(Article by Lauren Melnick first published on wanderlustmovement.org)

Animals. At times I love them, and occasionally I question my decision not to eat them …

For my annual New Year’s Eve music festival pilgrimage, I missioned into South Africa’s beautiful Drakensberg mountains for Smoking Dragon.

After three days of debauchery, having a drunk person sit on me and dancing under the milky way I decided to book myself into Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge and join one of their daily tours to Lesotho. I had originally hoped to join their hike to Tugela Falls, but alas, life had something different in mind for me. After deciding that the 2nd of January was still too soon to be hiking up a mountain, I reluctantly signed up for the Lesotho cultural immersion tour the next day.

Take me to your mountains, give me an adrenaline rush, but don’t kill my soul with these designer interactions with a country’s local culture or interactions with its people. I’d much rather meet people authentically over a beer and discover their way of life through a mutual friendship than something designed for profit. And if I do ever take part in a tour like that again, it must meet certain criteria: locally run; beneficial to the community; informative; not set up to tug at heart strings to open purses.

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But I am getting off-topic; you came here to read about the devil cows not to hear me rant

So I wake up early. I have all my technology charged. I am amped to get into Lesotho, add a new stamp to my passport and witness the incredible natural beauty I have heard about.

Things were all going well for the first hour. The landscapes were lush and green; the animals were all minding their own business, and I was doing my best to shoot on manual for the first time.

All of this came to a sudden, awkward halt when a black cow saw me and started behaving weirdly. It started off innocently enough. The cow followed me for a while, mooing loudly.

Cows are not usually that vocal, but I shrugged it off. What do I know about cows? Maybe they have talkative personalities like cats, or the high Lesotho altitude makes them weird. My inner voice told me to ignore the cow and to carry on snapping photos of the beautiful mountains and landscape speckled with rondavel huts.

Then, just as I was about to take another picture I heard bells and hooves behind me

I turned to look and behind me were two caramel cows charging towards me. This just made the black cow even more excited and he quickened his gait as well. So now I have not one, not two but three cows running towards me. It is times like these where I am eternally thankful that cows are not designed to move quickly, and genetics blessed me with long legs to run away from things.

And it’s not the first time that animals or cows have chased me either

When I was living in Thailand, a group of cows spread out into a triangle formation and stalked me until I left the park in between bursts of jogging towards me. In Zambia last year when I was visiting Victoria Falls, a whole troupe of baboons descended from the trees because they wanted my bag. What happened next was me running blindly into the bushes and then pretending to be a part of another larger group of humans to get back onto the path they were blocking.

Then a few months later while getting lunch at Cape Point, a waiter came running towards me to scare off a baboon that had crept up behind me and was preparing to launch itself forward to steal my pizza.

I don’t know what I did to cows or baboons in a past life, but it is evident these guys are not thankful that I’m vegan or no longer eat steaks and drink their babies’ milk.

Luckily, I outran the demon cows

Kids ran out from the nearby huts to calm them down. I managed to get through the rest of the village and finish the five km hike without any further drama. However, I have learnt my lesson.

Cows are not to be trusted, even if they are a couple of metres away from you. They are creatures of deception no matter what country they are in and give zero f*cks. In that sense they are my spirit animal, I can do basic slight of hand magic and drop F-bombs like no one’s business. All that’s left is for me to start randomly charging people down in the streets and I will be one with the cows.

Maybe if I complete the circle, they will leave me alone the next time we stumble across each other.

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