Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Down The River and Through The Woods...To A Certain Death

At last we read, our hero had just documented his demise from a certain rhino attack while enjoying a nice canoe ride through a National Park in the Kingdom of Nepal, his first kingdom, mind you.

With two hours to go, we were pretty sure of no more rhino encounters as the river is much wider and we were farther from the shore. People relaxed, some dangled their feet into the water. We Brennans aren’t know for our flexibility. I was lucky enough to keep my legs crossed for a few hours without passing out. If I tried to move around, releasing the tension in my legs would’ve vaulted me out of the canoe like a surface-to-air missile.

Our guide told us that the river had crocodiles that attack and we shouldn’t dangle feet into the water, then, as if on cue, we heard scurrying in the grasses and saw the croc dive into the water. Right out of Wild Kingdom. “We scared it.” we’re told. Seemed our reputation from the rhino incident preceded us.

Once we got the additional ground rules and the feet dangling ended, the ride was pretty nice. It was a canoe ride as promised; a couple of hours to the tented camp where we would spend the night, surrounded by wild animals. I had a pretty good idea that we’d be safe there. I was more interested in what exactly these tents were all about. I expected basic sleeping-on-the-ground stuff when trekking, but this tented camp in a jungle had me curious. Regardless, an interesting country for one’s first camping experience.

Finally, we pulled ashore. As we got out of the canoe, our shortest guide took out his stick and swung it like a baseball bat (keep in mind, we weren‘t aware of his job title at this point). I've been living "Wild Kingdom", and this guy wanted to play stick ball.

We stretched and compared notes about the last few hours’ attempt at survival, then our main guide interrupted us with serious “Shhh’s” and requests for silence. He explained that we have a bit of a walk to our vehicles, then a short ride to the camp and adds, "We have to have total silence. Here in the jungle it is very dangerous. It is full of rhinos, Bengal tigers, and sloth bears. If you get charged by a rhino, hide behind a tree.” I looked around, no trees. He saw that I’ve noticed this minor flaw in his plan. “If there are no trees, don’t panic.” He said something about what to do if a tiger attacked, but let’s face it, if a short man with a stick couldn’t fight off a tiger, what hope was there for any of us?

He continued explaining our final way to die given our current circumstances. It just got better and better. “And sloth bears are the most dangerous of all. They attack for no reason and they go for the face.” First off, who the hell knew what a sloth bear was, and what did it have against any of our future modeling careers?

Well, suffice it to say, our potential attackers left us alone. We spoke softly and Mr. Animal Fighter’s stick was…oh hell, you all see the pun coming.

That night, we were paired up for our tent assignments. My buddy, Pete and I in a tent for two equipped with cots and sleeping bags. A sound sleep. As well as a baby in the middle of a wilderness filled with animal sounds only familiar to the Keepers of the Bronz Zoo. For as much as our safety was assured by the staff, waking up in the middle of the night to wild animal noises and knowing they’re really wild animal noises. More so for Pete perhaps, as I found out later, when I woke to the nightmare screams of him being mauled by…eh…

Never mind, his face was fine.

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