Every once in a while my boss and I reminisce about our last company offsite in South Africa and break out in uncontrollable giggles.
It often begins with the toad story. The giant, hoppy, terrifying toad that scared the heck out of me in the bathroom at the lodge where we were staying. No one ever found it but every time I had to visit the loo, my colleagues kindly executed an FBI-style security sweep of the bathroom to ensure me it was toad-free anyway.
Then there is the cheeky Buffalo. On our last day my boss suggested we stop by the nearby Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, a privately owned game reserve in Gauteng, on our way to the airport. It is hard to believe that you can find wild Rhinos and Lions only an hour from a major city like Johannesburg but hey, its South Africa. There are places there that are so beautiful they almost look fake.
We spent a couple of hours driving aimlessly through the narrow dirt trails of the park, admiring the view and the animals. Zebras and Antelope grazed in the fields, a curious Ostrich ran alongside our little rental car trying to peek in the windows, rare White Lions shaded themselves under the trees, endangered Cheetahs sprinted through the grass, and a pair of Buffaloes roamed the hills.
There was no one behind us so we paused to watch the majestic Buffaloes plod slowly across the path ahead. When they reached the road, just a couple of metres away, the largest one stopped. He stared directly at us, positioned himself in the middle of the road, swaying from side to side until his giant butt was aimed in our direction, and with a defiant look back he relieved himself!
My boss and I glanced at each other incredulously and laughed. We laughed some more as it turned out to be the world’s longest, most impressive, pee. I assure you that five minutes feels like an hour when you are stuck in a tiny rental car with your boss watching a giant buffalo pee on your only exit. When he finally finished, the Buffalo turned to us with a look so intense my boss clumsily scrambled to get our little car in reverse, stalling it twice, for fear the Buffalo might charge. (I on the other hand, decided to take the picture below.) Instead, the Buffalo smugly turned his head and sauntered away, satisfied that we had gotten the message. This was his territory.
Finally and perhaps most memorably, there is the rickety, old elevator to the Wonder Cave. The Wonder Cave is an old limestone cave, 5-10 million years old in fact, filled with stalactite and stalagmite formations up to 15 metres high. It is located deep below the grounds of the Reserve and is a popular tourist attraction.
Our tour guide, a friendly little man who’s knowledge of the cave was almost as impressive as his smile, easily charmed us with his sense of humour and heavily accented English. He cheerfully led us through a narrow crack in the rock face and down a steep set of stairs that had recently been painted bright red. A dusty, metal gate at the base of the stairs marked the entrance to the old elevator shaft which would take us deep into the cave below.
A number of small groups had already descended into the cave when the gate creaked open to let us enter. We crammed into the tiny elevator with a few others and ended up right next to our guide at the control panel. While everyone else was busy chatting I noticed that our guide’s gentle demeanour was now fraught with frustration. The controls seemed to be jamming and the metal door wouldn’t close. He muttered quietly in a language I didn’t understand as he expertly manipulated the uncooperative elevator’s knobs and pulleys. The door eventually slammed shut but when the elevator still wouldn’t budge he looked up at me and said, “This elevator is f*&%ed!”
A moment later, the rickety, old elevator jolted into action and we descended into the dark. Despite the possibility that we might end up trapped in a cave all afternoon, my boss and I started giggling uncontrollably. No one else knew why.
We didn’t end up getting trapped in the cave that day. Someone managed to fix it while we wandered around admiring various stalactite and stalagmite formations. But the rickety, old elevator and our hilarious tour guide remain the highlights of our trip to the Wonder Cave. To this day, my boss or I will be at the office and jokingly say, “This elevator/stapler/printer/door handle is f*&%ed”. And the giggles start all over again.
Maybe you had to be there.