Authentic elephant poo, all over my shoe
When I was on a safari in Zambia not so long ago, I had the pleasure of getting my feet covered in elephant poo. I know, not many peoples idea of holiday paradise but, for me, it definitely goes on the list of one of the few things I'll never get the chance to experience again.
What made this safari extra special is that it was done on foot, where you're taken around in a small group with a trained guide or two, who will lead you through the meticulous but thoroughly enjoyable process of "tracking" all the animals that have crossed your path. More importantly, you can work out which direction they're headed.
What makes this extra exciting, is that you never know what's around the next corner. Obviously you're at slightly more risk too, not being enclosed in the safety of a rickety Land Rover, but that just added to the thrill for me. The plus side, of course, is that the absence of a cumbersome, clanky automobile ups the chances of catching a glimpse of some rarer animals.
Incidentally, this was when I suffered my mishap. Pressing through the undergrowth with my girlfriend, our guides and a collection of very polite Swedes and Germans, we came to a large clearing somewhere along the Zambezi River. Suddenly, one of our guides froze and slowly reached for his rifle, as the other - crouching about 50 metres away under a small curly tree - put his fingers to his lips in a "be very, very quiet" kind of way.
After they'd established it was safe, our guide pointed in the direction of a larger, less decrepit tree with long leafy branches. To our surprise, closer to the trunk of the tree was a Leopard, lounging outstretched with a contented, placid look on its face.
Our guide explained we could move forward to get a closer look and take pictures, because this particular Leopard was a well-known veteran of this particular area, who was generally indifferent to being on at-distance display.
"Great" I thought to myself, as I inched carefully out from behind the small bushes in front of me, my hand shaking with excitement as I reached for my camera.
Well of course, caught up in the moment as I was, I paid little heed to where I was stepping. So low and behold, as I put my foot confidently onto the floor to steady myself while I snapped away, I found myself dangling my holey trainer in what must have been a very proud elephant's gooey dung pile.
Shocked…yes, disgusted…initially yes. But I was at that moment one of the proudest men in Zambia. Satiated in nature. Literally. Much as my girlfriend claims I was trying to make the most of it - which I had no choice but to do - its an experience I'll never forget. If you want to know how serious I am then come to my house, where I've kept said trainer preserved in a food bag ever since I got back. Yeah, ok. Perhaps that's going a little over the top, but I guarantee if you ever have the misfortune, you'll think twice before scrubbing it all off at the hotel too.