In the dull light of a half-moon we came to a halt underneath the canopy of a large Torchwood tree. The sudden silence was startling with the absence of the engine.
On the other side of the tree was a big bull elephant. It was close to us. We went all lights down; headlights, spotlight and even the radio off for complete quiet.
The bull slowly shifted its weight from foot to foot. One could hear the sound of gravel crunching under large round feet and the sound of cold night air being sucked in through the hollow trunk.
The moonlight exaggerated the white of the tusks as he swayed from side to side, sweeping his trunk over the ground, searching.
He was looking for the pecan nut-shaped pod of the Torchwood tree. The fact that he hadn’t stopped foraging in our presence told me he was unperturbed by us.
Having sidled up to within a couple of feet of our vehicle in his search, he turned his attention to the tree. Facing the tree trunk he extended his own trunk overhead, resting it against the bark. Then, leaning forward, he shook the entire six metre tall Torchwood.
First we heard leaves rustling. Then Torchwood pods rained down all around us. There were loud thuds as the pods made contact with the bonnet of the Land Rover, some falling into vehicle on the seats next to us, one even landing in the lap of the guest behind me.
Immediately the elephant’s trunk dropped to the ground searching again, this time finding freshly fallen pods which were swiftly hoisted mouthward. As we sat holding our breath, frozen with amazement, we could hear each pod being crunched while the trunk dropped to the ground again, sucking in vast quantities of air as he smelt for the next pod.
Dissatisfied after a short-lived search the bull leant into the tree once more, this time with his forehead giving it another almighty shake. Again we were showered in pods.
All this time we sat in absolute silence, enchanted. Our hearts racing but somehow feeling an extreme calmness in the presence of this gentle giant.
After who knows how long, as we had lost all sense of time, we slowly moved off leaving the elephant to its Torchwood. A few minutes later we arrived back in Varty Camp car park. Everyone still in silence.
When all six guests had disembarked I called them together and asked, “How did everyone find that?”, for I was still reeling from the experience. Excitement and emotion poured out as everyone spoke at once for the first time.
We all agreed that we felt nothing but awe, having shared that moment together in the presence of a magnificent animal.