Our first day out of Livingstone and the start of the Elephant Highway. We had a very easy day ahead with just 80km of riding and then a planned trip on the river in the afternoon to see some game once we had crossed from Zambia into Botswana.
My three friends – Angela, Sam and Amy – had assembled their bikes, swallowed their first day nerves and porridge and we set out nice and early.
About thirty minutes into the ride, cyclists ahead said they had seen an elephant in the bush. Obviously, we were excited but I was also a bit nervous as elephants are big and fast and can do you a lot of damage. We all stopped to see what was happening. I was fumbling around in my bag, getting out sunscreen and camera when Angela said she would ride on.
I had no idea she was saying that because she could see the elephant right opposite us in the thorn tree forest. I was oblivious – blind to the danger.
Suddenly, he erupted out of the bush – charging towards me bellowing with anger at my intrusion. Instinct took over. I dropped my bag, grabbed the bike and started pedalling as fast as I could away from him. He was trumpeting and flapping his ears – a young male coming at me full of rage. My heart leapt and juddered, beating faster than seemed possible. But time slowed and each second lasted forever. I honestly thought each one was my last. I could feel the earth shaking as he drew closer. I imagined being speared with a tusk or trampled underfoot. I was sure I would die and hoped it wouldn’t take too long and hurt to much. I thought of my family. I knew that I had no chance of out-cycling him- an elephant can run at 50km an hour. But I was lucky. It wasn’t my time.
The young bull was just warning us off his patch. Once we had got far enough away he stopped and eventually retreated. Relief swamped me and left me shaking. The adrenaline hit had been enormous.
Having got back to the group, we waited for the elephant to cross into the bush and ten minutes or so later, we biked on past and I retrieved my bag, and some measure of calm.
I was lucky that day and so grateful that I’d escaped unharmed. It took me a full 24 hours to feel ‘normal’ again and for the sick feeling of dread to leave my body. And I had something else to be thankful for.
My first book came out of this experience – click to check it out Dodging Elephants