I gave the signal to freeze

8th February 2014

Tuesday 14th January 2014

Duty day so up at four to set up breakfast, then I signed out my rifle for the walk that I was leading. The walk didn’t get off to a good start as the vehicle gave up the ghost enroute to our starting point. So rather than a walk up in the sand veld we instead had to walk home though the mopane woodland which isn’t very diverse.

To make the walk more interesting we diverted to a spring, as we approached there was thick bush made up of wild date palm. I gave this a wide berth in case there was anything untoward behind it. As I went round I saw a herd of about fifteen buffalo sat down ruminating. I gave the signal ‘freeze, immediate danger’, at this point the buffalo clocked me and jumped to their feet in no time at all – incredibly quickly given that they can weigh 700 kg. They turned as one unit to run then came back to check me out before running off to the south.

After waiting for fifteen minutes for them to return we decided to follow them to see if we could get a good sighting. They’d moved on too far so we started to make our way back. On our return I heard several oxpecker calls which are a good indicator of buffalo. We deviated to the east to see if we could find some more buffalo. Creeping through the vegetation expecting something at every turn my senses were on overdrive, I could smell them but couldn’t find them.

After the excitement of the Buffalo the walk back to camp was demoralising. I found navigation in the mopane woodland difficult and matters were made worse by having no sun ti use. Picking the correct path was a real challenge, there was little ground cover, just bare soil and the bushes and trees had no thorns. This meant there were multiple game trails, many of which simply petered out. Navigating elsewhere has been so much easier by using the well worn trails.

We covered 8.5 km in four hours and I was so relieved to get back to camp, luckily I heard the generator or I could have easily walked straight past it. I got a real buzz from being up front, you see so much game and also how it reacts to you, the wind plays such a critical role and you start to discover the different comfort, alert and flight zones for the various animals.

Once back to camp before I could do anything I had to clean my rifle. Then I had the chance to momentarily collapse on my bed with a cuppa before breakfast. Ben arrived back from the walk that he was leading, they’d had a good buffalo encounter as well but their excitement was Ben all but standing on a puff adder which reared up at him.

I’m starting the feel all the walking and fitness now, so far we’ve clocked up 37.5 hours in six days. Cross fit today was a real struggle too but my fitness is starting to improve.

No encounters on the afternoon walk but we did have quite a magical moment walking through an aggregation of zebra, kudu and impala, there must have been at least 50 zebra. The drive back home wasn’t bad either as we saw a leopard although the viewing wasn’t great.

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