Finding out the lay of the land

The bushveld savannah of Africa is shown on maps as vast uni-coloured blotches of yellow or green or brown or some other monochrome, with numbers inside them – 18, 21, 22… Reference tables on the sides explain that the colour blotches represent Woodland Savannah, undifferentiated or, Woodland Savannah, south-eastern areas and other such prosaic-sounding descriptions. But the animals and the bush people that live there know that the bush is infinitely more variable than what the uniform yellow or green or whatever might suggest. It can change within a few hundred meters from mopani shrubland to tall knobthorn and...

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Field Repairs!

When you dare deep into the great wilderness, the familiar activities and undertakings and sensations of existence change. To prevail you now need to be acutely aware of different things, like your environment and your vehicle, and you need different kinds of skills – ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance – and luck. You have to make use of what you have with you, or can find around you; stitch them together in ways that will keep you going. Your vehicle with your equipment represents about the last of the familiar ploys, but one can take only a very small bit...

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Ok, all set, but where are the voices telling us to go next?

Once you have liberated yourself from the roads, and finally also from the uncertain little tracks that you might have found meandering through the bush to isolated clusters of huts where a few bush people huddle together for some human fellowship, you are truly like Alice, alone in Wonderland and… “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where—” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “—so long as...

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Negotiating for a guide.

Once I get into the wilderness I like to dawdle; to take whatever direction the voices whisper. It is like a slow-motion ride on an extreme roller coaster – a slow climb, a breathless pause, a plunge through vast vistas; a slow linger on minute detail, sometimes pondering deep mysteries, at other times applying  simple common sense, sometimes facing gigantic forces, then tiny vulnerabilities, sometimes mortal danger, then soothing tranquillity… But the voices speak in the subtle words of the veldt. Nowadays people go on tracking courses or such for a few weeks or longer and become “Field Guides,”...

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A place shunned by humans

You can listen to the voice recording, or read through the text below. Enjoy!   Unreachable for most humans, but gods roam here, and fairies, and the spirits of long-dead animals and trees, I like to believe. I stare back down the trail. Creeper weeds and the odd tuft of grass have invaded the wheel ruts. My tracks, visible in the sandy patches, are the only ones. Being alone here where everything has been pushed into silence and sky is to be exposed to impressions that totally consume the senses—to forces that, should they be unleashed, would be immensely...

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The last of the fresh meat

The last of the fresh meat. I don’t take a fridge along on my journeys; just a coolbox, for what that’s worth in the African heat. So, perishable food only lasts for the first day, or three, while still passing through the Middle World. Here, one can supplement with food bought from the locals – coal-fried chicken, some wonderful coal-fired buns, grilled maize cobs, cassava, wild spinach… After that, once I get into the wilderness proper, the mainstay becomes dry food, like grains, nuts, cured fruit, and what the wonders of preservation technology can bring to the palette. Most...

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Once you leave the roads…

Getting to those truly untouched parts of wilderness that I prefer, means eventually running out of any form of road or track. Then starts the undertaking of moving through bush. Moving through virgin African bush is not for the faint-hearted. It is an undertaking that pushes human and machine close to their limits. Sometimes, for stretches where the terrain is not steep and the growth not too dense, one is able to meander along quite pleasantly in roughly the desired direction, even if it means setting the Old Man to run over a few shrubs or young trees. Sometimes...

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Stuck. Damn!

I am careful to either avoid places where I might get stuck, or work on crossings beforehand to ease the passage. But sometimes it just takes fate, or a slight error in judgement, and then… This little ditch seemed minor. The front wheels actually mounted the step-up quite gamely, but then the rear end of the body caught on the slab of rock with the rear wheel spinning in fresh air. The jack point was too low off the rock to get the hi-lift in, and there was simply no space to crawl under the vehicle to get a...

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The Breakfast Stop

My old Land Cruiser has, over the years of bush travelling, accumulated all the bumps and dents and scratches the bush needed to inflict on it. It wears the bush comfortably now, like an everyday warmer. But, it knows to inflict lots of discomfort on its driver. The suspension is about as soft as an empty freight train’s; over uneven surfaces it raises a cacophony of rattles and squeaks that drown out any conversation and numbs the mind; it drives like an oxcart and the cab is a custom-built furnace during the day, and a fridge at night. So,...

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Stopping over at the Lion and Elephant

Parked in front of the Lion and Elephant Hotel, Zimbabwe It is part of bush tradition, no, it is bush religion to stop over at The Lion and Elephant on the banks of the Bubi if the route north leads through Zimbabwe. It is unassuming, inexpensive and just worn enough at the seams so that it feels comfortable, like an old shirt. It has become a sort of a tradition for me to overnight there if the route north leads through Zimbabwe. Here is an extract from my book, The Wanderers: “It was around two in the afternoon. The...

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