Monday, 12 August 2013

Animal Encounters on the Run

Contrary to popular belief, wild animals do not freely roam the streets of South Africa.  Living down here does, however, have its perks: No matter where in S.A. you live, you're sure to be near a national park, game reserve or game farm were running into wildlife (pun intended) is almost guaranteed*.  To date I've had the privilege of running side-by-side with giraffe, eland, impala, warthog, springbok, kudu, gemsbok, blue wildebeest and a host of other creatures, so I thought it would be fun to share my favourite (and funniest!) animal encounters on the run:

1.  The Ostrich Couple



While living in Kimberley, I often ran on a private game farm just outside of town.  One morning I ran into an ostrich couple that just wouldn't let me go...  They stormed in my direction, pranced and danced, and just didn't want to part ways.  There were no trees or fences or buildings or anything to help me escape - it was just me (on foot!) and them.  Fortunately, I remembered an old trick that a game ranger once taught me to use in situations like that, which I promptly put to the test.  The results were hilarious: Just as I started really getting into my hands-in-the-air, ostrich-mimicking routine, trying my best to look "bigger" than them and scare them off, a couple in a car rounded the bend and witnessed the whole spectacle...  (You can read the whole story here.)  I was embarrassed and relieved and bent double with laughter all at the same time - and they were just staring in amazement, ha!  I really, really dislike ostriches.

2.  The Stampede 


Herdsmen Guide Their Cattle Towards Grazing Areas
[Source.]

My second encounter of note took place during the Highlands Trout Mountain Challenge in Lesotho earlier this year.  [Now I know that cattle don't count as game, but after an unpleasant run-in with a bull a few years back (you can read the story here), I'm cautiously respectful of them anyway.]  As I was making my way around a corner up a steep mountain pass, with no other runners in sight (the race field was very small), a few shepherd boys with their (smallish) herd of cattle came stomping down the same pass - headed right in my direction.  They blocked off the entire road and were moving at such a speed that all I could think of was to jolt to the side of the road, hop over the safety barrier and hang on for dear life.  That was after visualising being stomped to death by cattle hooves and letting out a panicky shriek, of course - much to the entertainment of the giggling shepherd boys...  I calmly climbed back over the railing once they had passed and continued running as if nothing had happened ;) .

3.  The Cape Cobra


[Source.]

After regularly running there for a few months, I was getting a bit bored with my regular running route on the game farm where I encountered the ostriches, so I started exploring all kinds of rarely used, overgrown single-track paths.  It was still Spring, so I didn't expect the snakes to be out of hibernation yet, but obviously I was wrong.  Way wrong.  As I was gliding down a footpath one day, enjoying the drizzle on my face and the bliss that is running, I spotted some yellowish movement out of the corner of my eye...  Within a split second a sizable Cape Cobra slithered across the path only meters in front of me, disappearing into the grass.  For a moment I couldn't decide whether I had to freeze, pick up speed or slow down to a crawl in order to avoid any further encounters, ha!  Thank goodness it wasn't aggressive and didn't appear threatened - but I nevertheless stuck to the larger gravel roads in future, just so you know ;)!  

Have you had any animal encounters during a run?  Please share!  

*Not all parks and reserves allow visitors to run free.  Especially those with dangerous game.  So check with management first before you head out...      

10 comments:

  1. Nice! I've had many and this is the one reason I prefer trail running to road running. We have such a beautiful country! See my latest post about the sad part of exactly this...

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    1. I totally agree - love running the trails of our beautiful country! I saw your post on the rhinos - what a sad situation indeed.

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  2. That is awesome. I hope one day to visit and do some running in Africa. The only animal encounters I've run into here in Massachusetts, were Emus and llamas at an animal sanctuary 4 miles from home. Nothing exciting as yours.

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    1. Emus and Llamas are pretty exotic if you're from my neck of the woods :) ! Hope to welcome you in Africa soon!

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  3. I haven't had any crazy scary encounters, I do run into and around a lot of cattle and occasionally see snakes. We have bears that pass through the area, but thankfully I haven't run into any yet, or the mountain lions. I think I would pee my pants if I ran into one of those!

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  4. Oh wow! A cobra! Yikes! The only encounter I've ever had was with a dog (and those dangerous humans).

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    1. Hope the dog didn't bite you?! I hate it when people don't keep their dogs fenced in - especially when I run with Baby Girl :(.

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  5. Wow! Wow! And Wow! I did avoid some skunks last week, but nothing too exciting otherwise.

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    1. I've never encountered skunks before, but I guess the POA would be to run some REALLY wide circles around them...! :)

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