The one animal that is so cranky and bloody minded and will charge anyone or anything including a jeep is the Cape Buffalo and is a member of the so-called “Big Five” group of animals, together with the elephant, rhino, lion and leopard. These massive animals are the black terrors of the bush and every creature is afraid of them, including lions. They are powerfully built with massive bodies and short legs. Their horns grow from a central protuberance “boss” over the front of their skulls and culminate in a pair of deadly curving knife sharp horns.
The bulls can weigh up to 800 kgs, have larger heads and heavier horns than the females and are certainly more aggressive and cantankerous. The bigger they are the meaner and crazier they become.
The Cape Buffalo congregate in large herds of 200 – 300 and graze eight – ten hours a day while travelling. The bulls are positioned on the outside of the herd and the females and calves are protected in the middle. Some herds can reach 1,000 – 2,000 beasts.
When under attack by the big cats, the herd will fend off the attackers en masse; hence the cats treat them very warily and with great respect. They are like a stream train when charging and are single-minded in the outcome and will reach speeds of 50 kph.
Away from the large herds, you can see small groups of bachelor males, which the locals call “Dagger Boys”. In other words they are “grumpy old men”. They have disassociated themselves from the main herd as they have become weary of the constant travel and challenges by the younger more virile males. Dagger Boys are to be avoided. They have no patience and are quick to anger and will charge without any signal of irritation or intent.
Africa is a land of great contrasts. When you are out in the bush the animals are the centre of focus and command your attention. The land is pristine with no sign of man’s footsteps or any sense that anyone has been there before you. However, once you return to “civilisation” the pristine quality of the land and air is quickly put into contrast with the degradation of urban life. You are overwhelmed by the poverty, dirt, pollution and disease everywhere.
The local people mostly live in poor conditions, small houses built of mud brick and thatch or a more modern version, concrete blocks with corrugated iron roofs. These one or two room structures are surrounded by a patch of bare dusty earth. Cooking is done over an open fire outside the houses and water is collected from a communal well. In the towns there might be electricity and running cold water and incongruously, you will see satellite dishes attached to a very impoverished building. Africans are football mad and will spend every waking moment watching TV – either football or the soaps.
However impoverished the living conditions are I have great respect for the African people; their love of the land, their warm welcome, their determination to make the best of their situation, and their determination to overcome the daunting task of improving the standard of education and life in Africa.