THE MATTRESS THIEF
I was camping once in the Kalahari desert in South Africa in July. There are no fences, or facilities, just you and the wild African bush. I love it! I'd had a great trip up till then, staying at Polentswa camping site, but then had to move to another part of the reserve for a few days. I was busy taking down the camp as usual, taking down the tent, the mattresses, the gas stove, the chairs and lining it up neatly next to each, ready to be packed into my vehicle. As I was busy rolling up the tent I noticed two lionesses lying in the road about 80 metres away from me, watching my every move intently. I got the fright of my life as I knew that they could easily sprint that distance in a few seconds to catch me for an early morning snack. My first reaction was to jump into my vehicle which was not too far from me. As I jumped into said vehicle, the lionesses got up and walked towards my camping gear that I had just prepared for loading. They walked up to my gear, sniffed around, and then one lioness seemed to find an interest in my mattress. She sniffed it and then picked it up with her mouth and started walking away with it. I was still going to need that mattress for the next few nights since I knew how hard the sand can get in the Kalahari when you sleep on it. My only option was to hoot at her. I did that and even waved my arms in the air but got no reaction from the lioness. I turned my car on and raced towards her, stopping just a few metres away from her. She dropped the mattress and stared at me for a second, then picked it up again and got into a playful mood. I tried hooting, racing towards her, waving my arms and shouting, but she did the same and was clearly winning at our game. She carried on walking into the bushes away from the campsite and I followed her with my vehicle. Eventually the bush became so thick that I could not follow her anymore and all I could do was to stop, and watch her disappearing into the distance with my mattress in her mouth. I never saw her nor my mattress again. For the next few nights I lay on the hard Kalahari sand, which gets especially hard at 3am in the morning when you've run out of comfortable sleeping positions, thinking about the lioness and my mattress. If only she used the mattress to lay on, I kept thinking, then at least someone’s loss would be another's gain.
Photo story: Isak Pretorius