the polo season is back and time is never enough.
thats the only excuse i have for being tardy with this series.
i woke up to the sound of my alarm bell chirruping away to glory and got ready as fast as i could. today i wanted to be first down but that wasnt to be as clay was already there.
leon came down in a bit and we had cold milk and cereal. i took an energy bar with me in one of my pockets and off we were.
we talked about the nyala, where to aim and what mistakes we made earlier. i wanted to get the animal down in one shot and spoke to clay about the ideal shot placement. idle chatter about india and our way of life continued till we reached the farm.
we got ready for the hunt and off we were
things had moved into a comfortable rhythm by now. we would pick up the trackers, confer and push off to likely areas where we might find our animals.
but today there was a slight variation. one of claytons friends wanted some feathers to make a fly for himself. incidentally clay also ties his own flies.
he sees some patridge on our way and the vehicle is stopped, he offers me the first shot but i decline, i am not paying for it and its his friend who has asked for it. i dont want to goof up and let a bird get away or worse injure it and loose it in the bush.
he thanks me, steps out, walks up to the birds, one flushes quartering away from him, he takes his time, aims and bang, the bird folds up its wings and plummets fifteen feet away from him. he turns left and walks into deeper bush where he thinks the others are hiding. a few moments later, a second patridge breaks off to his right, quartering and low. he fires, hits it, but not cleanly. me, leon and clay start looking for the second bird. its a runner and after fifteen minutes of searching we give up and get back into the truck with the first bird safely tucked away in the cabin.
we ride on ahead and dont have much luck spotting any nyala. we see some great scenery and some beautiful animals.
after lunch on the leopard seats we are back on the trail.
we see some more patridge later and clayton gives me the shotgun. its a beretta 682. claytons father is a wing hunter and so was clayton before he got his game license. i load up and walk up. i have never done this before and clay tells me to be natural. sure as hell, i miss with both my shots!
anyway, clayton makes some kind noises and i laugh and tell him to park it. that was crap shooting and i know it.
we move on looking for the nyala. kahtie talks to his trackers and we push for the easterly part of the farm.
we finally locate the nyala herd, but the two oldies we are looking for arent there.
the males in this herd are young males, but they are magnificent specimens. i refuse again and we move on after a while. its getting late now. after half an hour of sitting and glassing the farm we see some nyala on the far side who have just stepped out from under some trees. kahtie agrees they are worth going after and off we are.
we get off and start stalking. we are stalking animals which are on the other side of a low feature and i am now thinking of the wind and where they will be going and the grass and the sun and shadows. like a novice, i am just making it more difficult than it is and finally i decide to just look and learn. we come around and stop and look at the herd. there is an old male and clay says he is old but an average trophy. i decide to go ahead. he looks great to me and like time will tell, first looks can be deceptive.
we creep up and suddenly he looks right at us. oops. sir, yellow pants is now trotting off away from us. he sensed danger but is not spooked.
we move around and set up a shot again. i take the first shot and hit him in the shoulder. he falls down but is up and running a few seconds after that. @#%#****#@@$$
you can imagine how i fell. he ran into a ravine, with steep slopes. and went very quiet. the whole area was covered with thorn trees. clayton went around the other side, to have a look and kahtie and me were together. suddenly we heard a rustling off to our right, clayton had spooked him right past us. cursing my luck, i ran and left kahtie behind. i went down and skirting the slope came up again on the lip of the ravine. now he spooked again and kahtie signalled that he was going away from me into the ravine. shikari shambu runs again and by now, chest heaving and sweaty is back to square one again.
i see him moving around and take an unsupported shot at him. i cant believe my firing discipline was so bad, sitting here at home, writing this piece and all criticism is well deserved, but at that moment i was emotionally charged. as with all things emotional, i missed my mark completely. we sat down for a bit. he wasnt going anywhere and neither were we. clayton joined us and we worked out a plan to go into the thorn bush. there was no other way. i was now apprehensive about snakes in that ravine. thought of getting naga a memento! i kid you not. naga, even though i havent met you, you were on of the three members whom i ever thought about on that trip, and this was that moment.
anyway, we moved in. i saw the nyala and we took a shot. he was down now, blood coming out of his nose and he was weakening. but to my consternation he stumbled back onto his legs and pushed on drunkenly. i was a wreck by now and put in one more bullet into him against the instruction of clayton. he finally stopped suffering and mine started.and i still feel shaken about it till now.
he had fallen into a small naala like feature with in the ravine and it was all covered with thorn trees, with no access to any car on either side.the slope was around ten feet straight up. we decided what to do. the options were to recover the head and leave the animal there or abandon it altogether. i asked him to try and get the truck as close as he could and we could perhaps winch him up?
he left to get the truck and me and kahtie and leon sat in silent vigil with my nyala.
at long last, clayton came with some trackers, a tarpaulin sheet was passed on down to us and we got the nyala on top of this. the winch was then used, and we finally got the nyala up. after the customary photographs, we left for the skinning yard. on measuring, we found the nyala to be a gold level trophy. i ate a piece of his heart and we were on our way.
i munched on my energy bar and sipped some water. clay left me alone.
the rest of the day was subdued.
i was too shaken from the days shooting and informed clayton that i didnt feel like hunting tomorrow.
we had a warm front move in and the nimbostratus clouds which came along with it, made the whole day gloomy and wet and cold.
the next day was sunday.
we decided to go hacking through the farm. it would be me and herman.
so off we went the next day at a more decent time as we werent hunting and werent after the early worm, so as to speak
the horses were boer ponies, small, wiry and tough. they were unshod as their hooves are very tough.
passian and eros were their names, while baanszula had recently passed on to greener meadows.
passian was my ride for the day. we got them saddled up. not surprisingly, they used western saddles on them. it was quite a pleasure to ride boer style, in long stirrups and giving the horse their heads on the uncertain terrain.
both the horses were absolute jokers!!!
while passian was scared of any and all of gods creatures, eros was afraid of water!!!
no wonder, i was put on passian, to let herman have a good laugh!
off we went with me leading.suddenly we crossed a small group of blesbok and off my horse went! got him under control and off we went, fording streams, up mountains and through meadows. the open spaces did some good to me after yesterday.
saw a young nyala doe who stood and just stared at us.
we went across to where kahtie's house was, but the farm fence was locked there. after a few hours, we returned back.
we had a great time galloping across open land. the cold air streaming in your eyes, your eyes narrowing to see your horses ears and the path through them. feeling the horses heart beat with you and his lungs as they explosively inhale and exhale against your legs. urging him on with your words and soothing him down when he stumbles or in my case, sees a warthog.
feeling lucky, knowing that i could never go so fast on my own two legs or even in a car, in such terrain and with such a deep feeling of contentment. letting the horse lead you home while the mind once again ponders about the duality of feeling this closeness with a living, breathing extension of you and also with an animal you kill and encase his spirit within yours.
questions arent sometimes answered easily. but its important to have them raised all the same.
we get back, the horses are unsaddled and given a little treat and handed to the groom.
we get back and i am on the phone with caerie, the lady agrees very graciously to make me some eggs benedict for brunch.
ah, at the cost of sounding repetitive, cold days and warm eggs benedict were made as a pair.
i retired to my room and rested for a while. the afternoon was spent in the company of a beautiful coffee table book in german, which was a compilation of the best playboy images of the past 50 years or so. even better to soothe my frayed nerves.
next up was the gemsbok, pronounced with an H sound, like hemsbokk.
as clayton didnt have them on his farm, he had informed me that he would take me to his friends farm where they had lots of gemsbok. i couldnt look forward to this as the owner was one of South Africas best horse riders, having won multiple medals in multiple disciplies, but also a great shot and a lovely looking lady too
an interesting story about gemsbok which i was told by a couple of people. if they are hurt and are down. if you throw a pebble at them, they can deflect that pebble using their horns!! also, they are one of the few herbivores who will charge at you once hurt and sufficiently aggravated.
but the rain gods put paid to all these plans.i decided to catch up on my reading and do some writing for the day. Read a book called Death in the Silent places by Peter Capstick.
Got my hunt diary up to date. we watched a game of rugby between the aussies and the springboks and had a braaaie along with the game. clayton and caerie, the lodge manager, had got their families over.
we had some heart and liver from the animals i had shot earlier. the kudu meat was not as good as the impala and clayton was of the opinion that the increased level of adrenaline in the blood may have something to do with it.
the pleasure of a cold beer and hot liver and heart kebabs on a cold rainy day cant be described in words.
after the game, i checked up on my emails for a while, then chatted with priscilla, the matronly black cook. we swapped recipies and discussed what would be made for dinner.
i spoke to clayton for a while about the various issues the industry is facing, from auctioned hunts to caged lion hunting.
a lovely two days break from my disastrous 3rd day. and i felt ready to start again tomorrow.
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To Excellence through Diligence.