Sunday, August 31, 2014


A few weeks ago I was invited by dear friends to accompany them to Nambiti, a game reserve on which are a number of different lodges. I have always enjoyed the bush, so I accepted with alacrity and we duly set off for twenty-four hours of relaxation. Going to the bush is guaranteed to remove you from your world of technology, work pressures, and diets. In the bush you eat well and often, including Land Rover stops in any clearing free of animals. Here you are plied with a variety of goodies and drinks. A word of caution at this point. If you consume copious amounts of liquid and require a "comfort stop", the only place to "go" is behind a bush, which in mid-winter has sparse foliage, or to take a brisk walk out of the view of your fellow humans. This is only for the intrepid! It calls for a need close to desperation to answer the call of nature IN nature. There are few things scarier than the knowledge that ANYTHING could be watching you. ANYTHING is far worse than ANYONE, believe me.

A number of years ago a group of us drove for two days to a beautiful spot in Mozambique where we boarded a yacht for an idyllic couple of weeks sailing and diving off the islands in the archipelago. I remember that holiday with nostalgia. That was where I got my scuba licence, which was the fulfillment of a long held desire. On the way to and from our destination, however, we had to make a number of "comfort stops." Without wishing to be coarse, men are at a distinct advantage over women in these situations. Once both cars had stopped, the women among us would trek together into the Mozambique bush. Modesty would compel us to select somewhere where there was enough cover that each of us was hidden from her companions as well as from the road, and from any dwelling in a clearing. On one such excursion we had each found a bush to shelter behind, each able to face the direction of the road which was out of sight, but which we wanted to make sure remained free of anyone else. A scream from one of my friends, and the sound of cowbells behind us, alerted us to the fact that a young herd boy was accompanying his cows along a path which gave him an excellent view of what I am unwilling to describe!!!

Returning to my story of my recent trip to Nambiti, I had learned my lesson, and drank very sparingly indeed. It is one thing to stop in Mozambique, where people live at intervals along the road, and to wander off into a game reserve which boasts of containing The Big Five. We had a very exciting evening drive, but the absolute highlight for me were three encounters with giraffes. I have always maintained that God has a great sense of humour. If He didn't, then nor would we. We find things funny and laugh because He does. We are created in His image after all. The first giraffe incident occurred when our ranger was negotiating our vehicle along a badly rutted, very steep, gravel road. Walking along the road was a lone giraffe, who, when he realised that a Land Rover was coming up behind him broke into a gallop. We had the hilarious sight of a giraffe galloping down a rutted road ahead of us, negotiating a turn with difficulty, and trying to keep his astonishingly long legs from giving way beneath him.

The second encounter was between two giraffe bulls whacking each other with their necks, all the time being watched and threatened by a bad-tempered bull elephant. The elephant gave all the signs that he was about to charge, but after a few seconds pause while the giraffes pondered this, they ignored him and went back to duelling with their necks. The elephant looked bemused for a moment, but when he turned his attention to us, we beat a hasty retreat.

The third encounter is the one that stays with me. I spotted a giraffe lying on its side, headless. This sounds worse than it looked. When a giraffe is lying down there is so much of it that a missing head is not that noticeable. The ranger stopped for us to have a better look and told us it had been dead for months. The reason it had not been eaten by predators was that it had been struck by lightning. When this happens the electricity causes the blood to crystallize, or something more technical. Anyway, it's no longer edible. He then told us that the most common cause of death among giraffes, next to being killed by lions, was being struck by lightning!!! Who knew? He said that judging by where it was headed this particular animal was headed to the valley to be as safe as possible.

This brings me to the point of this story. Two points actually. The first is this. If giraffes know that they are taller than trees and are walking lightning conductors, why don't they lie down at the first flash of lightning? Maybe they are more scared of lions than lightning. The second is this. Everyone has at least one disadvantage in life. A giraffe is a gorgeous creature who towers above every other animal. No one wants to wear a giraffe, so they are not hunted for their fur. BUT they are lightning conductors. A warthog is an ugly  creature that burrows in the mud and is a favourite snack of predators, but when there is a storm, a warthog doesn't have to worry.

I think we can learn from this. So often we envy or judge others, especially those who seem to tower above everyone else. Little do we realise that when a storm strikes someone like that, everyone knows about their fall. They can lie there as an object lesson to any passer-by. The giraffe was headless because the lightning blew its head right off! You may feel like a muddy little warthog, but I can assure you that you are not. You are made in God's image, and that means you were not created to wallow in the mud nor hide in your burrow. We don't need to fear the devil, because although he roars like a lion, he isn't one. The only LION we have to interact with is Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and He is there to protect us from any predator that comes near us.

A postscript to this story. I had told René about the headless giraffe when I got back from Nambiti. Recently she was about to take the dogs out for a walk, and told me that she needed to go immediately because she had seen lightning in the distance. Engrossed in what I was doing, I nodded absent-mindedly and said, "Yes, you'd better, because lightning strikes giraffes!" I will never live that down.

Till next time, God bless you.