Fun with your clothes on

25th June 2014

Lion track in the sand

Thursday 19th June 2014

I woke up to a feeling of jealousy. On the way back from The Outpost last night Max and Jomi saw a lioness on middle road at the junction of Sand Pad. That morning one group headed out with Alan to track the lions, turns out there were four of them. Despite being hot on their paw prints for three hours they had no luck.

Henry and I took out the other group to walk the flood plain. From an encounter point of view it was very productive, one elephant bull, a small buffalo herd as well as a kin group of elephants.

Once back at camp we had a bit of vehicle shuffling to do as Jomi had left the “Beige” up at the gate when he left for Home Affairs. Max and I picked this up using “Tambokie” but it was a long and arduous journey as she was playing up, she just kept on losing power. If I hadn’t felt jealous enough when I woke up now I really did. I bumped into Steve from the trails camp. It was his day off so he was getting phone signal at the Outpost turn off on Pafuri Main, he’d had an encounter a couple of days previously with three big five at once.

Once back at camp it was rifle drills for the ARH students. I still find it quite weird when I think about myself teaching somebody how to use a fire arm. Lots of the “Back-ups” like doing the drills and going to the range so I’m very happy when they put their hand up for that, this leaves me to go walking.

This afternoon Alan was keen to continue the lion tracking so we picked up where the guys left off in the morning. I’m pretty sure this was the most fun you could have with your clothes on. If we had found the lions I would very probably have dispensed with my clothes and done a celebratory streak.

Fortunately for the rest of the group we had no luck so I kept my shorts on. We were following spoor of four lions, one lioness and three cubs through thick bush made up of scrubby lala palms, sandpaper raisin and elephants ear. This was big five territory with lots of tracks and signs of buffalo, lion and elephant. Leopard tracks were conspicuous by their absence, perhaps the area was too intimidating even for them.

I learnt so much from watching Alan at work. The bush was thick, lots of times Alan would whisper that he wasn’t going to follow the spoor through a particular area as it was just too thick, he’d then gesture with his wand (tracking stick) that we were going round. After we circumnavigated that thicket he’d be hot on the spoor again, I knew this because he’d flick his stick in the sand underlining a track.

It soon became clear that we weren’t the only ones tracking this pride of four, there was spoor of a male lion who I imagine had sex and murder in mind. Whether there would be murder I’m not sure, the three cubs, judging by the spoor, where over a year old so rather than infanticide he may have been content with just driving them out of the area.

After an hour or so we lost the tracks, Alan thought we could have found them again if we swept the area but time was not on our side. Instead we cut our losses and headed back to the vehicle via Maqwadzi Spring.

Now that the bush had opened up it was a more pleasant experience with some stunning tree specimens on show, particularly apple leaf and knob thorn. The spring was a little disappointing as it wasn’t exactly an oasis, However it did serve its purpose as a water hole. I guess that’s why the area had been trashed by so much animal traffic.

Man had also had his influence on the area, as we were leaving along a game trail we found a snare targeting kudu. We disabled it, took the coordinates and then we wrote a message in the sand to the poachers, the language we used was universal.