Last night I dreamed of Wildebeest.
From the time you commit to going to Africa until the actual trip is an eternity. There are many things that you have to do to get ready, but these consume only moments and the waiting is interminable.
The day you actually leave for Africa comes suddenly. It seems like you have just begun to get ready and here you are, leaving! If you have made lists of what you need to take you are double and triple-checking them. If you haven’t made lists you are suddenly struck by the fact that you should have. The big worry is whether you are really ready for this or not. Questions about being in shape, shooting skills, money etc. run around in the head.
The flight (for me at least) was exciting. We are on the way! For real! This is it .. the real thing!! It’s happening. I was amazed to learn that at least half of the passengers on the flight are going to Africa to hunt!
Arriving in Johannesburg I was gratified to find my luggage and firearms made the trip with me. Clearing Customs and the South African Police takes a little time but went smoothly. The main thing they checked were the serial numbers on the firearms. Once that was completed the Temporary Firearms Permits were issued and we were on our way to the hunting camp some 3 ½ hours away.
The drive to the hunting camp was uneventful. After traveling for over 40 hours I was not much of companion to the driver. Since it was late in the night there was not much to see. Between nodding off I did notice “eyes” on the side of road and at times glimpsed Kudu or Impala grazing along the road.
Coming in through the main gate to the hunting camp I got out and looked at the stars. I was excited to see the Southern Cross. There was nothing familiar in the sky that I could see at the moment (other than the moon), there being a whole different view of the Milky Way and the stars from below the equator. The stars were beautiful in the cool, crisp air.
The accommodations were very very nice. I don’t know much about such things but those who should know spoke of “Four-Star” and “Five-Star”. Meals were excellent. We were taken care of in royal fashion. For an old boy that thinks of hunting camps as sleeping in the back of his pickup, and really fancy hunting camps as having tents, it was like being at a resort. Maid service, laundry service, drinks, snacks … it was all there.
Having spent the better part of 50 years hunting on my own, hunting with a professional guide was a bit different. Not bad ... just different. I knew I was out of my element and needed to trust the Professional Hunter (PH) as to what was “shootable” and what was not. I saw lots of game that looked like “shooters” to me. However the PH said otherwise and it’s best to trust them.
Game was more than abundant. It was EVERYWHERE! No matter where you looked you soon saw animals. A mistake I made was not familiarizing myself with all the species of animals in the area. I had concentrated on 4 or 5 species but there were many many others that I was only dimly aware of.
The game is tough. I wondered if the stories about African game being tougher than others were true. I have since come to believe they are. When you see an Impala take a .375 H&H … a bit low, true, but still a hard hit, and then have it run a quarter mile and still be ready to run more you begin to think “maybe so”.
Or a warthog take a .450 Nitro through the chest and still go 30 or 40 feet.
Or an Eland hit with a .450 Marlin go for 4 hours or more until hit again.
And the fact that no matter what they were hit with, they did not bleed out much. Then you begin to think “Dang! These are some tough critters!”
The Trackers are amazing. I believe they could track an ant across a tile floor. Having watched them track wounded game still left me puzzled as to exactly how they did it. But they do it and make it look easy.
The country is huge. Looking across the vistas into the far distance with no houses, cars or signs of civilization was just refreshing to my soul. The PH’s, the Trackers, the Staff all were warm, friendly people who genuinely care that each person has a good time. It was a great experience.
Last night I dreamed of Wildebeest and woke with longing in my heart.