DAY 2 OF THE HUNT.
i wake up to hermans soft knocking. i apparently slept through my alarm but it apparently woke him up.
oops, gotta get ready fast. time to get ready and change into my clothes. whew it is cold. after shivering and shuddering and bouncing around on one foot i get ready and head downstairs. breakfast is cold milk and cereals and some juice. i love the breakfast juice. its a good blend of a few fruits.
in the car we talk about the nyala. his habits and the kind of habitat we will be looking for him in.
we get to the farm and its a cold blistering day and not a cloud in the sky. its an elemental beautiful day and i am ready for it.
clay asks the trackers and we pinpoint the course of a perennial stream as the likely location of a herd of nyala seen there at sunset last evening.
we push off on foot. its me, clay, kahtie and a young german boy, called leon whose father has sent him there during his school holidays.
we are walking in an open grassland.
i gave my hat to impati, one of the trackers and so i have my net scarf and a camo cap. i think i look dashing and am busy taking my pictures.
talk about the younger generation, eh. i can already hear the senior members going tcch tcch.
anyway, we get a bit closer to the stream and the serious business begins. we stop and begin glassing the area.
we see some movement. i see sweet all as usual and clay gives me a sympathetic smile. he told me last night that it takes time to develop the right eyesight.. i hope it comes soon enough, i am getting tired of the sympathetic smiles. atleast i got leon to give me company today in the "blind in the wild group".
we reach the stream and start walking along its course.we do this for around half an hour. the stream wasnt made to be walked along. there are stones and rocks and shrubs and thorns in all the unwanted places. and we gotta be quiet!!! i thought we made enough noise to wake up kumbkaran!!! later ofcourse clay told me how when you are concentrating on something, your senses become magnified. well, they were magnified enough that i was breathing through my mouth instead of my nose, because the nose breathing seemed louder.
kahtie freezes and he holds his hand out. we all stop. he slowly sits down. we follow course. somewhere over the lip of the stream he has seen the nyala. unfortunately, to even see the animal we have to cross through an area overgrown with dry brambles. we try to do so as softly as we can. after spending what seemed like 5 minutes to cross all of 2 metres, my body is aching. its like doing yoga while moving. a step in broken down into ten poses, which are held and then the whole process is repeated.
by the time we get out, the herd has moved on a bit, we look around for their spoor in the damp soil and kahtie shows me the males footprints. is this my nyala? questions race through my mind. we follow the nyala for a couple of kilometers more but they are always behind a bush or around the next bend.
after a while, they moved up onto some higher slopes to catch the sun. saw us and the stalk was over.
we return back to the truck. some trackers have been following a small posse of nyala on the other side of the farm. we think thats its a good idea to go and have a look at them as the herd we followed in the morning will be antsy now. we head across. i love bouncing around in the car and i get in the back of the car to sit in the open on the seats. good fun. almost got thrown out!!!!
kahtie bangs on the roof and he whispers something to clayton. we disembark and glass the opposite slope. a few nyala there, but young adults. not the ones we are looking for.
we move on ahead. we spot the nyala we are after.
after a longish stalk we get to 300 yards and the nyala we are after is staying down in a deep donga. and he is not coming out.
we take this opportunity to start moving closer. we eventually get to around 75 yards.
suddenly theres a flurry of movement. the nyala appear running damn near 100 yards to our right and quartering away up the slope away from us. talk about the wrong place!! we move around to the right but in the thick brush we can see nothing.
suddenly kahtie, who hasnt moved from our original position calls us back softly. he apparently thinks the nyala we are after is still in there. we are walking back when our nyala literally explodes straight up the slope. he didnt take the easy way up off to the side. i would like to think he waited so that the others could escape. and then this brave beast made his move. i have never seen a more surreal demonstration of power and heart. straight up a near vertical slope with no running ground. clayton hisses to me to take the shot. i cant. i dont want to. he runs away. clayton is a bit exasperated but i mumble an apology. he soon recovers his good cheer and we move on. hunting is not such a cut and dry sport after all. i am feeling stupid now. i should have taken that shot. but did i have the right to cut short something so beautiful? it reaffirmed to me once again that courage and nobility are not to be associated only with predators and the more glamorous animals. i am still riding in the back of the truck on our way back to get some lunch. kahtie, the one who is taciturn with newbie clients like me who dont know anything and act funny and never smiled at me, puts a hand on my shoulder and manages to say something which brightens my sense of despondency.
"you do good. it right."
i smile. the sun warms me up and the wind cools the sweat on the back of my neck. i nibble away at some dried sausage. i am enjoying being here. in the right now. i made the right decision. i am glad i didnt stop that head long flight of a beautiful animal by putting a bullet in it. i recall again its powerful haunches bunching underneth its weight and helping it leap up. the front legs scrabbling up the impossible slope. the head held resolutely up. ears pinned back. tail tucked in. afraid yes, brave yes.
i saluted him and marvelled at the beautiful experiences i had had till now. and this was only day two.
we reach the hut where we will have lunch. lunch is last nights steinbok meat and thick slices of homemade bread along with relish and cheese and tomatoes. the seats are covered in leopard skin. damn neat!!nothing ever felt better than that meal. after cleaning up, we open up the foldable beds and go to sleep, well the rest did because my bed folded up in two. it couldnt handle my weight.
clayton is apologetic and starts getting another bed ready but i stop him. i bunch up my jacket and lay out on the cool hard floor and sleep a very very good sleep.
-- Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:58 pm --
we wake up and after freshening up, we are on our way again.
we come across a blue wildebeest herd and clayton identifies an old cow who is diseased and for some reason has to be culled. he offers the shot to me, but thinking that maybe he is being kind only because of our failure this morning i refuse. he tells me that he is serious and will take the shot otherwise. i relent and we step outside. open grassland and no shade. we cant hide and the shot has to be taken from afar. BW have a habit of bolting and then stopping and looking back at you. they also have a loopy gait where in they bob up and down a lot while running. anyway it was a long shot. i know because i had to dial up the scope all the way to 9. took the aim and she went down instantly. sorry old mother, forgive me and thank you for falling to my bullet. we walked up and she was breathing her last. i put in a bullet to her heart and watched her twitch and finish her death throes. such a unique animal. i touched her lovingly. we got the photos and put her in the back of the truck.
we move on and look around. we eventually stalk a pair of nyala that are in the valley. its a long toil and we are the worse for it. they eventually hide in some very dense bush. by this time we have been after them for hours and its nearing sunset.
we retreat and drive back around to the top of the escarpment below which they are hiding.
we go and are lying up right against the edge. and its beautiful. we can hear them sometimes.
shooting light is fast running out.clayton sends his trackers down to send the nyala towards us. i have a feeling that the wind which is at our back might betray us. clayton says that the nyala are sufficiently close to the cliff for them to be below the scent. i had my doubts but he is the PH.
we heard the far off shouts of the trrackers now turned impromptu beaters and clayton wanted to position us along a different piece of the cliff overlooking another part of the valley. boy, we ran! it was exhilarating. along the top of the escarpment, a sheer drop on one side and a little open savanna on the other. i liked this. pitting ourselves against an animal who is in its element. we got into our positions again.
and wait and wait. but the animals dont have mercy on us and escape back the way they came through the beaters in the low light.
we get up and walk back. we see some helmeted gunieaufowl. they are right on the crest. perhaps thinking that i may not be happy with the day, he offers to let me shoot a few of them.
i take up aim. its upslope and i can see only the silhouette of the bird, with half its body showing against the sky. i take aim at around a couple of hundred yards or so. the aim is true and the bird is down.
after a while i aim for a second bird off to the left. same point of aim. but this time the bird was on the obverse slope and it flew away.
anyway, we go and examine the bird i shot. a .30-06 is not kind to a guineafowl i can tell you that.
i collected a few feathers and we were on our way.
clayton shot a hare for kahtie's dinner.
i had a super day and we talked all the way back about the days hunt. things we saw and what we could have done differently.
a lovely dinner followed and sleep beckoned immediately. tommorow will be a better day.
-- Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:27 pm --
day 2 photos
-- Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:31 pm --
more day 2 photos
-- Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:33 pm --
day 2 again
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To Excellence through Diligence.