Hippooing my pants

 21 May 2007

Standing eye to eye with a hippo is a daunting experience; especially when the eye in question is the one at the end of your penis, and the hippo in question is standing eight metres away behind a flimsy knee-high electric fence.

But there we were, myself and Nick outside our tent at 2am beside Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s south-west, struggling with stage fright in face of the biggest thing I’ve peed in front of since sharing a urinal with the Inspector in charge of the Victoria Police Media Department.

Hippos are, of course, the deadliest animal in Africa, responsible for more human kills than any other beast. A few years earlier a woman had been fatally mauled by a hippo at this camp site after crossing the electric fence to take some extreme close up photos.

And while they may seem harmless enough when lounging in a muddy pond in the Serengeti, when they are waddling around on land, which they do every night to graze, they are a sight to behold.

A few minutes earlier I had been awoken by their riotous honking and bellowing and opened the tent to see six enormous beasts, each about three metres long, waddling casually along towards stage right, munching grass all the way.

On the verge of wetting my sleeping bag and assuming it was safe to exit the tent, I decided to get some fresh air. Nick joined me.

I was relaxed as I stood taking in the moonlight scenery, standing about in the middle of the eight metres gap stretching between our tent and the ‘hippo proof’ fence. 

I stood feet shoulder-width apart and prepared to pee. Nick did likewise. It was a bonding moment.

It was at about this stage that I realised the last of the hippos to have walked across the grass had in fact stopped, and it’s ginormous head, almost one metre long, was slowing turning around. The hippos two-tonne body then followed his gaze. And for a split second we locked eyes.

It lifted its front foot and took a step towards us. Then the other followed.

My urine reduced to a trickle and dribbled down my thumb. It was our cue to leave. By this stage I not only still needed to finish peeing, but inconveniently quite close to shitting myself too. Pivoting 180 degrees, we both ran three metres and dived the last into the tent, landing on Laurine and Rob.

“Shut the tent, shut the tent” I screamed in a whisper. The hippo was definitely advancing towards the tent by now, step by step ambling forwards, not shifting its gaze.

Mammals are warm-blooded creatures, but our blood was running colder than Walt Disney’s in cryo-freeze.

Just then the hippo stopped its advance, and we even fancied it took a little jolt backward. The electric fence! Thank God! The hippo was not overly worried however, and it turned silhouette against the moon, lifting its head to the sky – Jurassic Park style – and gaping open its mouth to bare teeth which could have kebab-skewered a small child head to toe with room still for some onions and a capsicum. 

We closed the tent door, and I vowed not pee until the morning when the hippos return to bathe. And Nick vowed that in the morning he would hang his sleeping bag out to dry.