When I was young, the Jungle Book was one of my favorite books. I dreamed of playing in the jungle, outsmarting the monkeys and making Shere Khan look the fool. It is funny how dreams rooted in childhood can take control of a perfectly rational individual and make him long to do things that in all honesty he would be better off not doing. And that is how I found myself in the southern part of Nepal looking for a tracker to take me into the jungle on foot in search of tigers.
Lest I generate any unwarranted suspense, let me say up front that I never saw a tiger (although I was able to follow one's footprints, and heard it roar ... or scream ... or whatever it is that you call the earth shattering sound a tiger makes). However, while I was following my guide one dark evening on the edge of a village, I had the most intense animal encounter of my life.
It was quite dark, and my guide was turning on my flashlight occasionally, scanning the area, and then shutting the light off as we tiptoed along the river. Just as I was starting to think the guide was merely turning my light on and off to constantly wreck my night vision so I would not be able to see anything, we heard a sound that was quite like the sound of a man walking with a steady gait through wet mud. "You hear that?" said my guide. "That is a rhino eating the villagers' cabbage."
I was excited. A rhino was not as good as a tiger, but I hadn't expected to see a tiger this close to the village anyway. We carefully tiptoed close to the animal, and my guide turned on my flashlight. About 40 yards away was an Asian Rhinoceros ... looking directly at us. Immediately the rhino charged. The guide snapped off the flashlight, grabbed my arm, and yelled "RUN!"
Now ... I do most of my hiking in bear country, and the one thing that is drilled into you time and again, is that if a (grizzly) bear charges, you should not, under any circumstances, run. It took my mind only a split second to decide whether or not to tear off after my guide or to play dead, and I made the correct decision. I ran. Blindly. Across the river plain. Finally my guide reigned me in and I huddled with him, squatting in a low section of the river channel to catch my breath. The rhino charged through the spot where we had been, but it did not search us out. It went on with its evening.
The guide talked me into circling around to try to get behind the rhino so we could watch it without getting charged again. We got charged again.
The guide failed to talk me into trying one more time. Getting charged by a rhino twice in one night seemed plenty to me.
Several days later I went on an elephant-back safari (looking for ... you guessed it ... tigers). I didn't see any tigers, but I did manage to get my elephant to chase a rhino through the bush for quite some ways. What goes around comes around, I guess.