Running Away Like a Scared Cat

St Lucia, South Africa: estuary town, must enter by bridge 

Population:

Humans: 1000 

Hippos:800

Crocodiles: 1200

You know that feeling when your parents tell you not to stick your knife in the toaster?  While that is good advice, you just keep sticking the knife in anyways – mostly to see what happens.

And so it was that we found ourselves running from a hippo.

Before you get all excited this not a story that requires medical treatment, it’s more a story of cowardice / being sensible.

St. Lucia is a small town that gives way for hippos, mainly because the hippos almost outnumber the people and hippos can be mean suckers. Recently a guy came across one and it chomped off his leg, just cause. 

At night, the hippos sometimes roam the town (there are a couple of good restaurants, a grocery and a liquor store of interest) and kind of like that toaster, you’re not supposed to go looking for them, but you can’t help yourself. 

Round about 10pm  a couple of us, our torches and our flip flops took a walk down past a sign than says “beware of hippos at night” and to the bridge where they cross. 

The advice was always, “if you see one, stay far way” obviously, if that could not be helped, we were prepared to run as fast as possible with our flip flops. (Note, hippos can run at about 40kph, far faster than anyone wearing flip flops)

We had gone looking the night before and had not seen a one, so we were a bit cavalier. And then, when we were about a third of way across the bridge, we saw one at the end. Our torches weren’t really good enough and we were unsure of the direction it was headed, so two of us, adrenaline pumping,  (and I will claim that I heard someone say “run!”) Started running back the way we came- this is probably terrible advice and while “fight or flight” is a good thing, usually with animals it is dumb. One of us stood in the middle, unsure of what to do because our fourth member actually ran  toward the hippo. 

This may not be the Marines, but we still leave no man behind (plus, we would be in so much trouble if we returned sans one person) and so we all walked across the bridge and followed the torch light that was headed towards the hippo (now on its way to the water).

“What the F are we doing?” Was definitely the theme of the next five minutes (thoughts on whether my travel insurance covered “went looking for a hippo…”), until we met up with our fourth member who said he had seen the hippo from ten meters. 

Ten meters is probably the length of a baseball pitch. It’s nothing (even though I couldn’t throw it)

Obviously if he had survived, we needed in on the action and so we asked him to show us where the hippo went. 

He led us to a security guard who had a flood light and we all went down the water to find a hippo that didn’t seem bothered by us at all. 

So, just like the toaster, sometimes you use a knife and do something stupid, but it turns out fine anyways. 

Giant hippo chompers

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