Sunday, 5 August 2012

My Memories of after-dinner drives to Lemat in Arbaminch and my first sighting of Lions

I remember as a small child, of around five years that dinners were usually followed by a short drive by car till Lemat, the Government Farm on the Arbaminch-Addis Abeba road. Sometimes we were accompanied by another Indian couple Mr. And Mrs. Kingston in their car. On these trips we were able to see the ubiquitous Jalada baboons, along with, deer of various sizes and types , Hyenas, wild dogs,  porcupines scurrying across the road, and of course the usual pythons.  Sometimes we came across a Red-Indian American who used to hunt for deer with his bow and arrow. I often wondered how brave he must have been to be in the dangerous jungle with nothing but a bow and arrows, and a hunting knife. His name, I remember was Mr. Delville ( He and his Nurse wife returned to the states after the revolution. They had been allotted land to farm and set up a hospital).
My father carried with him a Beretta semi-automatic on these trips having faith that it would be a good enough deterrent should a wild animal attack us. That the forest close to Lemat was dangerous became clear on one particular trip! After having an early dinner, we bundled ourselves into my father’s VW-Variant car and set off towards Lemat. On the way we came across deer and baboons which according to my father were behaving strangely! According to him, they appeared to be rather nervous and shifty, because on earlier trips we had observed that the deer were fearless! My father then declared that we would see some “big ones” meaning that he was sure that there were lions nearby, and that was why the animals were edgy!
After traveling a few more kilometers my father suddenly braked hard and pointed towards some very red pairs of eyes off the road in the midst of a cotton plantation! He declared, “Look, those are lions!” That was indeed a pride of lions, a whole family in fact. There was a male, a female and two cubs and they were simply staring at us from the distance! I remember that father carried in the car a sealed beam which was connected to the power supply through a long lead. He then stepped out of the car on to the road and pointed the beam towards the lions. I remember trembling with trepidation how the eyes of the lions shone brighter when the beam of light fell on their eyes! We all called out to my father to return forthwith to the safety of the car, which he did rather reluctantly! This was our first sighting of lions in the Arbaminch area, and boy, were we excited!
We returned to the town, and my father then told Mr. Kingston and his wife about the sighting, and then they too decided to accompany us to see the lions, if they were still there! That day we made a second trip in two cars and were pleasantly surprised to see the pride of lions sitting on the road itself! After a brief moment, the male lion leapt off the road into the jungle, while the mother and her cubs got up and walked back towards the cotton plantation with all the dignity they had. The moment is etched in my mind, specially the spectacle of seeing the pride of lions reclining on the road, bathed in the beams of the car, hardly a few yards away!
The next day, when my father told the Director of the Arbaminch Comprehensive Senior Secondary School, it was receive a scolding not to do such a foolish thing as to confront a pride of lions even if within the protection of a car. He further told my father that lions were known to jump on to the tops of even sturdy Land Rovers causing damage and possible injury to those inside!

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