November 15

My stealth camera is now monitoring an animal trail along the road to Point Dick beach.  I checked it today to see if it was working, and had a picture of a monkey streaking a furry blur through the field of view.  This, after a week of no results, as I inadvertently covered a sensor, thinking it was merely a red-light indication of “picture taken”.  Makes me wonder what images were lost due to my misunderstanding of camera function.  I scattered a few peanuts around and several past-ripe mangoes for enticement.

Afterward, I pedal on through to a remote forest and savannah location past the main road.  Along the way I cross a set of fresh hippo tracks, four clubby toes splayed around the foot-pad being unmistakably hippo.  Three monkeys scatter across the laterite as I near the end of the road, leaping into the scrubbly undergrowth, their warning chirps trailing off into thick vegetation.  Scuttling my bicycle beneath the rim of an embankment, I am walking along the rise when I hear a sharp crack of timber coming from the forest in front of me.  I freeze, my attention focussed along the forest edge. Listening for further sound, I hear a few muffled footsteps, then silence.  Leaves rustle in the intermittent breeze, a few grasshoppers snap through the thick air, and a distant cuckoo’s song carries faintly across the canopy.  Not knowing what is moving within the forest below, I find a discreet vantage and kneel into the sand watching and listening for activity.  Minutes later my breath is caught short when a very large elephant materializes through the trees directly below. I feel fairly safe from being discovered with the breeze in my favor and my silhouette concealed behind the lip of the embankment.  I observe the elephant, wet-flanked from crossing some forest lagoon, long tusks stained with vegetation, the tip of one tusk broken.  She turns and moves slowly along the edge of the forest, ripping vines from the trees as she passes by.  The air becomes so still I can hear her breathe.  For perhaps twenty minutes I watch as she works along the forest edge, carefully choosing particular vegetation to consume, sorting it all out with her trunk.  At one point she begins turning stiffly in my direction, her upraised trunk an indication that she has caught some scent, possibly mine, in the swirling late afternoon breeze.  She scans my direction with eyes like pools of light in a grey boulder.  I try to shrink further into the sand, fearing my thumping heart will soon register in her massive ears.  We face off for what seems like eternity, my thoughts pulling up the landscape behind me, considering possible avenues of escape should I be discovered.  Finally she tears a clump of grass from the turf and with a twist of her trunk, it disappears into her maw, her attention shifting to the grasses at her feet.

large elephant grazing the edge of the forest

The pale red orb of sun, diffused in the vaporous humidity of the ocean beyond, continues dropping toward the treetops as evening approaches, and I decide that now is time to begin my 6  kilometre ride back to Yenzi while I still have light.  I cautiously rise from the sand, backing slowly away from the rim of embankment to retrieve my bicycle, then gather courage to cross her field of view as I find the roadway, her massive ears turning to my direction, an undulating trunk seeming to follow the clatter of bicycle as I descend the gravel trail, dodging a few puddles among the laterite below.  Putting some distance between us, I turn my attention to the road ahead, scanning the silent roadsides for any possible movement, ready to turn on a dime, or CFA, as would be here.  My favorite time of the day, the warm glow of a hazy sun trickling through the canopy, shadows enveloping the forest floor in mystery and the nocturnal creatures beginning to stir.


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