When I first arrived in Vic Falls, one of the locals told me a story about a lady who took her dogs out walking on the Elephant Hills Golf Course one morning.
Apparently, they had all come across a leopard.
It was quite a different story about going for a walk than what a person would ever tell in New Zealand. There, a dog would bark at other dogs or chase a bird.
Here they come across leopards, or birds chase dogs, but more on that soon.
It took me a while to actually want to head to the golf course after hearing the leopard story. In the end I caved because it seemed a slightly safer option than the bush.
So far I have no regrets, but I have had some awesome experiences.
Every walk involves the slightly surreal game of spot-the-wild-animal-on-the-fairway. It might be a noble waterbuck to which you tip your head, or elegant impala easing away from you, or monkeys scrambling up trees, or a family of warthog around which you warily move.
On my first bike ride alone I nearly ran into a herd of impala browsing across one of the walkways. After about 20 mins of wondering whether they were more scared of me, or I was more scared of them (they had a distinct numbers advantage, in my defense…), I SLOWLY edged forward through a parting curtain of living creatures. It was surreal, and a touch divine.
But the event that firmly cemented the golf course as one of my favourite local hang outs happened just after we got back from Nee Zealand last year.
Some friends invited us to go for a walk on the golf course. I figured a bit of fresh air would be great for the jet lag, so off we went.
All was going remarkably uneventfully, given the number of kids involved, when we noticed a large bird above us in the sky. We all stopped to admire as you do here (for good reason), then carried on walking.
Soon the bird swooped by again, and was identified as a Yellow-billed kite.
We walked on, only to realized the bird was still above us, and much lower than before.
“Is it eyeing up Bella?” asked my friend.
As the innocent miniature daschund ran merrily around us, her owner answered in the affirmative.
“Babe, keep an eye on Zoe,” friend added.
I looked in surprise at the toddler who apparently might also be a target.
The bird circled lower. We walked on, keeping a wary eye on Bella. Then it happened.
Our group had split slightly with the men in the lead helping kids on bikes, while the ladies lagged behind with babies. Bella made the mistake of hovering in no man’s land; the Kite was ready and waiting.
Just as it began to swoop for Bella, one of the guys spotted it and ran towards the dog yelling and waving his arms.
The Kite pulled up out of its dive about two meters from the happy little target…and Bella was put back on her leash without delay, thus living to walk another day.
When we got back home from the Golf Course, Will asked me how it had gone.
I told him that a dog nearly got eaten by a bird.
“It was kinda awesome to watch a Kite in action,” I confessed, feeling guilty as I thought of my friend.
Then the secret behind walks on the golf course hit me.
“It was a little bit like being in a David Attenborough documentary. But this is just our lives.”