It was hard to tell what caused the most heat… the blazing sun, the shimmering sand, the diesel engine a few centimetres from my feet or the gearbox next to me. But the combination certainly had the sweat streaming down my face. My water bottle had been emptied hours before, and for the past hour or so, I had been straining my eyes searching for the signboard that would end my suffering.
Had the place closed down? Had I taken the wrong turn-off? Or was I delirious because of the heat and thirst? Maybe I passed the place without noticing. Then, suddenly, the sign was there, right in front of me. My victorious yell sounded more like a croak in my dry throat. ‘Namib Inn’, proclaimed the sign.
I stopped behind a Ford 4×4 with a canopy and crossed the few metres to the entrance of the bar. This is an isolated part of the world, so I was surprised to see seven men lined up along the counter. “Howdy!” I said, taking the nearest stool. The customers responded with a “Hi” and a wave. The barman asked what it would be and I ordered two ice-cold beers, dropping a handful of coins on the counter.
Suddenly, a blowfly appeared from somewhere and circled my head. I tried to swat it, but missed. It made a wide circle, banked and came in with determination as if attacking me. Again, I tried to hit it, but missed. “That damn thing has been pestering us for the past half an hour,” said the barman. “If you see it sitting somewhere, use this to kill it,” he added, pointing to a can of insect aerosol.
I tried to smile. But it was too painful with cracked lips – so I just nodded. “What direction have you come from?” asked one of the customers. I pointed north. “Hot?” he asked. “Very,” I replied. I poured my first beer and emptied the glass.
The customer sitting next to me said, “I was just telling them about an incident I had with a hyena last night.” He shifted his wide-brimmed hat further back on his head, exposing a wide red forehead. “I was sleeping in the back of my truck when I heard a noise at the front. I looked through the side window of the cabin and saw a huge hyena trying to force its head through the passenger side window, which was open a few inches.
I shouted and banged against the side of the canopy, but it took no notice. “There was a packet with biltong on the seat and I suppose the hyena was trying to get it.” At this point in his story, he picked up something I hadn’t noticed before, a can of pepper spray in front of him on the counter.
"Then I remembered this stuff that was forced on me by a gunshop, so I decided to see if it was worth anything. I opened the sliding window between the canopy and the cab, took aim and pressed the button. Boy, you should have seen that hyena take off!” He burst out laughing, read the name of the spray out loud, and replaced the can on the counter. “This stuff works for about half an hour, so I’m sure that hyena didn’t think about biltong for a while!” he said.
I chuckled and relaxed with my second beer, sipping it slowly and savouring it. Then, as I looked up, there it was again, that damn blowfly, sitting on the brim of Hyena Slayer’s hat. This was a hunting situation, so I didn’t take my eyes off my prey as I cautiously reached across the counter for the insect aerosol.
I touched the can and took hold of it. Hyena Slayer was looking the other way. Good! I didn’t want the insecticide to get into his eyes. I carefully aimed the can in the right direction, and gently but firmly pressed the button. At that precise moment, Hyena Slayer turned his head. His eyes bulged. His red face turned purple. His mouth opened and he shouted, ”No!”
It was too late. The spray enveloped his face. He seemed to lose his balance, the stool toppled slowly backwards and he fell heavily onto his back. The blowfly took off and flew along the bar, right across the heads of the other guys. I tell you…if that fly was a bomber, it could have dropped a bomb on every customer’s head. So I played anti-aircraft and sort of carried that blowfly on the insecticide along the bar.
Suddenly everybody was shouting at once. “What the hell are you doing?” “Are you bloody crazy?!” Realising something was very wrong, I looked down, and, to my horror, saw that the can in my hand was not the familiar yellow and green insecticide aerosol, but a red and black container – the pepper spray!
There was only one course of action. I placed the can on the counter, walked briskly out of the bar, not touching my second beer, climbed into the Landy and floored the accelerator. So, what did I learn from my little ‘hunting experience’? Firstly, make sure that the weapon you’re about to use is appropriate before you press the trigger.
Secondly, although I can’t tell you what effect pepper spray has on a blowfly, its effect on humans is instantaneous, clearly visible and highly audible. Hyena Slayer had claimed the results would last about 30 minutes. By that time, I was 70km south of the Namib Inn, and going fast.
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