Jul 2, 2006

CHOBE, Botswana –  Early morning safari: I'm already offended to be awake at 5am, let alone bundled into an open jeep. The army surplus blanket doesn't cut the highway's wind chill. But soon we are puttering through Chobe National Park.

"I am Killer," the guide announces. "By name, not profession. Ha!"

The joke's tired. So am I. Without coffee, the dawn has no color, no shine. Never mind the gaudy smear of scarlet on the horizon. Nature's parlor tricks leave me cold at this hour.

Baboons groom. Impalas litter the landscape. I wrap the blanket tighter, yawn.

"Elephant! Killer, elephant there!" the trip organizer Brian squeals. Then: "GREAT BIG ELEPHANT TO YOUR LEFT. Stop accelerating!"

Sure enough, a bull explodes from a stand of trees. This have-a-go-hero sports one broken tusk, a battle wound, no doubt. And golly, he likes the look of our vehicle.

Sweet, sweet jeep. Just about the size of a coquettish coed elephant. Nice headlamps, too!

The young male changes trajectory and gives chase. Killer accelerates.

"The musk, smell the musk," the guide shouts. "He's ready to mate."

The jeep leaves the indiscriminate bachelor bull in the dust. He's probably back there wondering, "was it the chipped tusk? Damn, I should have had that fixed. Maybe I'll spring for diamond inlay. I hear that's HOT."

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