Sad Sweetness

Sad, to break down the tree, to chop open the nest, to raid the larvae and the honey that the stingless little black bees had so carefully nurtured for so long; thereby destroy their home, probably their swarm. But, the honey and the propolis, with bee larvae mixed in are sweet and nourishing and it contains a lot of moisture and so there is a blunt survival logic to it. It is the story of the African wilderness; a story of the weaker having to innovate ways to survive against the onslaught of the stronger, the swifter, the cleverer....

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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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A Dangerous Encounter

The lone human spoor we had found, and followed because we were curious about who could have left it in this remote place? It led to a den, a lair, of bush hunters – poachers, some would call them. There were six of them. They had been using the camp for a day or three and they seemed to have planned to stay longer. They had burnt the area around their den for safety and had lain some grass for a little comfort at night. Their beds were positioned between fires to protect them from predators, and for warmth....

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The meaning of human tracks

After a while Henry said, “Fernando’s story reminds me of once when I was wandering around in a very remote stretch of bush in the south of Tanzania. We came across some old human tracks and we were curious about who had walked there in such a distant place and so we followed them. They led to a clearing with a hut where semi-nomadic people lived.” He shifted his gaze to Craig. “One still finds little groups like that. They clear a small area and build a basic hut or two as protection against the elements and predators and...

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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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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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