The Challenge over Territory
In this new episode of the Jabulani Olympics we bring you Ranger vs Hippo, as training and competition meld into one out in our wilderness where time has no bearing, only the movements of the sun and the hippo’s very fast feet. Now, it’s times like these where us spectators sitting comfortably in the game vehicle as support crew realise just why the Ranger is your best friend in the wild.
We had pulled up to a sundowner spot under the trees, beside one of the dams in the reserve only to find that someone had beaten us to it. Yes, the lone hippo (as we christened it, although it was in fact not alone, only taking time out from its pod who were stealthily keeping the dam warm for him). Well the hippo had taken a prime seat on the banks on the opposite side of the waterhole. Ranger Jason looked visibly disappointed. “I was planning on setting up sundowner drinks here, but we’re going to have to go somewhere else,” he told our crew in the car. “Surely we can just stay here and watch him happily?” we pushed a little.
Jason decided to execute a test, putting himself on the line, like any courageous athlete and camel man. He exited the vehicle and said to us, “If the hippo gets up, we leave. But let’s see what he’s thinking.” We were relatively far from the lone hippo but the instant Jason took to squatting down politely, almost submissively, to say, “we come in peace,” the lone hippo lifted its immense weight back onto all fours and shot us a deadly gaze. The competition was on, he was telling us.
At this point, Jason’s reflexes kicked into gear, although much more calmly than his support team’s, and he stood up too, looking at the hippo. Why was he so calm? We wondered. Why was Jason not running and screaming? The hippo is not a slow animal, even though its bulbous mass might fool you into thinking it an out-of-shape athlete. This animal is a runner and a swimmer of extreme ability and in this confrontation of Olympic Games in the animal kingdom, man is not likely to come out on top. In fact, man is likely to be very very on the bottom, covered in hoof marks.
Ranger Jason, Head of his Team, put his hands on his hips and shot his arms out as though to make his girth seem more challenging, but the hippo kept moving closer and closer, moving from land to water, quite seductively so that we could not take our eyes off of him. Perhaps this was his snakecharmer tactic – every Olympian needs a tactic.
It’s important in these times of a challenge to remain cool and calm, like Jason, but also to check your environment for other competitors potentially trying to jump out at you.
The sun danced on the water and the hippo started to sink beneath its warm glittering surface. Jason had to go on experience now, as the hippo was moving out of sight and could at any moment leap forth and make its dominance known. He slowly walked back to the vehicle as his supporters photographed every movement of hippo and man, enjoying the tension and rivalry with glee and adrenaline. This Mexican stand-off had been called. The lone hippo and his submerged pod owned this turf and would not allow any mere biped to attempt to seize the dam for himself. Jason climbed into the vehicle and slowly reversed the 4×4 backwards, driving off with speed to find a new spot to treat his fans to sundowner drinks.
As every competitor or fervent fan knows, there is nothing like a stiff drink to calm the nerves and ease the disappointment at being beaten. Jason obliged kindly as we took off into the sun’s last rays and wished the hippo well. No point in being a sore loser in the African wilderness. For tomorrow is another day…