Ironic Happiness

We had started picking up signs a day earlier. A barefoot track in the soft mud on the edge of a waterhole; a sapling stripped of bark to tie down something; a patch of white-grey ash where a lone hunter had spent the night when darkness caught him – close to a tree so he could sit out the night with his back against the trunk and the fire between his legs. Humans. We had to be within a day or two from one of those lone villages in the bush. So we were not surprised when we caught...

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Generous Reprieve

We had walked all day in the arid heat and our mouths and throats had been dry and sticky because we had to ration our water, and we never saw a single animal or even a fresh sign, and we didn’t find water, and our camp was dry and grumpy and listless. But then, the sun crept out below the clouds, and for one last time exploded the dullness into riots of colour and light. I dropped what I was doing and poured out the little wine left and went and sat with my back propped against a fallen...

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Sad Sweetness

You can listen to the voice recording, or read through the text below. Enjoy! The African wilderness holds many perils and as many irritants. The perils – dangerous animals, poisonous insects, running out of water, getting lost – can usually be avoided if you understand the bush and are vigilant and careful. The irritants can usually not. At the top of my irritant list are the little black bees. Tsetse flies are an irritant of note too, but they do not like coming into the sun, so unless you are spending time under a shady tree where the surface...

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Too Close…

We happened upon him in dense bush, this fine young loner. He must have been pushed out of a breeding herd by the matriarch a year or two earlier and now he was wandering the days till he is able to step up as a worthy sire himself. We were only a few paces away when I spotted him. A brisk wind had kept our scent from him; the noise of his feeding  combined with the rumble of the wind through the foliage masked our sound – as it did his from us. He was still unaware of us, but it...

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In Lion Country

Lion sign. A large male, perhaps on patrol, perhaps with the pride. Even this mere hint of their presence, more than a day old, quickened our pulses; we were in the presence of brutal strength, singularly focussed on its own survival – without reason or compassion. The mere possibility of confronting lions in the wild when you are on foot and exposed stirs a feeling of awe. To hear them roar at night grips the heart; if they are close the power of the sound makes your gut shudder. It is primal Africa exhaling into your face. Yet, in...

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A Pleasant End to the Day

We came upon it unexpectedly, as the sun was touching the treetops, this pool of sweet water, left behind by the little river when the drought and the heat stopped its flow and pushed it further and further back towards the Ruvuma. Over many millennia the pool had been hollowed deeper by bits of mud carried away on hooves and hides. Now it was a generous knee-deep deliverance from thirst and heat. Perhaps it hid below its surface secret little fissures and pebble beds that kept slowly bleeding into it, preventing it from also turning into a sun-baked crust...

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The meaning of human tracks

It was close to noon and time for the midday break. A bush willow close by offered a generous pool of shade.  As I approached, I noticed a small chop mark on its trunk. The brown globules of gum that had seeped out of the wood were still soft on the inside. It was probably done a few days or a week ago. There were no tracks around the base, but the chop mark was unmistakably human made. It was typical of someone wanting to mark a route or a position – perhaps to a snare or a beehive...

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A Giant Has Passed Here

A stone’s throw out of our lair of last night, and we came across this posting on African Bush fb. It was fresh, made in the early dark hours by a lone bull elephant. As you can see from the spoor, he was heading west (from left to right on the pic) and quite briskly. He might not have picked up our scent under the smoke from our fire, which we had kept going through the night, but he would certainly have seen the fire’s flickering glow and, being downwind and close, the great ears may even have detected...

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Water!

My turn. Mud-milky and smelling of earth and animal dung, but sucked through thinly-parted lips in long, eager draughts. If one wanders into unknown stretches of wilderness in the African heat, the deadly spectre of dehydration hovers in every mirage. Your movement is absolutely governed by water – can you survive on the water you can realistically carry until you are likely to find more? Here’s an excerpt from Paths of the Tracker with a very real story: Henry didn’t seem to notice his sense of affront. “One of the most important things to remember for survival in the...

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A Dawn Discussion

A dawn discussion about a big decision – in which direction shall we head today? We had more or less decided to explore the area a bit and we had made a rough “fly” camp. It was under a stand of young and taller Brachystegia that formed a reasonably good canopy to keep the dew off us and our equipment and would provide shade over the hot part of the days.  Around us, in all directions, lay many kilometres of unknown wilderness. We had some anecdotes about what might be going on around us from a small hunting party...

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