Beware!

Clean water that we don’t have to dig for. Not the hoof-churned soup with bits of dung floating in it that is often one’s only option. And, bathed in generous shade. With the temperature over forty C it seemed like a blessing… But beware! The mat of leaves around the edges was barely disturbed. Only one or two bushbuck, a lone kudu bull, a jackal had sipped at the end where the water stretched to just a thin sheet.   Why was this inviting oasis avoided by most animals? At the deep end in a gentle-sloped gulley we found the...

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Terror

The right front paw of a wild dog. We found this single imprint in a sandy spot that was bare of vegetation. But we found more, when we looked around carefully – six, eight, maybe ten more sets. Their paws are soft, so their sign is easily missed… We had been wondering why the bush had been so strangely empty of medium-sized and smaller ungulates for something like the last two days – almost no zebra, no hartebeest, no impala, no kudu, no waterbuck, no wildebeest, no eland… The ones we did glimpse seemed unusually skittish. The wild dog...

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Ready for the Day’s Trek

My four companions on this sojourn, ready for the day’s trek. For those wondering about “the day’s trek,” it would be a wander in a general direction, say north, but easily deviated from to investigate bush phenomena we might notice, or to search for water, or to explore stories we might pick up from local bush people,  and the like. On the right is Jacqui, whom I recruited as bush medium. He spoke a few words of English and a few of Fanagolo. Fanagolo is a pidgin language based on Zulu that developed on the South African gold mines...

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The Bruegel Picture

This week’s picture is like a Bruegel painting. It carries many stories, of wandering and of bush people and of an opportunistic Chefe du Posto, and a gentlemanly old chief and a rogue hippo in a far place; much too much to try and squeeze in here. But let me start with a few remarks about the picture itself. Maybe some of the other stories will emerge, each in its own time. It is like that with stories.  Each one comes forward when its time and its place is right. Sometimes it spills out, sometimes it withdraws again. It...

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Water!

Water. The true elixir of life. Here on earth we wade through one or more of its ever-changing forms every second of every day. Yet, in the hot arid parts of the wilderness you live with the constant danger that you will have too little of it.  And then, no matter what fancy equipment you have with you, no matter what the size of your bank account, what important people you know, what deity you appeal to, in just a few hours you will die.  Simple as that. If one wanders away from a reliable source, water comes alive...

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Too close…

I heard the crack and thump of his browsing as he shouldered aside the seemingly impenetrable tangle of the thickets. He was close. So close that when he stopped moving for a moment I could hear the grind of the great molars chewing through bundles of vegetation. I tested the wind with a pinch of fine dust from between my feet. It was almost still, with an eddy now and then. I should have moved out of his way, but I could not resist the temptation of getting a glimpse of him – maybe he was a huge tusker,...

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Ready for the day’s meander

  Two of the bearers recruited along the way, loaded and ready for the day’s meander. The meat, flamed and smoked overnight is now a deep purple and fairly dry. At the midday break they will undo the bundles and carve bits off the edges to eat and perhaps cure the rest a bit more, so that it becomes almost black in colour. The men have trussed it up with palm leaves in approximately equal portions and they will carry it balanced on their heads. African people have an amazing sense of balance. I know the women, who are...

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Meat!

I shot a young warthog in the grey light before sunrise. My companions strung it from a pole with strips of bark and we took turns in pairs through the day to carry it. It was hard work. It was a young boar and I had gutted it, but a warthog is a solid animal and the swing of the carcass from the pole gnaws at the shoulders and throws one off balance as one weaves through the bush. But there were no complaints; only smiles. It is a bit sad to kill an animal but as the sojourn...

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Not So Gourmet

Midday break, and white maize meal porridge. That’s what we’ve got so far for today. Maybe  we get lucky and we find some berries, or perhaps a pool that holds some fish, but for now, it’s the porridge. I’m going to have to find us some meat soon. I like to break out of the overnight camp early; start walking with bits of night still lingering in the denser tangles. At that time the ungulates are beginning to thaw from the terrors of the night, when sharper-eyed predators might silently have crept up on them out of the blackness....

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Relentless March

A macabre grimace that tells a desperate tale of struggle and defeat. The left incisor is cracked and chipped, so perhaps this young male lion had taken a fatal kick from the mighty bull giraffe; perhaps he had been injured in a confrontation with the pride male and, hurt and banished from the pride, eked on to a slow and terrible death. Or perhaps, still inexperienced, he had lingered for too long in this distant place and could not make it to water and nourishment; perhaps he had run afoul of the deadly mamba… Yes, it is unlikely to...

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