At least the ellie was fine: A crash course in gamewatching

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At least the ellie was fine: A crash course in gamewatching

Family in Botswana got a lot closer to an elephant than they liked

Journalist

Spotting animals in the wild was high on the Adriaanse family’s list as they toured the northern part of Botswana.
What they did not count on was an all-too-personal meet and greet with an elephant – and getting the side-eye from a hyena. But all was not lost because a chance meeting with a mechanic was thrown into the unusual mix.
Well-known Afrikaans author Wilna Adriaanse and her family walked away unscathed from a potentially deadly encounter when their car hit an elephant on a dark road in Botswana last week.
Adriaanse, her family and her soon to be daughter-in-law’s family were traveling in convoy from Maun to Kasane when their car struck the large animal.“We were on the lookout for animals, but because the grass was very long and grows right up to the verge we couldn't really see much.
“We stayed in constant radio contact, but at that stage in the evening the batteries were low and we couldn’t catch all that was being said,” said Adriaanse.
She was travelling in the last car in the convoy with her husband Deon and future in-laws Ronnie and Elian Smith. Up ahead, travelling in two vehicles, were her son Cobus, his fiancé Nicola, her brother Francois and his girlfriend Adele Barnard, and her other two sons Jaco and Beer.
The group took longer than intended to drive from Maun to Nata, so it was already late afternoon when they set off for Kasane. Recent heavy rains meant that the roads were in a bad condition and they had to drive very slowly.About 25km away from Kazungula, it turned dark and their headlights were the only light to go by.
Her sons travelling up ahead tried to warn them on the radio that they thought they saw something on the side of the road,  but they were unable to hear because of poor reception.
And then they hit the elephant.
“One moment there was nothing and the next moment there was a large animal standing in front of us. We realised we could do nothing to avoid it,” she said.
“Our sons who were travelling in front stopped immediately when they saw in their rearview mirrors what had happened.”Her sons then realised there was a whole herd of elephant next to the road, obscured by the long grass.
The couple’s  hired car, a Ford Everest, had to bow down to the might and weight of the elephant – the beast is still at large while the 4x4 had to nurse a broken body that will never heal.
“At the moment of impact all I heard was the screeching sound of metal and windows shattering,” Adriaanse recalled.
They managed to drive the battered vehicle for about 2km  to put some distance between them and the herd, before the engine started to overheat.
Realising they were running against the clock, they started transferring their luggage to the other vehicles.It is at this point that they saw the welcoming lights of another car. And, would you know, the driver was fellow South African and mechanic Jannie Human, who helped tow the vehicle.
“Then, just after we had packed everything into the other two cars, a hyena came down the road. It was quite a scene with all these animals around us,” said Adriaanse.
“Afterwards I could still feel the shock waves and the adrenaline rushing. The people who stayed calm and were willing to stop and help were amazing.”
Everyone was relieved when they saw Wilna, Deon, Ronnie and Elaine walk away from the badly damaged vehicle virtually unscathed.“The next day we had sore muscles but Ronnie, the guy travelling with us, is an orthopaedic surgeon. He checked us  out and gave us the all-clear.
“It’s a miracle. That’s the only way to describe it.”
Adriaanse said the elephant immediately took off after it was hit. They contacted the local Wildlife Department to report the incident, but no trace was found of the animal.The family, originally from Durbanville in the Western Cape, has lived in Botswana for the past six years where Deon is working for a Australian mining company, so they are very aware of cattle, goats and donkeys roaming the streets, Adriaanse said.
She believes it was their cautious speed of 60km/h that saved them.
“There are a lot of South Africans who come during the June holidays, and they should make sure they leave early and find out what condition the roads are in, because you do not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere,” she cautioned.

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