Tuesday’s blog about the hyena trying to take a bite out of my trailcam was the inspiration for today’s story. To be a bit more specific, the hyena spit all over my camera was what reminded me of a morning last year, while we were still up in Letaba. That day I came back from town with the passenger side of my car full of lion spit! Lion spit you ask? Yes, lion spit. Let me tell you what happened…
It was during one of the Lowveld’s crisp winter mornings that I was on my way to Phalaborwa for my weekly shopping expedition. Phalaborwa was our closest town to get groceries and a 50-kilometer game drive away. I left early that morning, wanting to take advantage of the cool of the day. I also hoped to find some predators on the road. The tar road stays warm long after the sun goes down and lions love sleeping on the warm tar road during the cool winter nights.
Just before Nlanganini dam, the road goes up a small hill and then bends left and down. I was just coming around the corner when I saw four sub-adult lions walking in the middle of the road. Seeing lions is always a treat. I mean who else can say that they get to see big five animals on their way to the shops?
I slowed down and switched off my engine a bit of a distance away from the lions. They looked like they were on a mission and closed the distance between us quickly. I could see two of them were in a playful mood. One was biting the other one’s tail, he slapped her with his big paw. I just sat there and smiled.
Then one of the lions, a young male, turned his attention to my car. He walked right up to the bonnet and then past my door not even an arm’s length away. He looked up at me and for a second it felt like those big yellow eyes were looking straight into my soul.
I cannot even begin to tell you what an adrenaline rush that is: to have a lion give you ‘the look’. It is fantastically awesome and bone-chillingly scary all at once!
When the lion reached the back of my car, it stopped and started sniffing. In my side- and rearview mirror, I could see him smell my one back tire and the whole back of the car all the way to the passenger side of my car. There he started licking my other tire. “Please don’t bite it please don’t bite it!” Is all I could whisper…
He gave my tire a good once over, and then carried on licking the back passenger door! I was keeping a close eye on him through my side mirror and all of a sudden I saw him wrap his jaws around the door handle! I could not believe my eyes! And quickly made sure the car’s doors were all locked! Imagine if they weren’t!
Luckily I was safely locked inside the car and after slobbering on the door handle some more, the lion eventually lost interest and joined his three friends in their journey down the road towards Letaba. I watched them disappear below the rise in my rearview mirror with my mouth wide open!
A South African couple on their way to Letaba had witnessed the whole thing and stopped right next to me. I opened my window with a big grin and the gentleman asked me if I was ok or maybe in need of some clean undies? “I am great! Wasn’t that awesome?” I said. “I am never washing my car again!!”
When I returned home later that morning, the lion spit had dried up with Kruger’s red dust sticking to it. Very clear evidence of the lion’s unusual interest in my car. What was it that he found so fascinating? I have no idea. Maybe I had driven through some buffalo or leopard poop. Who knows?
But one thing is for sure: I proudly drove around Kruger with lion spit all over my car for weeks!