01 October 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Campfire Tale: A Meeting with Christine

Have I ever told you about Christine?

Well, first let me tell you about this walk my husband Chris and I took on a nature reserve in Namibia. We ambled off with a camera, examining the minutiae of life that are invisible in the veld unless you walk.

In the far off distance, we saw an ostrich, and were most pleased. We were less pleased when it started heading towards us. Eventually it was on a tangential path that looked bound to intersect with ours. What to do?

Of course, all the real life human drama stories I’d ever read in the Reader’s Digest concerning ostriches popped into my head. After all, they can run like the very wind and have sharp toes that can literally unzip you. Not good.

Chris and I tried to hold the pose of being calm, all the while throwing out ideas through slightly clenched teeth. I voted for lying on our stomachs. Nah, but then it could sit on you, he countered.

“It might stay there for hours.”

I thought that was a pretty weird theory, but I had no proof an ostrich wouldn’t do such a crazy thing. Heaven knows they’re not the brightest candles in the bunch.

My husband and I wondered aloud whether ostriches can jump? Or climb? Because if not, what about climbing the nearby rocky hillock (koppie)? No sooner said than done. We strode over to the koppie at top speed and ascended it like Sherpa in a hurry. The ostrich followed us right to the foot of the hill and looked up at us wistfully.

What was that all about? - we wondered. Then it turned on its scaly giant bird heel and walked disconsolately towards the horizon, shoulders slumped.

Mystified but triumphant, we recounted what had happened when we got back to reception, with the emphasis on how we’d escaped a bipolar ostrich.

“Oh, that would be Christine,” exclaimed the receptionist. “She loves to be tickled on her head. She’s kind of lonely.”

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