Let me set the scene: It's pitch black outside, there's a slight drizzle, and we're on our last night game drive. The drive has been nothing short of excellent. We saw a leopard, a family of lions, and the usual crew of zebras, giraffes, wildebeasts, etc.
The time is about 7:30 PM and my stomach is growling for dinner. We have an extensive "boma" set up for us just outside the park-- that's like an outdoor BBQ with all sorts of exotic African meats. We're on the road back, only about half a mile away from the exit, and what do we see in front of us but a big ol' elephant blocking our path. And it's not just any elephant-- It's Amarula, the old solitary guy who hangs out near our lodge. We've encountered him earlier in the trip and our ranger tells us that the liquid beside his ears indicates he's currently "stressed." Earlier in the day, we laughed. How can an elephant be stressed?
Not knowing what the hell our driver is doing, we sit tight and watch carefully as he moves our vehicle towards the elephant, trying to intimidate him and move him off the road. We drives forward confidently, and turn our vehicle sideways, showing its width and giving the appearance that we're bigger than him. It's showdown number one. We rev up the engine, and hope for the best.
The elephant isn't scared. He pauses his stride for a moment, to be sure, but then keeps on walking down the road towards us. He's lumbering slowly and we're in no danger, but he's getting closer nonetheless. We back up 50 yards in the dark and re-group.
At this point, there's mixed feelings in the group. Some amongst us are questioning the logic. "Why are we in a showdown with an elephant?! Let's just find another exit to the park" they say. Others reassure the group that the game ranger surely knows what he's doing. This is his job after all.
The rain begins to come down heavier and lightning goes off in the distance. (If I were trying to write fiction, I would add in these details for effect, but I swear it's exactly how it happened. And I have 20 or so witnesses on our truck to attest to it.)
The ranger tells everyone to relax and he starts the engine up again. We're about to start showdown number 2. He approaches the elephant, and again turns our vehicle sideways. The elephant keeps walking towards us, unfazed. We rev the engine, and nothing. He keeps walking, and as he gets closer, our game driver senses we've lost another bout. He backs up, as before, and we re-group before trying our intimidation trick again.
At this point, there's growing tension in the car. People in the group are furious. "What the hell are we doing?! This arrogant driver is going to get us killed."
We try our luck again and it's showdown #3! By this time, the elephant had enough of our games. Seeing us do our sideways truck dance, the elephant starts charging towards us at full speed. Again, cue the lightning, cue the rain. We're going to die in the African bush. The driver steps on the gas like I swear I've never felt acceleration before. Our Range Rover-like truck became a race car for a moment and as if guided by angels, managed to keep us a few steps in front of Amarula. We can see him romping down the road behind us, his head bobbing from side to side and his tusks up the air. At the closest, I swear he made it within 2 feet of the back of our truck.
The passengers in the back row of the vehicle are f'ing screaming their heads off. They jump two rows ahead, feeling they'll at least die with the rest of us, no earlier, and no later.
Ultimately, we outrace Amarula and escape the situation. We survive, but not without memories for a lifetime.