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My most embarrassing moment was not in front of a crowd of people.

It was in the middle of the bushveld in Botswana, on a game farm, alone. And up a tree.

Lockdown has me reflecting and looking through old photo albums.

Has this been your experience? What was YOUR most embarrassing moment?


Crafted with love


A short while after it had happened, my late mom made me a scrapbook and included a handmade composite image of me in a tree with a bicycle below it.

I only realised today that she had written a poem especially for me. She’d written it by hand alongside the picture:


I climbed a tree in Africa once

It wasn’t part of my plan!

But once I’d got back to the Ranger’s tree

I’d been deserted by the man!

Stok siel alleen (translation: all alone)

With game all around

I shimmied up and let out a sound

That echoed its way to my best friend’s ears

And the gang arrived and allayed my fears

I jumped out of my tree

And fell in a heap

So thrilled to see them

I felt like a weep!


How I found myself in this predicament


My oldest and closest friend had invited me to join a group embarking on a cycling safari in Botswana.

At the time, I was working in Johannesburg and I badly needed a holiday. Although I had done quite a bit of cycling, I wasn’t part of the fast and furious bunch. I saw it as a fun escape from my executive stress!

Every day, we would head out to a different spot on the vast landscape of bushveld on our bikes with a few game rangers and two vehicles, appropriately filled with breakfast and refreshments. We saw a range of big and small wildlife, and it was a spectacular trip.

It was understood to be the area with the largest concentration of elephants in Africa.


On cycling safari in Botswana


Early one morning, we rode out from camp and set up next to a big tree alongside a small river. It was a beautiful clear day. A breakfast of muffins and coffee was served.

After breakfast, we had three choices:

  1. Cycle back to camp
  2. Ride in a vehicle back to camp
  3. Take a bird walk with a game ranger


This was when things first started to go wrong


I was not up to cycling back, and my friend was doing the bird walk, so I thought, why not?

However, she was dressed in walking clothes, while I was in my cycling gear. After walking a short while into the bush with the group, I decided to turn back. I told the Ranger that I would wait by the tree. He understood that there was still a vehicle and Ranger at the tree, so was not concerned.

I walked back to the tree and realised that I was completely alone.

I quickly rushed back to where I had exited the bush, but they were gone, and their voices far away. I shouted for them but heard nothing back.


The image my late mom created of me in the tree!


That’s when I decided to climb the tree


I had read all the Wilbur Smith books.

I knew that a tree was not your best defence.

But it was better than standing on the ground.

Clutching my water bottle, I scrambled up the tree, not caring about tearing my cycling gear on the rough bark.

How had I got here?

Only a week ago I was presenting in a Boardroom in Pretoria. Now I was alone up a tree in a game farm with the highest concentration of elephants in Africa. And next to a river with crocodiles, no doubt.

And the most embarrassing thing was not just being in the tree, but shouting help at the top of your voice into the wilderness, knowing that all you were doing was attracting your predator!


“Leaping out the tree like a nagapie”


Little did I know that my shouts had in fact reached the ears of my friend and the Game Ranger.

I was so mortified to be discovered up the tree that I then leapt out the tree. Literally.

Apparently I looked like a nagapie.

This is an Afrikaans word for a bush baby. Nagapies are known for jumping from branch to branch, not very elegantly. Often with a sort-of spreadeagled look?


A bushbaby or nagapie. Source: Stories from the Kruger on Twitter


I doubt I looked much like a tiny nagapie, as I crashed down in all my glory into a nearby bush. But I certainly was not elegant.

Getting up with my water bottle still in hand and my ripped cycling pants, I was greeted by a surprised group of birdwatchers.

That evening, driving back in the vehicle with a cold gin and tonic, we laughed and laughed and laughed!


Did I learn anything?


Three lessons:

  1. When you make a decision, stick to it.
  2. Choose the right gear for the job at hand.
  3. Laughing at yourself is necessary and healthy!


The images and stickers my late mom used in the scrapbook she made for me


Where to next?


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I'm Keryn House

I enjoy writing on my niche in marketing strategy for independent schools. I’m inspired by global trends driving change in this sector – from consumer trends to educational trends to market and macro trends.

I like to draw from my background in strategy across multiple sectors as well as my personal and professional journey to craft short conversational and topical pieces.

I hope you feel informed, inspired and supported as readers of this blog from wherever you are in the world. I encourage comments and suggestions on content. Please also connect with me on my social platforms.