I would love to say that I try hard to go against the stereotypical, tough-and-rugged image. But, unfortunately, being the total opposite of this preconceived image just comes rather naturally to me! Most guides are full of stories about near death experiences with buffalos and lions; my near death experiences involve brushes with boredom and drinking cups of tea. Most guides have dark, golden complexions; even when I have what I consider to be a tan, people ask which sunblock company sponsors me. And most guides will gladly pick up an array of small creepy crawlies to show their guests. I simply scream like a little child if they come anywhere near me (the creepy crawlies that is, not the guests)!
To be fair to myself though, the one aspect that I do share with most guides is the tendency to stretch a story, just a little. After all, how exciting is a story of the charging elephant if it stops 30m and was actually running in the opposite direct? So, with this in mind, I do have to give myself some credit and explain that I don’t freak out over all creepy crawlies. Spiders don’t frighten me (although my mother might beg to differ), I can deal with snakes (except when they are 3m long and stuck in my bathroom), and I drink enough gin and tonic not to have to worry about mosquitoes. But put a frog or a mushroom in front of me, and suddenly I make Justin Bieber’s voice sound quite manly.
Mushrooms, well, basically, they are mushrooms. I might be a fun guy, but that doesn’t mean I should eat fungi – so I have developed some rather precise eating habits to ensure that I avoid having convulsions should one such wannabe-plant try make its way past my lips. But frogs, unlike mushrooms, are quite sneaky little critters, and just seem to know I have a fear of them. As a result, they take any opportunity they can to scare the living daylights out of me…
It was a warm summer’s morning. I had my extremely short shorts on, and had just left camp with a group of guests to go looking for a leopard, when I felt something on my left calf. Its presence was fleeting, sort of like the muscles I once had down there, but then this odd feeling made an appearance on my right calf, and then back to my left. It was cold, somewhat moist, and slowly but surely it was making its way upwards. Taking my eyes off a thankfully straight road I peered down and then, my worst nightmare came true…I had a frog using my legs as a ladder – and using them pretty well I might add!
The rest is a bit of a blur (although that could be from the G&T I had afterwards to calm my nerves), but in what I like to think was one rather fluid motion, I managed to put the car in neutral, slam up the handbrake, open the door and jump out, all the while letting out a tiny little squeal reminiscent of Beatlemania! Luckily the frog went flying out of the Landy with me, and I took a few deep breathes, regained my composure and calmly climbed back into the vehicle to resume my drive. My guests looked at me quizzically, clearly pondering how a man that walks into lions and elephants could be scared of something so small they couldn’t even see it! The worst part was that I didn’t even have a good answer for them, and all I could muster was “give me a charging elephant any day, but I’m sorry, I don’t do frogs!”