There's a rule of the wild, often fatal if broken, that you don't get in the way of a wild elephant. You give it all the space it needs. And if the tusker is a matriarch in charge of a breeding herd, you keep well away. These warnings were flashing code red as I stared up at the huge grey creature only meters away which had impaled me with her stare.
The situation could have been avoided if I'd checked the stairs into the hide before the game-drive vehicle moved off. But now it was too late.
What happened next requires a context. Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is an extraordinarily beautiful wilderness area, but because of the political and financial situation in the country, visitor numbers are not high. This gives it a feeling of uncluttered freedom - kilometers of woodlands, wetlands and sandveld simmering with wild creatures and devoid of humans.
Just recently, though, that isolation had been used to devastating effect by poachers who'd poisoned salt licks and waterholes with cyanide. A rough count turned up around 100 dead elephants with their tusks removed as well as other predators and raptors poisoned through feeding on them. I'd been asked by an environmental trust to see what was going on in the park and, as one does, I checked into a lodge because, well, why not have a bit of luxury in paradise?