June 13, 2013

Death by Africa (This is just a joke, Mom.)

So, as it turns out, when we casually and impulsively decided to visit Africa (read here), that we were unprepared for the amount of planning a trip like our's requires. Tom has been hard at work on an itinerary for South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia for weeks now. We'll share some details about how we plan on exploring Africa in a later post. For now, I want to tell you some scary shit I've been reading. I've been reading several different guide books and have come to one very serious conclusion: Death in Africa is pretty much a sure thing. 

(Mom, That was a joke. It's safe. I promise. Kind of.)

So, because I love our blog readers and firmly believe that you should be able to laugh at my fears, here is a list of a few direct quotes from guide books that are scaring the bejezus out of me. (Stupid spell check says 'bejezus' isn't a word. What do they know?!) 

These warnings and quotes come from Bradt's Namibia Guide, Bradt's Botswana Guide, Lonely Planet South Africa, and Lonely Planet Namibia and Botswana. And, of course, I've added a little bit of narration and thoughts on each of them. 
  • For safe and interesting walking, you need foliage to be low so that you can see through the surrounding bush as easily as possible. …I'd counsel you to choose where you visit very, very carefully… 
    • Translation: If you walk anywhere in Africa, you will be eaten by lions or maybe hyenas. Fantastic.
    • When I read things like this, it makes me want to hire the Popemobile to drive around. 
  • Describing the roads in Botswana is like describing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Inexperienced or badly prepared drivers will find themselves seriously challenged…
    • Does driving on San Francisco hills count as experience? I mean, Tom can parallel park like a BOSS…even on an incline! I'm sure he can manage our bushcamper.
  • If you plan to do much walking…lightweight walking boots are sensible. …it will reduce the chance of being bitten by a snake, scorpion, or other creepy-crawly whilst walking.
    • See above. 
    • Also, nice use of "whilst."
  • Drinking and driving is relatively common in Botswana in the evening.
    • Awesome.
    • Mom, don't worry. There are very strong suggestions never to drive at night in Africa because there are often animals on the roads. Because we are super smart, we will, of course, follow this advice and, thus, will luckily miss out on the drunk drivers. 
  • Malaria is the most dangerous disease in Africa, and the greatest risk to the traveller. It occurs throughout Botswana and Namibia, all the year round, so it is essential that you take all precautions against it.
    • We hear you loud and clear. Done and done.
  • In an area where there are predators around (specifically lion and hyena) then you must use a tent - and sleep completely inside it, as a protruding leg may seem like a tasty take-away to a hungry hyena.
    • I would think the same thing if I saw a cheese pizza hanging out of a tent. I get you, hyena, I.GET.YOU.
  • To avoid animal dangers while camping, remember to use the toilet before going to bed and avoid getting up in the night.
  • If you are sleeping in the open, it is not unknown to wake and find a snake lying next to you in the morning. Don't panic; your warmth has just attracted it to you. 
    • This is not okay in any way, shape, or form. Ever. Never. In any instances. Luckily, we'll be sleeping inside a vehicle (our bushcamper…holler!) so should avoid any serpent snuggles. (Shudder)
  • If you come face to face with a large animal, don't panic. Never run! No matter how frightened you are, you'll probably run slower than whatever is worrying you.
    • I ran a 5K in 39 minutes once, so I wouldn't be so sure about that. (That was a joke, for all you runners out there.)
  • Buffalo will charge without provocation…Avoid a charge by quickly climbing the nearest tree, or by side-stepping at the last minute. If adopting the latter, more risky technique then stand motionless until the last possible moment, as the buffalo may well miss you anyhow. 
    • I've seen Dances With Wolves at least ten times. I know how to handle the tatonka. Don't worry.
  • Lion are well camouflaged; it is easy to find yourself next to one before you realize it. If you had been listening, you would probably have heard a warning growl about 20m ago. Now it is too late. 
    • I also used to have pet lions when I was young (I'm not shitting you), so I probably have this under control, too.
    • For example, a laser pointer is always a good mode of distraction for felines. 
  • Never run from a big cat. First, they are always faster than you are. Second, running will just convince them that you are frightened prey and worth chasing. 
    • See above, re: Super fast 5K
  • An angry hippo could overturn a mokoro (small dugout canoe popular in Botswana rivers) without a second though, biting at it and/or its occupants. Once in this situation, there are no easy remedies. So avoid it in the first place.
    • I'm familiar with this situation. I've played many games of Hungry Hungry Hippos.
  • Crocodiles…are of little danger to you unless you are in the water. Then the more you struggle and the more waves you create, the more you will attract their unwelcome attentions. They sometimes become an issue when a mokoro is overturned by a hippo; you must get out of the water as soon as possible, either into another canoe or on to the bank.
    • I think you would all be incredibly surprised by just how fast I could move if I'd been capsized by a hippo and chased by a crocodile.
  • When a crocodile attacks an animal or person, it will try to disable it, normally by getting a firm, biting grip, submerging, and performing a long, fast barrel-roll. This will disorient the prey, drown it, and probably twist off the limb that has been bitten. In this dire situation, your best line of defense is probably to stab the reptile in its eyes with anything sharp that you have. Alternatively, if you can lift up its tongue and let the water into its lungs whilst it is underwater, then a crocodile will start to drown and will release its prey.
    • Seriously? This is the crap nightmares are made of. I will probably have nightmares about this tonight.
    • Also, what do I look like? MacGyver? Bear Grylls? Indiana Jones? You want me to STAB.A.CROCODILE.IN.THE.EYES with a sharp object….while I'm being barrel rolled and after I've lost a limb? Oh right, no problem. I'll just pull out the knitting needle I keep in my back pocket and gouge out his peepers. Let's just hope he hasn't already eaten BOTH MY GOUGING ARMS!
  • Bilharzia…is caused by parasitic worms which live part of their lives in freshwater snails, and part of their lives in human bladders or intestines. …to avoid infection…stay away from any bodies of fresh water.
    • Um, you had me at hippo and crocodile. (see above) 
  • If there's an elephant in the way (of your vehicle), just sit back, relax and wait. Never actively approach an elephant or startle it. If you get into a hair-raising situation with elephants, then you've probably not kept your distance. The key was prevention, and you failed. Now you must keep cool with your logic ruling your fear. 
    • I hate failing. But I appreciate the stern tone of the warning in this book. It scares me into following the rules.
  • If you're really unfortunate then you'll come across an upset or traumatized elephant, or one that really perceives you as a threat and that makes a full charge. If you can't get away then I'd try revving the engine, matching its threat with your engine's noise. But I'd also start praying - this is a seriously dangerous place to be. 
    • Let's just hope God has a direct line to the elephants and can answer prayers with little prep time. I mean, how long does God need to prepare a good exit strategy from a charging bull elephant?
  • Spitting cobras are also encountered occasionally; they will aim for your eyes and spit with accuracy. If one of these rears up in front of you, then turn away and avert your eyes. If the spittle reaches your eyes, you must wash them out immediately and throughly with whatever liquid comes to hand: water, milk or even urine if that's the only liquid that can be quickly produced.
    • This is the worst thing I've ever read in my entire life. When I read it to Tom, he calmly and reassuringly replied, " I would totally pour my pee in your eyes if a cobra spit in them!" He's a keeper, people.

Isn't there a saying about "life without risk" or something? Something about it being safe, but boring? 

Note: These really are warnings from the guidebooks, but they are all very rare scenarios. Where we are visiting in Africa is very, very safe, I promise. I only wanted to share some of the hilariously scary things we've been reading. (Which is why I've decided reading is bad.) But I also wanted to add this note at the end because I love my mother and she's been incredibly calm and supportive of this trip and I don't want to freak her out. Don't freak out, Mom. I promise we'll be safe. And, besides, if anything happens, your son-in-law has promised to cure me with his urine.