebrities. A welcome reminder, sometimes you must disconnect to find the strongest connections.

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