This page is dedicated to my creative writing I’ve been getting up to over the years, and this first one in particular meant a lot to me as a child. Growing up I dreamed of visiting Africa having been inspired by my favourite authors such as Lauren St John and David Alric. Some of my other absolute heroes took me to imaginary places I never could have dreamed of, such as the wonderfully talented Michael Morpurgo– his superb ability to convey emotion from words and construct complex characters and weave stories into believable reality is awe-inspiring.
Its incredible to think that 8 years after writing this story, I would have trained as a Zoologist, be studying wildlife filmmaking and visited South Africa! Here is an excerpt of “Cheetahs Cove,” my childhood novel which I was convinced was going to be a best seller…alas if only I published. But nevertheless! Here it is in all its child-like glory, complete with my own illustrations. Enjoy your journey to Africa!
Please do be aware I was aged 13 at the time…and my passion for the thesaurus, might have gotten the better of me…
Cheetahs cove (13/7/07)
(Written by Tania.Rose.Esteban, aged 13 years old, 9a)
Chapter one: Journey to Kenya
The Johnson family had moved from The Yorkshire Dales to the large, thriving village of Kisimu; Kenya, to start a new life there. Indi, Richard, Shawn and Samantha had no idea what they would eventually find there and how it would change their lives most notoriously and dramatically.
More than 9 hours had passed on their travel to Kenya; they were all exhausted as they had woken up at 03:35am to drive down to the airport. They had all said their tearful goodbyes to grandma and grandpa who decided that the heat of Africa would do them no good but strong-willingly stated that they would come and visit them once they got settled down in their new home. “Be careful you two and never go out in the sun without sun cream!” said grandma handing them both a big tube of sun cream, factor 60.”Thanks gran.” Samantha and Shaun chorused, rolling their eyes. Their grandparents were always paranoid.
“I will miss you terribly grandma and grandpa.” said Samantha wiping a tear away and giving her grand parent’s one last hug.
“Me too.” Said Shawn, also giving them a macho- hug after Samantha.
“Now, now you two, we will always come and visit at least two to three times a year and you both are all grown up. Oh, I almost forgot, here you go you two.” said Jonathan handing them both beautiful, worn handmade leather khaki hats with chin straps; from behind their backs.
“Thank you!” The two delighted gran children exclaimed.
“It’s a farewell present from both of us, they gave us lots of delight when we were young, and now its time they belonged to you, and remember that love travels long distances, my dears, never forget that.” Cheynne said with pride. Cheynne and Jonathan had been given these hats by a kind game warden when they went on safari as the game warden was especially pleased with the conservation work that both of them had done to help the endangered rhinos. Cheynne was half Native American Indian, and came from the prosperous tribe called the Apache Tribe, and was the daughter of the chief of the tribe, Jicarilla Apache, his name symbolized wisdom and leadership and many followed his lead. Cheynne was equally as brave and wise, and married Jonathan because of his courage and charms. He was an English gentle man and happened to be on an expedition to North America when they first fell in love, and I can tell you it was definitely love at first sight all those long years ago.
Their pets, or animals as I would prefer to call them, Leopold (a group one race horse) Daisy and Timmy (two lovable black and white kittens,) and Max their Alsatian dog (Let me mention that not all the cookies were in the tin for him, if you get what I mean!), were now travelling on a first class animal transport on a ferry that would take them to France, then get transported on a large lorry through France and into Spain. They would go on a cargo ship to Morocco and finally get into one more lorry and make their long, heat engaged journey and to Kenya, and frankly none of them were particularly enjoying the long and hot journey to Africa. The family had already bought a rustic-type farm house over there in Kenya which needed a bit of DIY on it and TLC too but the family decided to take up the daunting task. Richard and had bought it cheap in an auction over in Yorkshire worldwide Auctions, an auction that sold houses abroad, in Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Australia and Africa( Forgive me if I missed Antarctica, but if I were you I would not be buying a house there!) The large house consisted of four decently sized bedrooms, a spare room, one very large and outdated kitchen with original features, a lounge, three bathrooms in urgent need of attention due to problems in the toilet which I do not wish to mention, a very large ballroom which used to entertain many guests in its time, an attic, a terrace, a medium sized swimming pool in the overgrown garden, and five stables which would be very useful for stabling Leo. There was also 300 acres of land, which was a mixture of beautiful, but deadly savannah, majestic mountains, a lake (Lake Victoria) and pristine rainforest towards the end of the land. The reason why it was sold cheaply was because the owner of the property before hand owned a safari park there which went out of business due a swipe of a deadly disease, Anthrax, (A deadly disease which attacks hoofed animals such as zebras, giraffes and gazelle.)which had killed all the game; zebras, okapi, gazelle, springbok, and many more hoofed animals which then put the successful business man, well out of business, and so had to close down the park and sell his house to get enough money to feed himself and his family unfortunately, but it happens to be that that was not the only reason why he sold it…. Meanwhile, the impatient family were just about to land…
“Are we there yet Mum?” asked Samantha for the billionth time.
“Yes, Samantha!” replied a frustrated Indi.” We are landing now; can’t you feel the airplane tilt downwards?”
“Oh yeah, I can, can you Shawn?”
“Yeah, I love this part! Don’t you sis?” replied Shawn in a half- excited tone. Even though his sister was 13, two years younger than him, he still cared for her, like all big brothers should.
“Nairobi, here we come!” exclaimed Samantha.
“Rmmmmm rmmmmmrrrr’ went the plane as it carefully glided down towards the runway like a majestic albatross with its wings outstretched, the weather however was not at all pleasant as it was blowing a gale outside (not much of a change from where she last lived mind you.) Samantha looked out of the window and gazed in awe. She could see the glinting sun which had just awakened from its restless sleep, no rain, just the sun and several aimless baseball caps flying about due to the windy weather, which she hardly noticed. She was staring at the ever-lasting stretch of savannah that lay ahead of the vast runway which was been painted with red-gold light which made the scene come to life. It was the first time she saw and had ever been to Africa (apart when she was dreaming); to her it was truly amazing. Several acacia trees stood outstretched across the Serengeti as if they were some sort of gaping arm and they whispered to each other in the turbulent wind. A herd of wise elephants methodically lumbered towards a near-by water hole and lowered their powerful trunks into the precious water, they drank thirstily and their creases looked ageless, with wisdom as they did so. Their backs were soon covered with the same magical light and it left Samantha in bewilderment as she gaped at these supreme animals, the biggest land mammals on earth. However, she was soon distracted by another amazing sight.
“Wow! Look at that bird over there guys! It’s gigantic!” uttered Samantha.
The whole family looked out of the smallish circular window and saw a bird with the biggest wingspan you have ever seen; at least 3 meters long, its powerful wings outstretched and the tips of its feathers out too as far as they could see. It swooped low effortlessly not flapping a single wing as it did so.
“I think it’s a golden eagle, I can tell by the way its beak is tipped and the colour, but blimey it’s the biggest I have ever seen!” echoed Richard.
The family looked at the magnificent creature in amazement and followed it as it glided; a sudden jerk blocked their view of it, and they realized that they had just landed. Samantha had butterflies all over in her stomach. Finally after two weeks of waiting after she had heard the news, she finally arrived in Africa.
When Samantha stepped out of the oppressive plane with Shawn following shortly after, they felt a gust of hot air waft in their young faces, and the smells of wild Africa. The ruby-red sun had woken form its restless sleep, tired from its dutiful job of heating half of the world; and yet, it still had to ‘go on,’ like the Afrikaans motto. A herd of methodical elephants lumbered towards a nearby water hole; a key role to survival. They lowered their muscular trunks down to the abundant and very refreshing water which made their creases look ageless, and yet so wise. They drank it thirstily. It was just like Samantha had imagined it; but even better, she knew at long last that she was in Africa. Indi and Richard smiled at each other as they saw their children’s happy faces; they had been to Africa before on a holiday to Kenya, to Kisimu but decided that they were passionate enough to live there, and that it would be an experience for their children. There was a private English school there that Samantha and Shawn were about to start in the next five days, they decided that it would give them more time to unpack and get organized, and time to explore. They knew that Kenya’s education system was better than most countries in Africa, and quite a few of them that were English, and its name, The International Queen Victoria School. (As Lake Victoria actually runs through their school!)
When the Johnson family went through the terminal door and stopped suddenly in their tracks. The entire place was completely jam-packed; there were crowds of people, the heat was unimaginable. There were poor ragged children on the floor begging for money and food. One particular child had a leg missing,( which i can mention he lost when a caiman ate it when the boy was out hunting for with his father, and unfortunately it killed his father and left him as an orphan.)
It made Samantha want to cry but she held the tears back. She gave the child a smile and rooted in her front pocket. Out she took 4 shillings, (which happens to be currency over there), and handed it to him. To the little boy was a lot of money. He smiled back kindly and replied, “Thank you, kind one.”
The boy had noticed that Samantha was talking in English to what immediately looked like her brother as she walked by.
“Your welcome, Starehe.” Samantha replied in a teary voice. She knew that the boy would be able to feed himself now which made her feel happier. Samantha had always had a soft spot for the poor and homeless people, more for the animals though. She wanted to become an animal tracker or anything to do with saving animals. Her brother was going to be an Equine horse vet, and specialize in horses; back in England he was training with a vet, as you know, their horse Leopold had belonged to Oliver but the whole family adored him, and Oliver always thought of nothing but horses all day and all night. Tania thought of nothing but African mammals, especially cheetahs. They were her favourite animal. When her friends asked, “But why do you like cheetahs the best? Why not a tiger or a snow leopard, something more grand?” She simply answered by saying. “Because there special in every way to me.”
She also loved elephants after cheetahs. She had seen elephants on the TV series, ‘planet earth: animals of the savannah’ and was amazed by the way the elephants were so protective about their young and how they would track their ancient routes from many years before to find their main source of survival – water and salt, and how the farmers would kill them to stop them from damaging their crops. It was not fair Samantha thought after the series, these magnificent animals had been following these paths many years before the farmers had planted their crops there. This made Samantha even more determined to save the animals that were mostly endangered, it almost seemed as if it were her destiny…
They shoved their way past the densely crowded people that were mostly native to Kenya. When they reached the bagged reclaim they stopped behind the immensely long line. They knew that this was going to at least take an hour to get out of the unventilated airport.
It took them two and a half hours in total to get out of the airport and when they did they all sighed in relief. They stood for a while, just breathing and eventually just realized that they had to go and check on the animals and give them fresh water. They had arrive an hour earlier in the lorry and had been left plenty of fresh water and food by the kind Moroccan driver, Bosman who of course had been paid by Indi and Richard to do so but he had a heart for animals unlike many people in his tribe. When it was very hot during the day he had pulled up at least eight times to give the animals food and more water, and reassured the animals by giving them a pat or a tickle. He adored Leopold the most as he had always dreamed of owning an Arabic racehorse especially like one like Leopold who was brave, loyal, strong and adored hugs and attention. But still in the heat of Africa the family still wanted to check on them as soon as possible especially Shawn who adored his horse. They were also expecting 3 large lorries full of their antique furniture (including many of Samantha’s paintings of cheetahs and elephants.) They went to the nearest cafe to have a snack and a well, earned drink first. After that they called; or more likely whistled; a battered old taxi (which luckily had air-conditioning,) and started their journey to what would be their new home from now on.
Chapter 2: New home
The taxi pulled up the on the dirt track and sent clouds of red-baked dust flying about the white car (not that it would change the condition of the taxi anyway). They waited a while until the dust settled, and the big moment would soon be revealed. Samantha, Shawn, Indi and Richard got out of the car, with Richard paying to the taxi driver and thanking him as he drove off; and saw their beautiful new home. The top of the house was decorated in the style of Dutch- cape and came down to almost, quarter of the house. There were two colossal and rather thick mahogany logs that held the front of the house up-right on either side and two windows at the top and one at the bottom of the house. The patio was raised about half a meter from the ground (to stop snakes from getting in) and was tilled with large slabs of strong slate and a large rectangular wooden table and chairs occupied the right side of the patio. At least three meters above the patio floor was a well-built thatched roof which covered the entire surface area of the patio, (otherwise I don’t think the table and chairs would have stood a chance when the rains came!)There was not much of a garden, only a rather mystifying stone statue of a cheetah that had half dry mossy remains on top, and a couple of withered mango and avocado trees that grew resignedly in the hard-baked ground. They looked behind them and they gazed in awe at the non-stop of Savannah that lay beyond them. Beyond that was a densely packed cluster of perplexing Baobab trees and endless different species of fascinating trees. Even afar of the eternal beauty of the Kenyan wilderness was the famous snow capped mountains of Mount Kilimanjaro.
The family had to stare at the amazing sights for an age to actually take it all in, they lived here in this fantasy-surreal world now, this was their home were zebras, lions, hyenas, elephants, kudu, warthogs, Oryx, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffes and(to Samantha) best of all the torpedo speeding Cheetahs. Finally the silence was broken by a stunned Samantha. “Are y-you sure we live here Mum?”
“As unbelievable as it looks-um…yes by the look of the address.” Indi replied checking the houses address once more.
“This is amazing guys! I mean, it looked great on the auction documents, but the real thing is, well- astounding!” commented Richard.
“I cant wait to canter Leo out here once we make a track!, but where is Leo and the animals by the way?” puzzled Shawn.
“Look, Bosman is over there with the animals, golly he was quick!” pointed out Indi as she spun around due to the sound of the lorry.
They made their way towards Bosman, Shawn and Samantha racing each other to get there first.
“Asante sana Bosman, unakewenda kunionyesha wanyamai? Samantha greeted in Swahili, she was thanking him for looking after their animals in Swahili.
“Hakuna matata!” “Hapa.” Bosman replied telling them it was no problem. He opened the large van and then opening the trailer next to him.
“Max! Daisy! Timmy! Leo! Samantha shouted out with delight. The whole family were making their remarks and patting, hugging, kissing and stroking their loved pets. After a couple of minutes of reuniting, their attention once again turned to the house.
“WICKED!” Shawn said with a grin.
“Hey look at that Fountain, it’s of a cheetah, cool!” Said Samantha in just as an excited tone as Shawn, possibly more. Samantha sprinted over to the statue which was in the middle of what use to be the avocado orchard. She scrutinized the statue and found a wooden plaque. The significant statue of sandstone was gradually eroding away due to heavy rains. Underneath it on the plaque read,
The proud statue gazed out onto the outstretch of beautiful savannah in the east and further beyond that the rich Kakamega Forest full of beauty and mysteries focusing on what looked like a concealed hidden hill; as large acacia trees tried hide it; not extremely tall hill, one about the size of a small house. Samantha followed its gaze and stood looking at it dreamily. There was something magical about the mountain-like-hill, and yet to us it would appear to be a perfectly normal one.
“Common guys lets not just stand here, let’s take a look! Said Richard excitedly. “I better invite Bosman in for a drink, Utapenda kunywa nini“?
“Nitakunywa maji tu. Nina kiu sana! “Asante sana! Replied Bosman gratefully in Swahili.
“He says he just wants water.” Richard said proudly; as he had learnt how to speak the native language in Kenya, Swahili.
“You’re not the only one who speaks Swahili baba ! Samantha replied cheekily, picking up Daisy and Timmy and kissing them. Samantha adored her cats; both were black and white with a cheeky look in both of their eyes. Samantha also adored her dog Max and Leopold to bits; she always gave cuddles too.
“Wow, isn’t it lovely, look at that fountain Samantha it’s of a lion. “Said Indi who obviously was not in the same world a moment ago as Samantha.
“Mum, it’s of a cheetah!”Giggled Samantha.
“Oh, sorry, I was just testing to see if you new you favourite animal when you see it!”
“Course I do mum!” Said Samantha giving her Mum and Dad a cuddle. Nothing in the entire universe was more important than her family.
She had been practicing the language Swahili when she heard she was going to live in Kenya. She was almost fluent in fact and had been practicing on the internet useful words and phrases in Swahili and had managed to pick up the language up quickly. They all stepped up onto the patio with great effort as there were no steps, “So where did Bosman say the keys were?”Samantha asked.
“Erm -Try under the carpet Samantha”. Asked an unsure Richard. Samantha rolled her eyes at him, why on earth would you travel to Kenya from England without knowing you had the keys? She lifted the carpet and all that lay there was a couple of dust-covered earwigs and a couple of undisturbed woodlice.
“Great Dad, now we can’t get inside.”
“Honestly Richard thought you had the keys all along.” Indi said wafting her hand near her face trying to cool herself down. The temperature had at least reached 38 degrees.
“Well ask Bosman, Dad I thought you could talk Swahili” said Oliver sarcastically.
“Er- wapi Unaweza kunionyesha ….keys?
Bosman pulled a face as if to say he didn’t understand him and shook his head.
“Dad that’s not how you say it! Even though I have to confess that I don’t know either.” Samantha said.
She tried a series of moves by rooting in her pocket and pretending to pull out keys and putting her fingers to the door and twiddling the imaginary keys.
“Ahh! Funguo! Bosman said poking his hand into a half broken cow skull that was above the door and collecting the old-fashioned keys whilst opening the door. The Johnson family looked at each other in disbelief, out of all the blooming places it was there! Samantha thought that it was just probably their custom; like in England they usually put it under the carpet! It made a fairly loud creak and they all entered the house. The first room was a spacious kitchen which had new-ish instalments put in which were, a fridge, wooden cupboards, an oven, a microwave, a toaster and washing machine (no tumble dryer is probably needed in Africa!) Rustic type beams lay above their heads, large French doors to the left- end of the kitchen which let if gallons of pink and fuchsia light, as it was getting late now. A large stone oven still in its original form occupied its place to the right and a large wooden table with four seats lay in the middle.
“Wow! Its so rustic, look at that oven!” exclaimed Samantha.
“It’s awesome! I better put Leo into the stables and put down his shavings; and to give max his food and water.”
“Don’t be long Shawn, come back immediately after you finished, who know what lurks out in the open……!” Richard said in a dramatic voice. He pulled a wolf like face which resembled a drunk attempting to talk.
“Look at those original beams, their stunning, hey and look at those French doors leading to the other side of the patio, fantastic for barbecues!” Indi said pointing at everything.
It was quite obvious that the family were very excited and they had a look around the rest of the house, each with its individual spider web. “Well, let’s look on the bright side; at least we have access to the web!” Samantha joked.
The family and Bosman settled down on the comfy chairs in the beautiful lounge, which had a large, stone fireplace at the centre, obviously the centrepiece. They drank the abundant water which was revitalizing. Samantha placed a large bowl of milk and cat food down for Daisy and Timmy which they accepted gratefully, as for max he was tucking in to a juicy slab of meat which Shawn had given to him previously. For dinner they all had the sandwiches which they had bought at the airport, and Bosman decided to leave as he had to get back to his family in Morocco.
The family strongly agreed to explore the house further in the morning and start settling in. They organized where the heavy boxes would go that had just been delivered by the three lorries and sorted out which bedrooms they would be sleeping in but to their surprise there were no beds! They were all packed away in boxes but luckily they had brought their camping rucksacks with them. Samantha slept in the bedroom that was facing south and to the left of the house which was situated downstairs, Shawn to left of Samantha’s bedroom, and Indi and Richards to the north of the house which overlooked the dense growth of a forest; which was at the top of the house. Samantha found her cheetah covered pyjamas and slumped into her sleeping bag and snuggled deeper down into it. It was mid autumn and even though Africa is knows for its heat during the day, it is not usually known for it at night! She lay on her back and gazed at her bedroom in awe. It was at least two times bigger than her last bedroom and it had an immensely large bookcase, (which was one of the reasons why Samantha wanted this room; to fit all her animal books on and her favourite story books,) and a wooden desk. Samantha pictured her paintings all along the walls, as painting was one of her most loved hobbies. She could also picture all of her posters of dolphins, elephants, tigers and of course cheetahs. Her eyes began to droop before long and soon the heaviness of them won. She fell fast asleep, her head buzzing with all of the wonderful things she saw that day.
Chapter 3: Exploring
Samantha woke up late that morning, feeling rather stiff and still exhausted and decided that she was suffering from jetlag. She sat up in her sleeping bag, stretched her arms and looked around, she was edging her head to the left when she suddenly stopped in her tracks, she realised she had frozen like a newly carved sculpture. There, in front of her lay a rather larger snake that was coiled up and deep in sleep, its was a Puffer Adder which she un-wantingly discovered . It had slithered in through the night, (since the high patio wall did not do its job!) Samantha daren’t move; she had read about the puffer Adder and how its was deadly; So she did not want to find out how much. “Shawn…..Shawn………SHAWN!” Samantha whispered out into the open trying to catch her brother’s attention. Shawn stifled a groan. “What do you want I’m resting here?”
“There’s a sssssssss, sn- snake in here!” Samantha stuttered in a trembling voice that was so quiet that Shawn had thumped out of bed and walked slowly to her room.
“What’s the mat…….” Shawn froze just as Samantha did.
“Get a box, and a stick to put it in, now!” Samantha quivered.
“A box! More like my rifle!” said Shawn.
“No! What did it ever do to you?”
“Oh all right then.” He said sprinting downstairs to empty a box and collecting a broom on the way, repapering quickly.
“Get Mum and Dad; NOW SAM!” scolded Shawn as he saw his sisters hesitation on her face.
She carefully walked around her bedroom, sticking nearest to the walls and then ran as fast as she could to her parent’s bedroom shouting “Mum, Dad! There’s a puff adder in my bedroom and Shawn trying to put it in a box!”
There were no hesitations. Indi was up in a flash whipping her dressing gown on faster that you could say Bob Marley. She ran into the room, with Richard following soon after reluctantly, and told Shawn to give the box and broom to her. She careful glided towards the snake who appeared to be still sleeping. She quickly but gently brushed the snake into the box and sealed it soon after. “That’s how to sort out things without panicking guys.” Indi said calmly.
She left the room and headed downstairs leaving gaping mouths. “Well, she certainly sorted out you two boys!” smirked Samantha heading in the same direction as her mum to see the snakes’ release.
After the disturbing discovery in the morning, the family set their task for the day; unpacking all those jam-packed boxes and organizing them all. Samantha and Shawn got to work at unpacking their boxes, which to be honest to them was a bit like Christmas as they had not seen their beloved positions for over a weeks, of packing them at home. Indi and Richard got to work too at sorting out the biggest things like their bed mattress and the TV, sofa, bicycles, wardrobe, chest of drawers then to the smaller things like photographs, paintings, pots, pans, knives and forks, lamps; Everyone could tell that it was going to be yet another a long, arduous day.
A while later,( which didn’t seem like it to them, it seemed like an Never-ending story of unpacking,) they had a break as thankfully it was lunch and Richard decided that they all deserved a barbecue and popped down to the local Chakula market. They lived about half an hour away from civilisation; the nearest town called Kisimu were the Luhya and the Lua people lived. It was a quiet fishing town, were most of the Luhya and Lua local tribe people depend on their daily catch from Lake Victoria fish such as the Mbuta fish, Nile Perch, Niger fish and the Tilapia fish which are all popular, local delicacies,(if I may add, very tasty ) Everybody got on with their daily lives whether it would be people making wine with the fermented grapes which was grown in the famous Tatu vinery(apparently the village makes the best wine in the whole of Kenya,) which the villagers were very proud of; or people were seen growing tea and coffee, an important cash crop in Kenya, or of course ,fishing. He cycled past all the broad smiling people who appeared to be smiling at him. He saw the Luhya and Lua boys learning to fish with their father (which was with great difficulty!)And the girls been taught how to weave, sow seeds and cook by their mothers. The whole community seemed peaceful, everyone tolerating each other and people going on about their business in their neat huts of mud and cow dung with straw roofs which were expertly built with the few resources they had. It seemed so far fetched that Kenya had a bad reputation for been violent nearly everywhere.
Meanwhile, back at home Samantha and Shawn were restless now that they had been helping unpack for hours and pleaded their Mum if they could go and, (supposedly) go and explore the garden (well, what was left of the garden anyway,) and have a pick-nick too. (However I’ve come to think that that was just an excuse to go out and explore.)
“Alright then, but don’t you stray from the garden you two, and Shawn take your phone with you just in case you do decide to do so, but trust me it won’t be a very good idea,” warned Indi wiping her face on a soft muslin cloth, “Anyway, Dads’ coming back with meat and the rest of the food and water for a barbecue to celebrate.”
“To celebrate what?” Samantha queried.
“Well, that we’re in this fantastic new home and place of course!” replied a rather surprised Indi.
“Naturally! How could I forget? I thought it was someone’s birthday!” recalled Samantha.
“Right then Sam, lets get going before dad gets back.” urged Shawn tugging her towards the door.
“Alright, see you later mum.” Samantha said pulling away from her brother’s grip to give her mother a kiss.
Samantha had gathered a few necessary items, such as her kaki rucksack which consisted of her binoculars, her mini-aid kit containing all the essential objects a first aid kit would have; her ham sandwich, a flask of cool water, her Canon digital camera and evidently her Kaki hat that her grandparents gave her. She had such delight in wearing it for the first time Shawn once again had to pull her outside to stop her looking at the mirror.
Shawn just took his Swiss army pen knife which he had won in a camping competition and his hat. Shawn was exceedingly strong; since he use to ride out race horses and gallop them at full speed down the race tracks back in the unpredicted Yorkshire Dales (on the other hand the weather was not always perfect for the occasion,); His arms were defined with muscles.
The two mischievous teenagers waited till their mother moved back in the house and sneaked off into the savannah. The golden, lush grass waved as the wind went by and beneath an azure, cloudless sky. Shawn and Samantha walked open-eyed and contently looking at all the new sights and smells that surpassed them. The large patches of golden grass waved five feet tall in the gentle breeze. Thorny and perplexing acacia trees dotted the plain in abundance, quite sparsely separated so as not to use each others nutrients, together with thorny trees which made them look like rather large hedgehogs. Huge, bloated baobab trees stood high from the ground, imposing and seemingly ageless, you could tell that they had few bush fires; which occurred to simply maintain much of the landscapes delicate balance of climate, soil, vegetation and animals; since new, young plants were managing to sprout from the hard earth. Some of the ground was fairly firm and yet further on down a diminutive slope the soil looked rich and fertile, where the magnificent savannah forest grew and the animals evidently noticed this too. Large herds of healthy looking Thomason gazelle grazed peacefully on the succulent looking grass, clearly enjoying it. To the far left were some large Grebbies, (zebras,)grazing too enjoying relaxing for the time being, and most amazing of all the Massai giraffes which ate their favourite food high above the others on top of the thorny acacia trees. They were elegant and striking of all the animals that appeared ahead of the awe- stricken children. The silence was kept for long enough.
“Am I dreaming Shawn?” Samantha articulated.
“Nope, surprisingly, I mean this place is amazing! Look at those giraffes and..and..er.. Gazelle things!” Shawn decided.
“Shawn they’re Thomason’s Gazelles! And those are Grevies, a type of zebra, look at that male one, its huge!” Samantha corrected.
“Those massive trees over there are amazing too!”Shawn said.
“I just can’t actually believe we live here you know…WOW!”Samantha exclaimed.
“What is it Sam?” Shawn asked urgently.
Samantha pointed towards an impenetrable growth of forest, which was position about 100m down from the verdant hill. It looked mysterious and quite attracting…as almost as if it was calling them.
“Aww COOL! Let’s go and explore it Sam!” Shawn replied. Something quite instinctive told Samantha not to go down the hill even further.
Shawn turned around abruptly. His face appeared to be quite taken aback.
“Sam…I thought you love exploring, especially the African bu…”
“I do Shawn, really do, but the African bush is dangerous place, we don’t know if there’s any predators around, do we?” Samantha cut him short.
“Oh common, Sam what predators? You’re not scared are you?” Shawn teased.
“No I’m not Shawn, I’m just more knowledgeable about the bush than you, and we shouldn’t be out here by ourselves. I can’t believe I’m doing this.”Samantha grew increasingly impatient.
“Pah! Yea right! You know everything don’t you?”Shawn enquired.
“Look Shawn I’m not going to argue anymore if you want to go and get eaten by or lion or…” Samantha stopped abruptly. Further down the hill a silhouetted figure emerged from the carpet of grass. As it exposed itself more to the light it soon became clear what it was. It was unmistakable; the tear stripe across its cheek and spotted coat gave it away instantly. It was a Cheetah.
“It’s going for the kill!” Samantha whispered excitedly to Shawn.
“What’s going for the kill Sam? Look, if this is one of your tricks I’m gonna..”
Samantha pulled her stubborn brother behind a nearby rock and told him to be quite, with a great endeavour though.
The Cheetah was in fact a female, and was about to make a kill on a helpless Thomason’s Gazelle. The imposing Cheetah crept low on the ground, its dull, tawny coat blending into its surroundings perfectly. She was upwind of the unsuspicious Gazelles, it was if her every move was as silent and deadly as her precedent ones, carefully placing every velvety paw on the grass. She was within 30 meters of her target now. She did not move an eye; her eyes were locked on a young calf, adjusting the angle and speed in which to attack her victim… then…In what seemed a split second… POOF! She was on its trail. The terrified gazelles frantically scattered in all directions, hoping that it was not them for the kill. It was rather surprising at how fast the little one was going, but it had no chance. The cheetah was literally eating the ground with every potent stride! Going at least 100kmh!!! She swerved side to side in unison with her prey like a persistent torpedo, the poor gazelle in desperate attempt to escape the cheetahs bone- crushing bite made a wrong turn, and WHAM! The cheetah lunged out her paw making the victim plummet; the next few scenes were covered in a cloud of dust. A few momentarily seconds after, the cheetah was clutching the lifeless body in her powerful jaws, panting heavily. Samantha and Shawn were astounded. They had just seen one of nature’s fantastic spectacles ever in their own back yard. The true beauty and danger of the Southern African wilderness finally hit home. Samantha’s heart pounded against her chest like a brass drum. Adrenalin poured into the two dumbfounded children’s’ veins like molten lava. “I..c..ant believe we j..ust saw that.” uttered a astonished Samantha. A tear fell down her soft cheek. It wasn’t out of sadness at all…It was out of the true magnificence of what she had just witnessed, although she did feel a pang of sympathy for the little calf; by the looks of its pitiful, minute body, it didn’t even make it up to a year old.
“That was…awesome!!!” exclaimed Shawn.
“Shhh! Not so loud, you’ll disturb her!” whispered Samantha.
“Oh yeh, right, sorry!” he whispered back deliberalty.
The Cheetah meanwhile released it vice-like grip and something peculiar happened. “Chirrp,chirrp……Chirrp,Chirrp..chirrp.”
Something was moving in the grass. The rustling carried on until three adorable bundles of fluff appeared in front of their obvious mother.
“Cheetah cubs!” remarked Samantha.
Chapter 4: Poachers!
The cheetahs were perfectly relaxed. The little family had finished their kill and settled underneath a welcoming acacia tree to rest. Their golden coats glistened in the evening sunset, and their eyes like golden amber. It was something quite magical for Samantha; here she was, in Kenya, the place she most wanted to be in her entire life and watching a wild cheetah family bask in the beautiful morning sun, she couldn’t possible have wished for more. Just then, the largest of the cheetah cubs got bored of chasing its mother’s tail and unexpectedly made eye contact with her. It stared endlessly into her eyes; and the girl into his, both reaching into each others very longing soul. It was almost as if the cub was trying to tell her something, but Samantha couldn’t understand why it would choose her of all people to do so. Samantha couldn’t resist in staring back into its deep brown eyes, it was the cutest thing Samantha had ever seen. “What are you staring at Sam?” queered Shawn.
“What do you think Shawn? At the cheetah cub of course!” she whispered back, not loosing eye contact.
“They are amazing aren’t they?” said Shawn.
“Their more…they’re magical.” She said dreamily.
However this short period of shear bliss was about to momentarily come to an end. As if to interrupt her thoughts intentionally, a dreaded, “BANGGGG!!!” ran eerily throughout the savannah. The birds fell deadly silent and a prolonged darkness seemed to cloud the thick air. The children jumped slightly in shock…it was the sound of a rifle.
“What was that sound Shawn?” Samantha whispered in anxiety. ‘Duduudduuuduuuu…’
“It sounds like a – like a helicopter?” replied Shawn with equal apprehension.
As the two nervous children stood still in the ever increasing darkness the cheetah mother was well aware that something was wrong and instinctively started to walk off with her vulnerable family. “Shawn, what should we do? We can’t just sit here, it could be … POACHERS! Oh my god Shawn what should we do!”
“Don’t fret Sam, calm down.” By the sound of Shawn’s voice, he was equally as petrified too. “Just stand as still as possible so they can’t hear us or see us move.”
They sat quietly for what seemed an age, a constant sound of an engine keeping them alert. Suddenly, they could make out a small bright light heading towards them at an increasing speed, the drumming sound beating ever louder. “Sam; run…”
There was a sudden scurrying of heavy placed feet as the two siblings darted away into the damp African night. They could barley make out where they were frantically placing their feet as the ran, the wet, outstretched grass seemed to tear at their limbs as they were running for their lives.
“Shawn where are we going, they still might see us?”
They stopped abruptly.
Samantha scanned the area for any escape or hiding route with virtually no light at all apart from the awakening stars. Then suddenly something caught her eye. A prominently large and profound figure stood right in front of them, about 3 metres to be precise.
It was the Baobab they had seen previously. There was a protruding part of the baobab which Samantha had not seen before. It had a largish gap in which Samantha yanked Shawn into it with great difficulty. “Oww, get off will ya Sam!”
“Hush Shawn, we’ll be safe in here.” Samantha had regained her cool.
They huddled together as they realised they had only their t-shirts and shorts to keep them warm and that it was frost bitingly chilly that star lit night. “Where do you think the cheetahs have gone? I saw them run off but where, because the poachers might be after them?” said Samantha.
“I don’t know do I Sam! Gee, I don’t know everything do I?”
“Well, you always thought you did!” sniggered Sam.
“Now is not the right time Sam, were in danger, you know that don’t you?”
Samantha suddenly let it all sink in.
Here they were in the middle of Kenya, her family had just arrived into their new home and the day after her brother and her set off on an adventure, where they were now stuck n a rotting Baobab tree, surrounded by murderous poachers and wild animals in pitch, stark black night.
Samantha shivered at the thought of it all.
“Shawn…” the stunned sister needed some reassuring, “What are we going to do now?”
“There is nothing.. Shhhhhh!” Shawn whispered in a sudden tone. He jerked Samanthas arm. “Someone’s coming.”
Rustling could be heard within a yard of where they where hiding. IT was defiantly not that of an animal, the one that tends to walks profoundly and clearly through the forest of grass, routs taken by their ancestors before them. The shambling footsteps where uneven, and misplaced, like that of a human.
It was the poachers.
Shawn and Samantha held their breath as the mislaid footsteps continued and glaring torches flashed around the dark expanse of undergrowth. That’s when they heard voices.
It was definitely a male voice, deep and booming, thick with a Kenyan accent. It was hard for Samantha to make out what the muffled Swahili speaking man was saying. Almost instantaneously she recognised the word “Duma” and “(Cubs in Swahili)” which stated that they where talking about the Cheetah cubs.
“Shawn, they’re after the cubs.” Samantha whispered as quietly as possible in a slight tremor.
Samantha could almost sense the tension that her brother felt too, which became apparent as he shuffled quietly onto his right leg.
Another voice was heard, a little more lighter than the previous scandalous man, but with an equally heavy Kenyan accent. Samantha could not make out what he was saying though, only that “Intruders” was repetitive. This was not good. They must have spotted them running into the tree. Soon, there would be a scene of two young English children being violently pulled out of the hollow by three criminals that would take them away on their plane to some far flung island, further than Madagascar where they couldn’t speak the language or contact their parents. How stupid could she have been to go on some childish ‘Adventure’ and put her brother and herself in danger? Or worse, they could become bush meat.
The two siblings peered out of the hollow to see three silhouetted figures wandering into the bush, coming closer each time as they swivelled their flashlight around, intent on finding the ‘intruders.’
Samantha and Shawn pressed themselves harder against the bark of the tree trying to make sure that no shadows were cast which would inevitably seal their capture. The footsteps came closer until they could hear the heavy panting of the men, one of them had coughed quite incessantly throughout the process. “Be quite Jacombo, you will scare away our guests!” said one man with a fuming snap. This was one voice that they had not heard, and it seemed like an English accent, not heavy at all, just bog-standard English. Was he the one in charge of the hunt? If it was a hunt at all. Samantha wondered, maybe they where nice conservationists just helping to maintain the natural balance of the landscape. Maybe to relocate the little cheetah family to a large, protected area of land where they would be safe. She banished the thought immediately. Why else would they own most of this land? THEY were the ones intruding. Samantha felt like marching right up to them, lecturing them on how not to save animals by randomly and pointlessly shooting at them. Bad idea she thought once again.
By the time Samantha had thought things through, the men had seemed to have walked straight past them, without even checking whether there was a hidden cheetah cub or the intruders in there at all.
The sound of the droning plane ceased as it flew away into the distant horizon where the stars seemed to wink at them in glee. The children relaxed for a moment. “ I think they’re gone Sam.” Whispered Shawn holding her by the sholder.
“Yes…Shawn, what where they doing on our land, and what do they want with the cheetah cubs?” she replied shaking.
“I don’t know, but I can tell you that it won’t be something good.”
Shawn hugged his petrified sister, this was clearly not the welcome they were expecting their first true day at their new home.
“Right Sam, we’ve go to head for home now, I must ring Mum now because I think she’ll be a little worried, don’t you?” Shawn forced a smile, although he certainly would have rather met the poachers then than his soon to be furious mother.
In the night, a chirping sound had arisen where a diminutive cheetah cub lay near a small cave, her front right paw trapped in a deep crevasse where it seemed she attempted to climb up around the side of it to reach the top of it. There was a small worn out dirt rack that lead to the top of the mauve- purple rock which was fairly long. It had clearly been used by many hoofed animals and predators alike where the lush, luxuriant grass grew no more. The cub lay there, helplessly calling for its mother, for help. Anyone. In the frantic escape from the man with raucous sounding ember sticks, she had lost her family, as they ran for the only sanctuary they knew, their den, the Mwezi hill which had protected many a cheetah in its past from lions and hyenas. Once, from a raging bull elephant that had recently lost his mate from inattentive attention on a juicy thorn bush. She hunched up into a small ball for comfort; this reminded her of feeding time. Indeed her belly growled in as if to revolt. This was a most calamitous situation. What was she to do? She couldn’t move at all without wincing and because of her foot, and where would she go? Straight to the two footed monsters? She best stay put until her mother came; she would certainly be out looking for her with her two brothers. Keep quite, and everything would fine.
But what if they did not? She could be picked off by some Wild Dogs, or worse, a hungry lion. At the shear thought of it, she could no longer keep her composure and began to wrench furiously away from the rock until she could no longer feel it. Then she started to chirp fervently for she could no longer bare to be alone on this most numinous night. Little did she know that her fate and the destiny of two others where to be decided, and the way the entire world thought, was about to change.
Shawn had dialled the dreaded number and was just about to press the call button, when his sister stopped him. Before he could protest, she whispered, “Shsss, can you hear that Shawn?”
“What? Is it the poachers again?”
“No, they’ve gone for good, well for now, but I can hear, chirping like we heard before with the cheetahs!” She said in trepidation.
“Maybe they’re close.”
“Not they, I think its just one.”
They both listened, straining their hearing for the bird-like chirp, to distinguish one chirp form two or three.
“There, can you hear it again, its one single kitten.” Samantha clarified with absolute certainty.
“Yeah, but what do we do now?” replied Shawn.
“Well-We can’t just leave it can we, it must have lost its family when the poachers came…so let’s investigate.”
The children peered out of the hollow, making sure that they where alone once more and they crept out of it when Samantha switched on her Swiss Army torch on. The sudden darkness was pierced with the radiant light, no matter how artificial it was, it was a great relief for Shawn and Samantha, t see their own light once more. They followed the panicked sound which led to yet another silhouetted figure, by now they were not sure what it was which did not seem to bother them. They where that use to seeing shadows by now, they had accustomed to the contrasts in zenith of the night.
“Its getting louder now Shawn.”
They too fumbled along in the night and came upon a small hill. Samantha swivelled her beam around the minute hill, continuously hearing the cry of the cub. “Where is it Shawn? I can hear it really clearly now. I just can’t see it.”
The two of them scanned the area once again with the light from top to bottom.
That’s when they saw her.
The tiny Cheetah cub lay helplessly on the ground where her paw was evidently useless where it was.
“Aww, you poor thing!” Samantha exclaimed.
“Look at it
“Its paw is trapped Sam, were gonna have to pull it out gently.”
By now the timorous creature was trembling with fear. Never had she encountered such a beautiful animal whose fate now lay in their hands, the responsibility of protecting all of Africa´s amazing species, and indeed the world, began to dawn on her.
TO BE CONTINUED……