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A few years ago—now actually more than a decade, I was able to participate in one of the most magnificent experiences imaginable—three weeks in the deepest, most remote part of Africa—ON SAFARI! My journal, all sixteen pages, is timeless
entertainment for those wanting a personalized taste of the ultimate hunting experience.


SAFARI

JULY-AUGUST 1989

After a year of excitement, worry, planning and anticipation, the private Lockheed Jet Star airplane landed at Roscoe Turner Airport in Corinth to pick up my brother and me.  Our destination?  AFRICA!  Our great friend, Frank Harrison from Charlotte, had put together the trip of all trips and we, together with a few other fortunate beneficiaries were scheduled for three weeks in the most remote part of Africa.  Our expectations were colossal, and we were not to be disappointed!

Son Ken and wife Nancy Ann saw me off. Rosemary and Lee did the same for Sandy, as well as 10-15 people that were busy taking pictures of one of the prettiest planes ever to use the runway at Roscoe Turner. The airplane is fantastic—probably the finest private jet available--and it caused quite a stir as it landed in Corinth.

The Lyons, Frank and Jane, were already on the plane. After suitable good-byes the pilot, Mike Santiago, taxied to the very end of the runway, gunned the engine to the maximum while holding the brakes and did what he referred to as a "Slingshot" start.  It was thrilling as the G-forces glued us to our seats.  I was soon delighted to be looking down at the duck blinds in Tuscumbia Bottom from the air.  We were on our way!

By the time we reached the top of our ascend we began our descent into Nashville to pick up another friend and fortunate traveler, Claude Clements.

Final destination for that day was Charlotte and we had a wonderful dinner with our host, Frank Harrison, together with another host and traveler, Bob Pettus.  Dinner was at a small Italian Restaurant close to the hotel, the Park. Accommodations at the hotel were excellent and we enjoyed hearing a couple of guys doing a Jimmy Buffett session.

Morning came early.  We were waiting on the van to take us to the airport at 4:45.  Capt. Mike had wheels up at 5:25 a.m. on Sunday, July 30 and out great adventure began in earnest.  We were all excited about getting off after a year of planning.

The route Capt. Mike had picked took us over land as much as possible until we had to cross the North Atlantic in order to head for Newfoundland. We arrived at St. Johns after 3 hours of flying. It took an hour or so to clear customs, gas up and perform normal maintenance, and we left Newfoundland (59 & drizzle). It was spooky for us as we began our long and lonely journey across the Atlantic Ocean in a small plane.  It took 4 1/2 hours to fly from Newfoundland to the Canary Islands. We landed at Tenerife airport, where it took an hour or more for us to fuel and clear. We stood around the terminal—in the wind—waiting.  

Just at dark we left for our final stop of the first day—Ivory Coast. It took nearly four more hours of flying but around midnight we landed. It was a little scary—we had to make several passes at the airport before they would turn on the lights on the runway.



AFRICA AT LAST!

 

It was just as I had it pictured—hot and poor and dirty. We slowly made our way through customs in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.  Our progress was aided by the lateness of the hour as well as a nice guy from the Inter Continental Hotel who helped us. We rode the hotel van through the dark streets of Abidjan, checked in at the hotel and made it to our room at 2 a.m.—just in time to leave a wakeup call for 4:45.  Capt. Mike, second pilot, Bob and our in-flight hostess, Vicky, only had time to shower before returning to the airport to prepare the plane for early departure the next morning.  

It was still dark as the sleek plane lifted off the runway.  None of us were disappointed to leave that country behind.  We slept most of the next leg, which involved about 4 hours of flying.  We landed in Libreville, Gabon where we stood on the runway for more than an hour waiting for gas and customs. It was necessary to "dust" the airport officials in Gabon after we were told they “needed dollars for the President".

Our last leg of our long journey lasted nearly five hours. We had to skirt wide around Angola so the guerilla forces…or the country’s military….it didn’t matter which one…wouldn't shoot us down. Finally, after thousands of miles we crossed the border into the friendly confines of the beautiful and gentle country of Botswana and landed in the city of Maun about 3:30 Monday afternoon.

The Maun airport was about the size of Roscoe Turner but not nearly so nice—the runway was paved but not much else. We were greeted by our Professional Hunters with their hunting vehicles parked right on the runway.  What a spectacle! No problem with customs in Botswana and soon we were on our way—via trucks—for the short ride to the hotel. The roads were mostly unpaved and there were very few cars. The hotel was great, small and low, but clean and nice. After checking in and arranging our gear, we met at pool side for visiting and picture taking.  Our Professional Hunters joined us at Riley’s Hotel around 7: 30 and we drove to the Duck Inn, the local hunter's bar and hang-out, for dinner. We had a rousing good time with plenty of food, drink and stories.  Jane came in later with Tony Henley, a world famous professional hunter. He fit the mold exactly—very British with shorts, shooting jacket, scarf and booming voice. He put on quite a show. Most of us went back to the hotel around 11:00 but the party lasted until 3: 30. The hunters….there aren’t many in number anymore….are close, yet jealous of each other.  These men, however are the best African hunters in the world.

Tuesday morning arrived cool and clear, it was “wintertime” in Botswana.  We gathered our things and went to our outfitter, Safari South’s, headquarters.  While there Sandy and I added a few game licenses to our existing list, including buffalo.  

My guide, John Dugmore, is a very reserved British type, born in Kenya and a professional hunter for 36 years. He is really neat, smart and very good.

We departed the Maun airport in two bush planes for the one hour flight into the Okavango delta.  We landed on the dirt landing strip deep in the Okavango. 

In a flash we are in the back of trucks, 4-wheel drive Land Rovers and Toyota Pickups…bush vehicles….for the 30 minute ride to Camp.  When we arrived we found the Camp to be magnificent.  It overlooks a massive area of Okavango delta.  The Okavango is a maze of channels, lagoons and palm-covered islands.  It is created when the cold waters of the Okavango River come down from the mountains of Angola carrying sand.  Over the eons the channels have all filled up with sand and now the river just meanders across the sandy, desert-like land.  The massive river never reaches the ocean; its cold waters are eventually absorbed into the sandy Kalahari Desert.

Each of us hunters has his own tent with two beds. The tents are large, walk-around tents with double liners and complete with floors and porches. The surrounding ground is sandy, blackish and it’s swept absolutely bare, manicured with a leaf broom. There is a camp staff of 8-10 people who come out from Maun for the hunting season and live at the camp.  Some live in tents, but others live in very small, 8’x8’ clay and straw houses.  There are cooks and servers, complete with red serving coats and red turbans, young women that do the cleaning and washing and skinners that tend to the game.

The camp has a large dining tent with a round table seating eight or more.  The table is always immaculately set and complete with table cloths, cloth napkins and china. Meals are elegantly served and the food is excellent.  Generally the dinners start with a soup with the main course being the game that has been taken most recently.  Left-overs from dinner go into lunch boxes for the hunters for the next day’s hunt and to supplement the contents of the lunch box.  Lunch boxes are furnished with all kinds of canned goods similar to what is available in the U.S.  

All cooking is done over an open fire. Delicious fresh baked loaves of bread are cooked daily and used for breakfast toast, lunch boxes and dinner.

Most anything is available for breakfast, but I generally have toast and cereal.  Contrary to what was told to me; fresh milk is always available, as is the normal selection of cereal.

We are awakened each morning by a young woman who comes into the tent, lights the lantern and brings coffee or tea. She also brings hot water for washing and leaves a big hand bowl outside. Soap and fresh towels are always available. After casually getting dressed and washing, we gather at the fire and turn in breakfast orders. We leave for hunting shortly after the morning radio check with Maun.

There are three Professional Hunters in camp, one for Claude, me and Sandy.

Claude has a young hunter, Chris Collins, a 10 year veteran. Sandy has a world famous hunter, Lionel Palmer, a 30 year veteran, renown for his success over decades, and I have John Dugmore, a 36 year veteran.  John, too, has had a wonderful career, including surviving the attack of a wounded leopard.  

My “crew” and I normally set out for hunting about 8:15 in a Toyota truck with a platform seat mounted in the back bed of the truck.  John drives and I sit in the back with a tracker-driver named Songa and a spotter, named Boy.  Songa uses a long stick to signal to the driver, John, as to which route to take and when there is game present.  The stick deal is most interesting to observe.  It serves as instant and silent communication between the “tracker” sitting high in the back, and the driver.  The tracker’s ability to spot and identify game and to locate wheel tracks in the grass and water is unbelievable. Normally, we see game within two or three minutes of leaving camp. In the more watery areas of the Okavango you can see grass and water for miles and miles in the distance. 

Our afternoon hunt on Tuesday, August 1 was interesting.  We left camp after lunch and headed hunting. The truck was forced to travel in water most all afternoon. We saw hundreds, maybe thousands of game animals, highlighted by giraffe, elephants and a lioness. We used Tuesday afternoon to get a fix for what was going on.  I was awed by the scenery and inspired by the vastness and the abundance of game.  When hunting in Africa, one takes only the oldest and most mature game, generally always male and nearly always past the breeding age. (The hunting vs. non hunting controversy rages here also. Our hunters tell us that there is twice as much game now than when they started hunting.  Their opinion is that hunting "manages" and promulgates the game instead of destroying it.)

We were unsuccessful Tuesday on taking any game and arrived back in camp at dusk. A ring of chairs surrounds the burning fire and the custom is to have a drink before showers are called for. When I say "called for" that’s what actually happens.  When you are ready, you call out “shower please" and within two minutes a young native woman has you a big bucket of hot water waiting for you. Each tent has a private, enclosed shower unit built close to it, complete with concrete floor, mirror, etc.  If you are careful, you can shave, wash your hair and bathe before the water runs out.  It begins to cool down as the sun sets and by the time showers are completed it’s actually cold.  Teeth chatter when you are drying off and getting dressed.  By bedtime it’s cold in the unheated tents and my bed has seven light blankets on it. 

The weather here is fantastic and seems to be the same each day.  Early in the morning it’s cool (cold if you are standing in the back of the truck) and one wears a jacket (maybe two). As the day progresses, you unlayer and end up with a short sleeve shirt and shorts on by 10: 30 or 11:00.  It gets warm—maybe hot—in the sun but is always comfortable in the shade.  The African winter sun is very bright but doesn't appear to burn you badly. My forehead burned yesterday (Thursday) but only because I faced the sun in the truck for about ten hours. There is no, zero, humidly. It's amazing - no dew, no fog or haze and no rain.  Cuts heal fast and game hung up in the shade requires no refrigeration.

On Wednesday morning John and I left with a change of clothes and drove 70 miles to another camp called Matsebee. That camp is noted for having many impala and kudu and we wanted to hunt it before another group arrived.  We got to camp about 1:30 p.m. (traveling 70 miles on the sandy ‘tracks’ takes a long time) and had lunch. It was a mirror image of our other camp, "Kweenie", with the same type tents, showers, staff, dining room, etc.  It was difficult knowing you were in a different camp than "Kweenie". We hunted hard on Wednesday; saw lots of game, but everything seemed really skittish and always running—fast.  We saw one herd of about 250 impala stampeding in single file and flying just past us.  It was the following morning before John finally figured out why the game was so nervous.  Interesting story, for sure!

It was Thursday morning and some five days since I'd run and I thought it was time. John, my PA, didn’t seem to quite understand, but was fairly cooperative. He suggested that I get a driver to carry me out two or three miles, leave me, and let me run back.  I nixed that so then he suggested that "Boy" run with me.  I nixed that.  Finally we agreed that I would run behind the truck as we departed camp. So we began.  A few problems emerged quickly like dust and deep sand, but I hung in there. The truck moved on ahead and, by the time I’d run a couple of miles, was completely out of sight.  I began to get a little nervous as a running creature in Africa is fair ‘game’ for predators.  Suddenly, I came around a bend and the truck was stopped and John was pointing slightly to the side and behind me. There, not 30 yards, away was a pack of wild dogs!  Now, wild dogs in Africa are what sharks are in the ocean. They are killing machines!  This pack of wild Cape African Hunting dogs was the reason the animals were so upset the previous day.  They are a breed, just like lions or leopards. 

As I continued my run past the pack, one decided to investigate and started following.  A quick shout and the sight of the truck slowed him down and speeded me up. Needless to say, I caught the dickens around the campfire that night.

Things did begin to pick up that day with me taking my first game, a nice impala.

We had a good hunt, then continued to work our way back to Kweenie, arriving about sunset.

 

It's always interesting to try and guess about what we might have for dinner each evening. So far it's been tsessebe, guinea fowl, impala and buffalo. We always have a soup (delicious) made of game served before dinner and good wine (red or white South African wine) with our meal.

South Africa has a terrific impact on Botswana with many things imported from there.  All canned food has English labels on one side and Afrikaan labels on the other. South Africa is well thought of by the Professional Hunters here and seems to contribute many of the things that keep this country working.

On Friday we made a long hunt in the morning and ended up by a large water hole for lunch. We concealed the truck and quietly had lunch and matched the game at the waterhole.  Even at the hottest part of the day it was much fun watching the assortment of animals and fowl that came to the water hole.  The dry part of the year has caused the water to recede and there were millions of animal tracks leading down to the pool of water. 

Out of 10-12 licenses, I have at Friday noon; only collected one and we've driven lots of miles. I took out three more licenses when I arrived including a Cape buffalo. I had regretted not having done that earlier and was glad to be able to have a chance for one. They are extremely large and dangerous animals with mean dispositions.  

Friday afternoon was more of the same, riding and looking.  I do, now, respect the African sun more. I was wrong in my first assessment.  My face is now burned, but my arms are hardly brown and my legs are really pale. The big problem is that I left my hat at the hotel in Maun and I’m having to improvise.  Yes, it was a really classy hat and I’m sorry to loose it.  Currently, I’m using a bandana to cover my forehead.  

I decided that I would try to run again, so I took off everything but my shorts and shoes and began following the truck again. Again, the dust was bad and John decided to move ahead to where the dust wouldn't bother me.  In a few minutes, I was nervous as the truck was getting smaller and smaller in the distance; images of wild dogs kept appearing in my mind!  I would wave for them to stop and the trackers would wave back.  I was all alone (they were out of sight) and I tripped over a root and fell fairly hard. Good thing it was sandy or it could have hurt me. I was up in a flash and I remember wondering if maybe a leopard had knocked me down. I finally got them stopped and told John that I had to go in front.  I finished out nearly three miles in the sand and tall grass. I ended up scratched from the grass and bruised from the fall. Maybe I'm not supposed to run in Africa.  Sandy suggested that possibility!

Weekend is exactly the same as other days in camp. On Saturday John and I headed to Matsui to look for buffalo.  On the way we were able to take a really nice lechwe. Its horns measured 28" (by Lionel) and we were all very happy. A lechwe is a member of the antelope family.  It leaves in the water covered areas and eats the green shoots that grow in the water.  Its hooves are very long so it can move through muddy and sandy water-covered land areas.  Harvesting the lechwe required a long stalk and required a 100 yard shot, only one shot, I’d like to add!  We spent the rest of the day riding and looking but to no avail. We did make a long stalk on a zebra but couldn't ever determine which one was the stallion and so we missed that opportunity.  

We arrived back at camp around sundown. Sandy had gotten an ostrich and a nice impala and Claude a warthog so it was a good day.

Sandy woke up this morning feeling woozy and reported feeling badly all day. He has gone to bed at 7 p.m. with no supper; hope he is better in the morning.

Frank and Bob have been in Zimbabwe since we arrived. They've been hunting leopard. They were only going to stay a day or two and we were getting worried about not hearing from them. Radio check at 8:00 on Saturday morning reported that Bob had taken his leopard on Wednesday but Frank was still hunting and waiting.  We were glad that they were OK.  Radio reports also told that Jane Lyons burning her hand badly. Plans were being made to either fly a doctor in to look at it or her fly out. The decision as to fly him in or go to him was determined by whether the doctor could be sobered up or not!  I'm sorry about her accident. She had looked forward to "showing the cooks some new recipes", as she had told us before we separated upon arrival.  

As much as I like communications, the twice per day radio checks are a highlight for me.  At 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. everyone stops and prepares for activating the radio system.  This involves getting out a monstrous radio and stringing up wire to get an antenna.  How much wire and how high it must be strung depend on how deep in the bush we are.  Communication is between the hunter’s vehicles and the Safari South Headquarters in Maun.  The distance from Headquarters is close to 100 miles, plus the distance between 2-4 vehicles might be 30 miles or more.  Quite challenging.  During the radio checks we get news from each camp and any messages from Frank (in Zimbabwe) or maybe a FAX from the U.S.  We got our first FAX on Thursday and sent out one on Friday.  It's difficult to receive the information, what with the problems of a radio and the very strong British English.  Sometimes it’s necessary to get the lady at Headquarters to repeat the message several times. It was good to hear from home and to find family and business well.  Sorry about Willie B's loss and Sammy's blood clot.

All the Safari South people and the Professional Hunters speak beautiful English. It's fun to listen to them and I'm becoming quite good at speaking with an English accent. "Let's stop for a bit of bird" is a way of saying "let's eat the cold guinea fowl for lunch".

I think about home and the people and things there a lot.  I'm not home-sick and I'm having the time of my life, but I really appreciate home. There is no communication other than the two radio checks daily.  Other than the two radio checks there is no way to send for help or receive messages. It's kind of spooky and about as isolated as one can get in this day and time.  (Editor’s note:  things have obviously changed since this was written, but this was the situation at that time.)

Sunday morning finds Sandy and several of the trackers still sick.  He slept from 7 p.m. (no supper) and was still asleep at 8 a.m. as we left.  I'm concerned but I think (and he thinks) he must just wear it out.  John and I are heading for Matsui, a camp about 40 miles from Kweenie. We plan to hunt in that area and spend the night there, then return on Monday night. 

Our goal is to take two animals today and I just took care of my zebra.  That was no great thrill, but the skin is beautiful and was one of the things I was looking forward to taking home.  A zebra skin on a wall makes quite a statement!  I'm thinking about getting another license so I can get two hides.

The trackers plus one skinner are making fast work of the zebra and the vultures are filling the air and the surrounding trees--waiting.  Africa is a harsh country.  There will be nothing but skeleton in 20 minutes!  I’m telling the truth!  Nothing but bones in a short period of time!  Then, the bones will be eaten also, but that takes more time.  I'm talking about 75 vultures covering the trees and waiting on one zebra dinner. 

Today, Sunday, turned out to be my most successful day so far. I bagged a monstrous wart hog, the zebra and a reedbuck-all today. I'm checking them off my list pretty fast now. I can see filling my house, office and Waukomis with mounts.  John and I are spending the night at Matsui, another of the camps located on the West Side of the Okavango.  John likes to venture out as he thinks three “cars” (trucks) are too many to be hunting out of one camp. We are about two hours from Kweenie, our main camp. 

Matsui is a beautiful camp, set up exactly like the other two I've been to.  The view is better.  I can see at least a mile of magnificent Okavango delta, sweeping grassland and palmetto islands, from my tent door. There's much water here and, like all the Okavango, clear and clean.  It’s right from the rocky hills of Angola. The Okavango land is very flat and about one half is covered with six inches to four feet of water.  You should see these trucks go through the water, with the tracker telling John, with his stick, exactly where to drive. 

John and I are the only two in camp, except for the staff of six or so and our two guys.  Our spotter, Boy, is sick with the same stomach problems everyone seems to have.  At the 1 p.m. radio check it was reported that Sandy was still feeling badly and in bed. There is no radio check after 1 p.m. so I hope morning finds him better.  I do worry about him and feel guilty about leaving him sick in bed as I see, go and do. 

John and I had a great talk after dinner (lechwe steaks, mashed potatoes, fried onions, etc.) about professional hunting, Botswana and people in general. He got on a roll talking and told several tales from the "good ole days".  One involved members of a hunting party, for a pay-back joke, shooting a baboon, hauling it back to camp and placing it on a sitting position on the offending party’s outside latrine.  They waited on the unsuspecting member to have a call from nature.  You can imagine the shock the guy had as he entered the outside latrine and shined his “torch” on the commode. 

John is a really neat guy, with quite a lot of style. He's intelligent and he and I are hitting it off quite well.

We left Matsui around 8:15 A.M.  We had to clear out of camp before Tommy Friedman, the owner of Safari South, arrived.  Tommy and his family were heading into that particular camp.  I never knew why the “client” had to leave for the owner to arrive.  But I suspect that John and I really weren’t supposed to be there. 

Morning reports on the radio said that Sandy was well and ready to hunt and that Claude had bagged his lion the previous evening. I am really sorry I missed that as it is a huge occasion when a lion is taken.  I think it’s somewhat mystical or spiritual for the natives.  There was a great celebration at camp with champagne and beer for the camp staff.  Custom requires the returning hunters to stop outside a mile or so outside camp and shoot two times to signal a lion kill. That starts the celebration with everyone out to see the lion.  It was a monster.  I think Claude plans to mount the whole animal.

An hour or so out of camp, I spotted a nice kudu.  Yep, I saw him, not the tracker!  I remember whispering forcefully, “There is a Kudu, a big one”.  John slowed the truck and asked the spotter, “Is it a Kudu?” and the man said, A couple of shots later I can check that one off my list. His horns measured 50", more than 4 feet long, which was, as John says, "quite nice".

We then set off to the landing strip to catch Claude before he left for Zimbabwe (leopard). We arrived there before 12:00 and had a nice visit with him and saw the video of his lion. A video camera is absolutely fantastic for Africa and I wish I had one here.

I was able to run again today at the grass air field and it was nice. Including my three miles yesterday noon at Matsui (with Sunga driving behind me listening to my Walkman) that gives me eight miles for the week in Africa. On my run yesterday, I saw a large group of giraffe (12-15), zebra and lechwe. It's hard to imagine what it's like here. The weather is fantastic. I haven't seen a cloud since we arrived and the temperature is ideal- 48-52 degrees at night and 70-80 during the day. It's always cool in the shade even at noon.

The sun is strange. My face is finally getting better from the wind and sun (and the shaving). The tops of my ears have been my worst problem lately.

This evening we stayed in camp. It was fun, restful and a nice change. Claude, as I said, left today and just Sandy and I are in camp.

I'm coming along great with my list of animals. Most of the rest except for buffalo can be gotten in the Kalahari Desert, where we will be heading next.  John is beginning to think of that move now.  It takes about ten hours driving or one can fly if he chooses. Sandy and I are trying to keep from flying together if possible. Tomorrow, Tuesday the 8th, makes one week here. It's the experience of a lifetime but I can already tell that I won't regret going home. This is a nice place to visit but it ain’t home.

I guess son Ken has left by now.  That leaves Nancy Ann with all her chickens gone, two out of the country and one in Virginia and, of course, Nan in Vicksburg.

I know Sara has mixed feelings about this particular time in her life.  On one hand I know she is glad to be coming home and starting her life as an adult.  On the other hand, sorry to leave her friends in Costa Rica and to leave an unfinishable job unfinished. She answered the call and should feel good with herself.  I wish I could have been there when Ken walked in, also when she sees her apartment.

Sandy and I hunted together today. We mostly looked for kudu for him. One time we had a Cape Buffalo (turned out there were 2) hemmed up and were waiting for Sunga to drive him out of the bushes, we were on foot.  A buffalo weighs 1800 pounds and is very dangerous. I was hoping he wouldn't get both Sandy and me.  Nothing so adventurous happened and he slipped away unseen.

Plans are forming that will take us from the fantastic weather here in the Okavango to the hard conditions in the desert.  It’s supposed to be very cold at night and 115 degrees in the daytime.  What a contrast!

Hope to receive a FAX tomorrow and hear from all the people at home as well as the businesses.  

It's really an isolated feeling not knowing one thing that’s going on the outside.  

There is still a good bit of sickness around.  John, Lionel Palmer's tracker, and "Boy" are still sick.  Hopefully, they will be better tomorrow.

I am now sleeping better and for the most part, all night. It took about a week to acclimate to the massive time difference.  When it's 10 o'clock at night here, it's 3 o'clock the previous afternoon there, so it's hard to adjust.  Animal sounds penetrate the nighttime and add to the excitement.  Maybe it’s the excited yelping of a pack of hyenas at the conclusion of a kill.  A big black mane lion’s roar keeps your heart beating rapidly as it resonates across the Okavango.  Especially as you reflect on the fact that a thin tent wall is all that separates one from the animals of the bush. 

 

Martin should be arriving home later this week. Hope he's had a good trip.  Then there will be the big homecoming of the others this weekend.  My thoughts are often of home and I do miss everyone badly.

I ran a whooping half a mile around a water hole at noon today, but the flies and thick sand made it tough.  The others were ready to pullout so I was glad to quit.  There had been a massive herd of wildebeest stampede by and all that remained when they were gone was fine chalky dust and their pesky flies.   

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9TH

 

We left camp and headed out early to look for buffalo. We had two nice stalks on foot but were unable to make serious contact and the buffalo gave us the slip. It's quite eerie on foot stalking buffalo. They are about the size of a small car and can move as fast for short distances.  When surprised or wounded they are unpleasant, to say the least, and can be quite treacherous so it is a cause of concern to sneak up on a herd of 20 or so.  Maybe tomorrow we will be successful.

Sandy scored on a tsessebe today and we got word Claude got his leopard in Zimbabwe. He and Chris are back in Botswana and are heading for the desert from Maun in the van. They probably made a stop at the Duck Inn, a local watering hole and restaurant located at the airport in Maun.  Maun is undeveloped with only a few paved streets and even fewer stores.  I understand there are only two shops selling souvenirs in the whole town.

We received a FAX from home this evening and I was really disturbed to learn of Fred Vann’s problem and will pray for him.  I'm excited about all the kids getting home.  I know Nancy Ann is also and is, at this moment, is preparing to get Martin.  Hope his trip has been a great experience for him. I wish I could be there when Sara and Ken get home.

We take naps each day after lunch out in the bush. I spread out a tarp and I use my down coat for a pillow.  Now, as soon as I finish lunch my eyes get droopy.  The African game does the same and “lays up” during the hottest part of the day so we aren't loosing time from hunting when we nap.  I could get use to noon naps


FRIDAY MORNING AUGUST 10, 1989

 

I just took my buffalo. We located two old bulls that had been run away from their herd and were traveling together.  We spooked them out of a palmetto island and I was able to take one with two well placed shots.  Boy and Sunga are busy skinning him now.

 

They leave very little for the vultures except for the organs. We will have a difficult time crossing all the water with 1200 pounds of buffalo meat on the truck. John estimated that the bull weighed 1800 pounds. Both bulls were old, past breeding age, and had been run off from the herd.  It makes me feel better knowing the circumstances.  The meat will be used by the natives and the head will occupy a very large spot somewhere in Corinth.  The vultures are sitting in the palm trees waiting their turn.

 

As we were first locating the two buffalo, Sandy and his people passed in their truck, visible, but perhaps a mile away.  I've tried in vain to hail them as we both probably could have gotten one of the buffalos.  It's a pity because Sandy hasn't been as lucky as I have in being at the right places at the right time.  We plan a leisurely day and if we make it back in without a problem, maybe there is a chance for another zebra this afternoon. Lionel says that a tanned zebra skin sells for $1,200 so getting the second one seems a good thing to do.  I don't anticipate another trip over here soon .

 

FRIDAY EVENING 10 P.M.

 

We got my buffalo butchered about 11:00 a.m., two hours after the kill, and were back at camp about 11:30.  I went for a nice uneventful run of 3 1/2 miles at lunch then took it easy.  I read awhile (I’m reading the 900 page book “Lonesome Dove”), napped and laid around until 3:00. Then we hunted to the air strip, about one hour away, and picked up supplies that had been left for us by a passing plane.  When we rolled in at camp around 5:00 p.m., we got the word about Sandy and his crew being stuck.

Sandy has had plenty of luck but it mostly seems to be bad. Within minutes after passing us in the distance at 9 a.m. this morning, they got stuck and stayed that way until 5:45 p.m. when we finally got word. In attempting to get out they ran their battery down so they couldn't call us on the radio. CaSunga, their tracker, walked four miles through the water to camp, got the deaf-and-dumb skinner and they walked the four miles back through the water.  Except, this time they were carrying a 40 pound battery! Unfortunately, that didn't work, but CaSunga had left word where they were stuck and when they didn’t return, our crew went and retrieved them.

Tomorrow, Sandy is supposed to go with us and I've promised him that his luck will be good.  I’ve finished out my licenses in the Okavanga and the remaining of my hunting will be in the Kalahari Desert.  

Martin and Sissy should both be home now.  Be glad to hear all about Martin's trip. I guess he will be starting football soon.

Nancy Ann would have had a few days in Clarksdale and I hope that was pleasant and relaxing.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 11, 1989

John took Sandy and me today to try to get Sandy's kudu.  We hunted all day, hard, and were able to pick up Sandy's pig but couldn't locate a suitable kudu.  It was fun hunting together.  

Tomorrow we both fly to Maun (We tried hard to keep from flying together but it didn't work out.) to join Lionel who is already there. From Maun, hopefully after shopping at its two stores, we will drive to the Kalahari Desert to hunt for a few days.  We dread the desert but are anxious to experience it.  It's hard to leave here after ten days, the weather conditions and camp conditions are perfect in the Okavango.  There were only three of us in camp tonight as Lionel left this evening for Maun.  John told some interesting stories around the camp fire, including escapades from his experiences in the Mau Mau War, plus a delicious story about Lionel shooting someone's pet lion that had a radio collar attached.  (Turned out that the story appeared in numerous books about African hunting.)

These Professional Hunters are a unique breed and are known worldwide among big game hunters. They are the elite and both John and Lionel are mentioned often in books about African hunting, especially Robert Roark’s popular books.

It turned out that the flight to Maun on the small bush plane was fine.  We were both nervous flying together, perhaps accentuated by viewing the burned out skeleton of a crashed airplane that remained at the end of the runway in Maun.  We had an hour or so at the Curio shop to look for tourist junk.  There were no "deals" available except ivory which can't be taken back to the USA.  Around noon we set out on the long drive to Rakobs, one of the camps in the Kalahari Desert.  Our truck looked like the Jodes heading from Oklahoma to California during the dust bowl. We had five people in and on the truck and more gear and supplies then you can imagine. 

 

After several stops, including one at the "Duck" for meat pies and Cokes, we were off to the desert. The pavement ended within a mile after leaving Maun.  Then every time we passed a vehicle, especially trucks, a terrific cloud of dust would ensue and we would have to slow down or stop until it cleared.  We got an excellent picture of real life in Botswana on the ride out.  Just out of Maun, we passed a dusty cafe with a sign that said "Last chance for Drinks" and it was true. We traveled for six hours and didn't pass another store.  It was a grueling trip and we were mighty glad to finally arrive at the new camp. Most all those six hours we sat in the back of the truck.

Rakobs is a very small camp equipped to hold only four people, with a staff of four men. However, all the services were available even though water had to be carried from five miles away.

On Sunday morning we set out to look for Springbok and were successful soon. Both Sandy and I took nice bucks with long shots. We began looking for gemsbok (pronounced himsbuck) but weren't successful.  Late Sunday evening I took a large ostrich, but no gemsbuck.

Monday morning first off, we took the ostrich (minus the skin) to a small tribe of Bushmen living a few kilometers away.  That was quite an experience to see such a barren existence, but Bushmen are a special people.  Only 5,000 remain and they live on protected land near Rakobs. They shoot bows and arrows and wear skins for clothing.  There is absolutely no water here for them and it's amazing how they manage to get by.  We spent Monday the 14th hunting hard for gemsbok.  It was the toughest day we've had as we rode mile after mile over this desolate land. The Kalahari just went through a six year drought and much of the game perished.  Lionel told of vast herds that had inhabited the very land we now traveled but they weren't there now.   Five kudu, which were too small for Sandy’s trophy, plus a few steenboks were all we saw.  The gemsbok evaded us.

We were glad to get back to camp on Monday to get showers and have a nice meal. We had springbok soup, chicken, potatoes, cabbage, green beans, onions and, of course, homemade bread.  For dessert we had custard with caramel sauce and wine. The white table cloths and cloth napkins were shaped like birds.  This was a typical meal and meal setting.

As we were finishing the meal, the server told Lionel that the Bushmen were there to put on a dance for us in exchange for the ostrich.  It was, of course, an experience that few people ever get to experience.  The whole tribe was there and they put on quite a show.  The rhythms they produced by clapping was totally amazing.  This tribe wore rags for clothes and they were absolutely filthy.  It was very evident that they didn't have water enough for bathing.  Lionel instructed the cook to get some beer and soft drinks.  Instead, he only got out a case of beer.  It was quickly consumed by everyone, from 7 to 70.  One young boy bummed a cigarette from one of the trackers and passed it around to all the other kids. It was quite a show.  We, indeed, saw a part of life that wasn’t available for many to see. 

The desert was a fairly good place to run as there were not many signs of dangerous animals.  I ran four miles at noon on Sunday and three miles late evening on Monday.  No particular experiences but in the bush in the deepest of Africa, one still looks behind him often.  My thoughts have been of home these last few days especially.  I will be anxious to hear about the homecoming, football practice, Jamboree, and the birthday that I missed.  

On Tuesday morning at 8:00, Sandy and I flew out of the Kalahari Desert. IW turned out that the desert hadn’t been nearly as harsh as we had expected.  Our destination was a camp called Lechwe overlooking a beautiful lake.  There's a hippo in the lake and much game around the camp.

On the way in from the airstrip, John drove us down to a Photography Safari Camp, Machala (wild fig) where we looked over there setup.  It was much more refined than ours with running water and flush toilets, but still very rustic.  A man and his wife ran the camp.  It would be an ideal place for the family, after I hit it big!

This evening we had a pleasant hunt again looking for Sandy's kudu.  It seems to evade him and his luck still isn't good.  The area around Lechwe is absolute breath taking.  Elephants are seen often.  We came upon a herd in a water hole and we had the opportunity for some excellent photographs.  Hope we got some good shots on camera. Lionel came rolling in about 10:00 p.m. after driving 11 hours from the desert.

On Wednesday morning, 16th, (Happy Birthday, Nancy Ann) we leave Lechwe on a morning hunt. Lionel and Sandy don't return to camp for lunch today but John and I do. A short nap after lunch is one of the things that he looks forward to daily.  I've fallen into the same routine and absolutely fall asleep after lunch, regardless whether we are in camp, or as usual, out in the bush.

It's 10:30 p.m., late for me to still be up, but it's been a big day.  Sandy and Lionel didn't get in until 8:00 p.m. due to Sandy getting his buffalo.  His luck must be changing. We had a big dinner followed by dessert and the singing of "Happy Birthday" in honor of Nancy Ann.  We had pancakes for dessert, as the cook had interpreted "Birthday Cake" to be "pan cakes". They were still very good and we all got a big kick out of it.  The moon is absolutely full and you can see forever.  Currently there is a herd of elephants right on the outskirts of camp.  Three or four are visible in the moonlight; occasionally you can hear them as they tear down a tree.  Also, the local hippo is frolicking about and, between the elephants and the hippo, I'm worried about getting stepped on when and if I go to sleep. They are now very close, I mean like 100 yards away.  An elephant looks especially big at night.

 

THURSDAY, 17TH

 

Sandy's hunting luck took a big change in the last two days, yesterday the buffalo and today a magnificent sable, perhaps the most beautiful of all plains game.

John and I had a rather long day, "struggling", is how John phrased it.  I have taken my share anyway.  I ran three miles at noon at the airstrip with my rifle strapped to my back.  That is, except when I came upon a herd of elephants.  Then I carried the rifle in my hands!  

Things are winding down fast as tomorrow will be our last day.  I can truly say that this magnificent event we have experienced is one of the last remaining Great Adventures.  Likely it will not be possible to experience like this after a few years.  I'm really glad we have had the opportunity.

Sandy and I just left the camp fire with the elephants closing in on our camp.  As we were still standing by the fire, one elephant came up within 40 yards of us, with five others right behind him.  We could actually hear his stomach growl.  They're completely wild and it can be pretty hairy when they come through camp.

It's ten minutes later and three of the elephants are right outside my tent.  They are only 30 feet away.  Make that 20 feet.  I turned out my propane lamp and am writing by flashlight. It’s five minutes later and the big three have moved on through.  Hopefully the others will follow shortly. Quite a feeling to be able to look out your tent window and watch the moonlight reflect off an elephant only a few steps away.

We hunted hard on Friday, the last Safari day. We drove over to "Splash" camp and seemed to run into everyone on the way.  We had lunch at Splash with Frank and Jane and Joe.  Unfortunately, my second zebra attempt was unsuccessful and there won't be a second African "skin" floating around.

We all arrived back at camp around dark. I got in a short run while waiting on Sandy and Lionel.

The final night and dinner are behind us and we are busily preparing for the Saturday morning bush flight back to Maun.

 

We said good-bye to John, Sunga and Boy as well as all Lionel's trackers at the airstrip.  Lionel, Sandy and I flew into Maun with Johann, the Swiss bush pilot with Northern Air. (Northern Air is a subsidiary of Safari South).  The crashed plane still remains at the end of the runway, serving as a reminder to all that Africa is a harsh country and mistakes bring tragic results. 

We landed in Maun around 9 a.m., cleared out at Safari South Headquarters, and frantically bought souvenirs at the souvenir shop. 

After much picture taking we departed Maun at 11:30 a.m.  Near dark we landed at Cape Verde, a Dutch Island off the coast of Africa. It was one of the hottest places I’ve ever seen.  We stayed the night at a strange hotel located at the end of the island.  There was no air conditioning in the hotel and extremely hot and humid.  I nearly died.  For the first and only time in my life I slept on top of the bed with a fan blowing directly on me.   A 6:15 wakeup call, which came 45 minutes early than requested, prompted me to go for a short run on the beach and an even shorter swim in the Atlantic.  The island is a virtual desert and very desolate. It’s most interesting but not very pretty. The Jet Star departed at 8:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. - Corinth time).

This visit gives us stops in 8 countries outside the U.S.Canada, The Canary Islands, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Zambia, Cape Verde and the Azores.  It was quite a trip, for sure.

            Our arrival home ended one of the most extraordinary events of our lives.  It would have been impossible to have made the event more wonderful, or more enjoyable or thrilling.  It can not be replicated.  It was the ultimate opportunity to see and do things that we would never have the opportunity to do again.   We will always be indebted to those making the trip possible.  Our expectations had been colossal, and even those expectations had been exceeded!

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