Saturday, September 5, 2015

Adventures in Africa: Part 2

Sorry to leave y'all hanging on our adventure. We're in the middle of our Fall Cow Works and we've been burning the candle at both ends as we are wont to do this time of the year. However, between batches of bread dough and washing of syringes, I think we can finally squeeze in another installment of Zimbabwe!

DH and I had been working diligently on getting in shape for this trip, but this flat land desert girl was not prepared for terrain like this:


And yes, we climbed those mountains...and others like them...multiple times. Seems you drive around a bit and look for buffalo tracks


and then you pile out and start following them and apparently buffalo favor the thick vegetation called Jess Bush in the ridges and valleys and peaks of those mountains.


We spent the first 7 days in search of the elusive Cape Buffalo and we saw a lot of them every day, but the concession, and DH, are responsible hunters. Only the old, bachelor bulls, past breeding age, are taken - they are called Dugga Boys, which translates to 'mud' in Shona . They are often off on their own or in a small group of old bulls, but we tracked big herds too. When you come upon a group, you pretty much freeze and drop in your tracks - slowly. Much time is spent crawling on your hands and knees - one limb at a time - making the least amount of noise - and movement possible.


Sometimes we would switch to scooting on our backsides. We did a lot of both.


With ground cover like this, being silent and stealthy is a challenge. There is even a specific way you place your feet with each step in order to minimize the noise


When you get as close as you can, without being spotted, you pray the wind will be favorable and you sit or crouch, and watch...and do not move a muscle. Mopani bee buzzing around your nose? Don't flinch. Stick poking your calf? Don't move. And honestly, you tend to forget those things when you are watching a herd of Cape Buffalo milling around just 10 yards away. They are one of Africa's dangerous game and definitely nothing to take lightly, but they are magnificent to watch in their native environment. They are camouflaged incredibly well in the dense Jess bush and are difficult to see. This was my first sighting:


Now and again you may hear one grunt or catch the swish of a tail.There is such an exciting feeling when you close in on them. Then... suddenly... they bolt, and the hair on your arms and the back of your neck stands up. Roy is passionate about his work as was evident by the light in his eyes when he looked over at Gary and whispered, "This NEVER gets old!"

 One day, later in the hunt, we came across a small herd, the only one we ever saw in the flats, by the river:


You often circle around them, hoping to get a better look at the individual animals and if they get a burr under their saddle or the wind changes and they catch a whiff of your scent, they are off like the dickens and you can hear them crashing through the thick, dry, Jess Bush. And mountains are no obstacle for them. They fly over the rocks and terrain and we are once again running after them.                                    

We crawled through dry river beds


 (this is the tip of the walking stick that Medere had carved and presented to me on the morning of day 3. He must have taken notice of how much I struggled up those mountains. What a dear, dear man!)


and sprinted up mountains.


The first 3 days, I was pretty sure I was going to give out on the side of one of those mountains. Those men are mountain goats. DH had pulled his Achilles tendon the day before we left, but you'd never know it from the way he hit those inclines. I, on the other hand, was often panting like a dog and praying for a little flat terrain just so I could catch my breath. But thanks to the good Lord, I kept up. I was bound and determined not to make anyone have to wait on me, but it was touch and go those first 3 days. I was very surprised that my feet and legs didn't get sore - not once. I wore my favorite Kenetrek hiking boots that I wear around here a lot and they were the best things ever. Roy said that a lot of hunters have trouble with their feet and legs giving out so I was very thankful I was able to avoid that, but let me tell you that I was doing a lot of praying and recitation of scripture and song lyrics in my head!

We covered anywhere from 6 to 15 miles a day and according to my step tracker, we climbed  between   146 and 429 flights of stairs each day too. Shoot - 3 more months of that and I'd be one fit 50 yr old!

I have lots of pictures like this because it was often my view:


Our tracker, Muza, often led the pack, but he and Roy switched off - Muza carried the shooting sticks


followed by our PH, Roy - armed with his rifle


DH - armed with his rifle


Me, then the National Parks Scout, Madere (on the right) - who had his trusty AK47 and the Council Scout, Shumba (on the left)- who carried a backpack filled with water bottles


every hunting party is required to have a scout from each department to make the laws and rules are adhered to and to confront any poachers we may happen upon. Poaching is a HUGE problem and the concession we were hunting with has organized the Dande Anti Poaching Unit - DAPU - but it is an uphill battle.

The last member of the team was Lennias, the driver. Roy did the driving , but he always left Lennias with the truck when we headed out on foot and would radio him to meet us in various locations when we were ready to meet up with the truck.How he managed to find his way around those roads is a mystery to me because I was completely lost the entire time. Here he is showing me some elephant dung - the villagers burn it as a mosquito and fly repellent and some use it as a treatment for asthma.

A few nights we were still walking through the bush when it was pitch black. No flashlights. Need to go to the bathroom? Forget about it! No way am I wandering off that path in the dead of night! Black Mambas - Pythons - Puff Adders. No thanks. Thankfully, I never did cross tracks with any of them, but I prayed like the dickens not to. Most days we drank so much and sweated so much that no one needed to go to the bathroom. And yes, I loved every minute and wouldn't have missed it for the world!

The kitchen packed us a picnic lunch each day and on all but 3 days, we ate out in the bush.


Roy would find us a shady spot and spread out a feast.

No paper plates in the bush - they packed us china plates.


On this particular day, we dined under a Tamarind Tree. Roy knew so much about not only the game, but about the land and all the natural resources and how they were used. It was fascinating and DH and I were eager students. The Tamarind tree produces the spice Tamarind which is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine and the fruit, when ripe, is sweet and used for jams and desserts, as well as a dye because of its deep red color. It also makes an excellent porridge.


After long days, climbing over the rocks and through the river beds, these beds were a welcome sight!



Tired Teacher said...

You had an amazing adventure. Reading this post, I kept thinking of the movie, "Out of Africa," a favorite of mine.

Even with a walking stick, I would NOT have made it through the first day.

Janet O. said...

Wow, I love reading about your adventures. This is fascinating. I learned so much! What an experience!

Lindah said...

You did good! What an amazing experience.

Lisa in Port Hope said...

Wow, what a marvellous trip. Good for you on keeping up and sharing the experience with us.

Dorian said...

How fun Karin! Sounds like quite the adventure. I'm enjoying reading about it.

Pauline said...

You'll never run out of something wonderful to think about or talk about! What memories! Wonderful pictures, are you going to print some out for an album? I admire how you trained physically for the hunting. Bet you lost some weight too, since the plate of food in your picture didn't look like it offered for the physical demands on your body! Looking for the next installment and please don't wait so long!

Linda Ault said...

Good for you, it had to be tough going. Very interesting. Tell us more.

Tonia Conner said...

you wore me out just reading it. Did you ever catch a bull? And what did you do with it if you did? I would love to see them in their habitat but could not kill it other than maybe feed someone in need. Or if it could not take care of itself. Quess I would never make a hunter. Glad you were able to do this while young to enjoy yourselves.

Kristie said...

Loved reading about your wonderful trip! My oldest son Andrew has a hunting trip to Africa on his bucket list. So glad that you had the chance to go!

Judy said...

"The Angel of the Lord encamps around them that fear him and rescues him". Ps 34:7. So happy for you! I'm proud of your progress and how many obstacles you overcome! Well done!! I look forward to your next post. Take it easy and stay healthy.

Alycia said...

oh my gosh!! What a great adventure. That was a ton of walking!! and climbing! I am impressed. What a shame that poaching is such a problem, sounds like they are trying hard though. LOVE your photos!! and glad you never saw those crazy snakes - I might have heard you scream all the way over here huh ?

Joyce across the Pond said...

What a wonderful read - I think you must have been a very fit woman to start with in any case to have come through all that walking, climbing and slithering.........those days were so challenging.
Not one bit of wonder you were bushed (sorry for the pun) when you got home...all that energy used and on top of that jet lag.....I would not be worth tuppence for 3 weeks after that....if I ever got through it as well as you did, which I wouldn't.
Thanks for sharing the photos and really looking forward to the next episode.

M. E. Stephens said...

What an amazing adventure! I've heard my dad say many times that Cape Buffalo are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. I *think* I remember seeing one once. When we lived in Kenya we visited a couple game parks on family vacations or days off when I was old enough to remember, so I have some memories of the wildlife in the wild. :-)

In the early days when my dad was a child my grandfather hunted for their meat (and for the boys' school where they worked) quite often. :-) I think he helped on a lion hunt once when there was a rouge lion or two making trouble in a populated area. (I suppose now they would move them unless they had become man-eaters.) Grandpa always said zebra was "good eating". :-)

Ranch Wife said...

Thank you for your kind comment, Joyce. I am far from fit, but we tried to work on that before we left and yes, those mountains WERE challenging, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world!
You are showing up as a non-reply blogger and I would really like to comment back to you. Hopefully you will see this. If you prefer, you can send me an email where I will be able to reply back to you.

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