Hippo Hippo Hooray!
Lake Malawi is huge. It lies in the great rift valley and can clearly be seen from
space. It is more than 500 km long and 900m deep! Some time ago we
were building a boat there, a steel cat. This is the ideal place for a boat:
In the south the lake empties into a river, which flows for several kilometers
through a game reserve. Cruising along the river, all sorts of animals can be seen
along the shore and in the water. In the beginning the river is very clear.
It has just emptied from the huge deep lake. Here there is a sand bank.
The water flows over the sand with a rapid current. Looking down from the
boat you can see grains of sand being whipped along. The water
is usually one or two meters deep here and the river is wide, narrowing from one
to a few tens of metres further downstream. Hippos and crocodiles
abound and travel in a boat can be very dangerous. Our cat though was
large, weighing much more than a hippo. Many a hippo, angry at the intrusion
into his territory, tried to overturn us, succeeding only in lifting the boat
on one side and throwing everyone off balance.
If they manage to tip a boat over, they are very dangerous. They use their
huge teeth to bite you in half, or at least bite something off. I once had
a guide in Okavango with one leg missing. He was somewhat slow,
having to paddle sitting down, and he made us wait for hours at deep
water, looking for hippos, checking if the coast was clear.
One afternoon on lake Malawi we were leaving the lake and entering
the river. I was in the bow, looking at the sand being carried along the bottom,
when we drove over a hippo. He was standing on the bottom, probably
fast asleep. Startled, he ran underwater, surprisingly fast for his bulk.
Running with the current, he was under me for a few seconds.
I clearly saw the freckles on his back!
Then he lunged upwards and tried to upset the boat. It was a good effort.
I had to hold on to something, not to be thrown out.
When I looked again, he had disappeared.

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