As Good As It Gets In Africa Each year we have been privileged to go back to Africa, which is 16 out of the past 19 years, anyway. Each time is almost like the “first” time, as there is always something new to see and do, and 2004 was no exception. Friday April 16: While checking in at Delta for a flight to Atlanta, there were no hassles, and TSA was very kind also. They looked at EVERYTHING, then allowed us to lock our guns back up, and sent them on their way. The arrival in Atlanta was no hassle, guns waiting separately and then off to the Sleep Inn Hotel. We go into Atlanta the day before our flight to RSA, just to be sure the guns and luggage really do get checked in at SAA, and not left on a transfer cart somewhere. We also have friends in Atlanta that a come over that evening for dinner, so it is really a fun time. Saturday April 17: Up early, as we want to be at the SAA counter by 7 am when they open. We were 3rd or 4th in line, so it went well, but by the time we were finished at TSA, they 30 deep at the SAA counter. TSA again looked at everything, but were kind, locked up the guns and took them to special handling to be sure they get on the right plane. SAA has a new Airbus 340-600 now instead of the old Boeing 747’s. This is quite a plane, and it seemed quieter and had an inch or so more room, and lord knows we sure needed that. Sunday April 18: Ah…………. Sunrise coming over Table Mountain on approach to Cape Town. We were to land to the west, so we circled Cape Town and got a really nice view. Weather is cool, 45 deg, and clear. Low and behold, the luggage was really there, and the guns soon followed. Now comes the waiting game, as one must get RSA gun permits right there. An hour and a half later, the one lone agent had us thru and there were still 5 more people behind us in line. They get it done, but it is SLOW. Next time I’ll use the service of Air2000, a meet and greet company specializing in getting your gun permits ahead of time. See www.hunterssupport.com for details. We are going to stay on the beach at Cape Town suburb of Camps Bay. The place we are going to is Bali Bay apartments. See www.balibay.com their web site shows a great place, but there is no putting the sound of the ocean on there. It was wonderful just sitting with our feet up, being lulled to sleep by the ocean. From there we could walk down the block to a group of restaurants that really did delight our fancy. Monday April 19: A day that shall forever in infamy, as FDR would say, and it will really live in my mind forever. It seems we had just finished breakfast, and were walking back to the apartment to pack up and go to the airport for our flight to Port Elizabeth. We came to a cross street, with a “Wait” (don’t walk) sign. I pushed the button on the sign, and in a minute or so it turned to WALK. As I said to Jo Ann, “ok, let’s go”, and I stepped into the street. At that instant a car ran the red light, and by the grace of God, missed me. There was an imperceptible measurement between the car, and me but she missed me. “She”, was a little girl on a cell phone in too big a hurry, who really doesn’t even know what happened, but it happened so quickly, that my heart beat did not even go up, it was over too quickly to even get adrenaline into my system and react. It certainly reminded me just how frail and fallible our life is, and how quickly it can be altered, either seriously or permanently. I’m afraid as fast as she was going, it would be quite permanent. As it could have turned out, they almost got to spread my ashes over the Wildebeest in Africa a bit sooner than expected, or at best, got a ride home on the Med Jet airplane. Our shuttle was on time, and at the airport we had no problems checking in with the guns for our flight to PLZ. SAA was actually early departing CPT, and arrived in PLZ a few minutes early too. One nice thing about African airports, if everybody is one the plane and ready, they don’t wait, they go. In PLZ while we were waiting for our luggage, and a nice fellow came walking over to me. “Mr. Blauwkamp”? “I have your guns for you over here.” Seems the firearm’s agent there had remembered us from years past, and came right out to bring them rather than me having to find him. Just as we are all ready to go, Andries and Marius from African Bushveld walked up and we are now ready to drive to the first ranch. See www.atkinsonhunting.com for details. We are headed for a ranch about 2 hours from the airport. We arrived there with just enough daylight left to check the zero of our rifles. The accommodations were wonderful, in an original ranch house, perfectly clean and bright. Tuesday April 20: Of all things, it is raining this morning. Not hard, but just enough to get everything wet. We drove out a bit later than normal as the rain let up to find some Wildebeest and Blesbok etc. I shot a Blue Wildebeest and Blesbok, and Jo Ann shot a Black Wildebeest for a really good start for the first day. From Wedsday thru Saturday we continued to hunt everyday. We finished up with 2 Impala, 3 Blesbok, 2 Blue Wildebeest, 2 Kudu, and 1 Black Wildebeest. Sunday April 25: No big hurry today, as we are going to have to leave these fine gentlemen, and move on to the next camp. Marius & his wife Rita are going to bring us to Cradock, about a 2 hour drive to Roy & Jenny Wormald’s ranch in Cradock. Look up www.wormaldhunting.com for details. We arrived in there about 2 PM. Marius & Rita stayed for coffee and then headed off so that they could be home by dark. We have been to Roy & Jenny’s many times, and have really come to love them. We even have become old friends with their little Jack Russell dogs. Milo is the oldest, and Tessa is his “wife” of several years too. The latest addition is Turbo, and it is the right name for him. He is on jet fuel all the time. We sat around for a long time that night, just catching up on the latest news of their world and ours. Monday April 26: No big hurry again, left the house at 8 AM. There was a particular Black Wildebeest Roy wanted me to try and get a shot at, as he had something wrong with his horns. Later that day, he did indeed make a mistake, and stood for a perfect shot with my 270 Winchester. I had been using the 270 Win with the new 140 gr Barnes TSX bullets so far and I’m really impressed with their performance. Tuesday: Perfect weather and we hunted all day and did not fire a shot. Just one of those days when every time we had an animal stalked up on, some other animal would spook, and run everything off. The evening was very dark, and it was a perfect sky to look up at all the stars. Wednesday: The Girls, Jo Ann & Jenny, went to Cradock as it was payday and some of the hired help wanted to go get groceries. I did shoot a Blesbok that morning, and hunted Fallow Deer too, but no luck. Thursday: Springbok day……….. Jo Ann shot one, and I shot two. A herd came along and I dropped the first one, then a bigger one walked over to his buddy and could not figure why he was lying there. So Roy said to shoot him too. Plop. Two of them fell 6 feet apart. It was quite warm today and perfectly clear all day. In fact, as we were waiting for the Springbok, we were under a tree in the shade to keep cool. Friday: We were to go after Fallow Deer today, one of my favorite hunts. Fallow Deer are impressive, and they remind me of a Caribou. They have much bigger antlers then you would think their body should carry sort of out of proportion. We again had a tough day; I missed a 120-yard “gimme” shot, but finally at dark, made a nice neck shot on a buck. Saturday: It’s May 1st already. How time flies. Roy’s neighbor had been over, and asked if I wanted to shoot a Blesbok for him? Now that is one thing I never pass up. Seems the neighbor had a herd of White Blesbok, and somehow a common one had infiltrated it. This, of course, is not acceptable, as soon they will breed and dilute the genes. So he wanted him out of there ASAP. This turned out to be no easy hunt. We were clear up in Vaal Reebok country above 7,000 ft elevation when we found them. We made a long stalk, and ended up 75 yards away for a “gimme”shot. This time, things worked out a lot better, and we got our Blesbok out of there cleanly. We got back to the house about 3 pm, and none too soon, as a weather front was moving in, and of all things we had rain, thunder & lightning. By sunset it had cleared up, and was beautiful cool evening. Sunday: We slept in as there is no big hurry today and we needed a day off anyway. We did go out later, and I shot a nice Mountain Reebok, and a couple Springbok. On the way back in, we found the Rhino that is on the ranch too. Then out right at dark, I “missed” a Kudu, but I think the bullet was deflected, as really it was a gimme shot. (PS they did find that Kudu a week later, quite dead with a bullet right thru the heart. He just ran a lot further than anyone thought, and being it was so close to dark, no blood trial could be found) Monday: Time is running out on this hunt, as we only have a couple more days. Time sure flies when one is having fun, and we always have fun a Roy & Jenny’s. Guess what, I came down sick with Tick Bite Fever. Seems a tick must have gotten me 14 to 16 days ago, and all of a sudden I have the chills and feel weak and lousy. I quickly got on the Doxicycline, and tried to sleep it off. Jo Ann went out hunting with Roy though for a Kudu Bull he knew was hanging around a certain brush choked ravine. I went out at 4 pm for a while with Jo Ann and Roy, but should have stayed in. I thought my insides were going to fall apart. They were just too sore for all the pounding on the rough roads. I skipped supper and just went to bed. Tuesday: Feeling pretty good but stayed in. Jo Ann went out, still trying to find that Kudu Bull, but I just was not going to get beat up again like last night. Roy & Jo Ann had no luck, but the weather was perfect, and they had a nice morning. At 3:40 PM, Roy said, “Let’s go, you can do it one more time”. This was our last night at Roy’s, so he and I went out, and Jo Ann stayed in to pack up as we leave in the morning. Sure enough, at 5:35 pm we got that Kudu bull to show himself at 220 yards. I had switched to the 338 Win Magnum tonight, as I wanted enough gun for a long shot at dark. I sent a 225-gr Barnes Triple Shock on its way and right into the lungs of the Kudu. He went 6 feet up into the air, ran like a racehorse for 100+ yards, and then tumbled over dead. We could not have been more delighted. A great Bull on the last night at last light. We ended up shooting 1 Black Wildebeest, 2 Kudu, 2 Blesbok, and 5 Springbok, 1 Mountain Reebok, and 1 Fallow Deer. Wedsday May 5: We were up early at 5 AM, as we wanted to get on the road early for our 11 AM fight from PLZ to Johannesburg (JNB). We arrived nicely on time, and again had no hassles with ammo or luggage. In Port Elizabeth upon checking in, this was the first time we ever had them ask to weigh our ammo just to be sure we did not have more that the allowable 5 Kg. At the gun counter, the same old friend was working there, and we zipped thru there like a shot. We were assigned row 11, seats A & C on the flight from PLZ to JNB. I didn’t think too much about it, except the check in girl said they were bulkhead seats with legroom. Great idea, except we found out that these two seats were Business Class seats in the coach section. Two lonely seats bigger than normal, but in coach, such a deal. This is on the Boeing 737-800 so next time will ask for them right away. It is always difficult to leave such dear friends as Roy & Jenny, but our dates are on next years calendar, and that helps us cope with PSD, or Post Safari Depression, as it is known. There is no cure, and the only remedy is booking a quick return trip. Our arrival in JNB was right on time, and our host for the next 10 days, Marius Kruger from African Dawn was waiting for us. Look up www.african-dawn.co.za for details. Anne Burrill from Air-2000 was waiting for us at the luggage counter, and soon our guns arrived and we were whisked away to Marius’ SUV and got all loaded up. It is but a 20 ride to Marius’ house, and his wife Lana was waiting for us with a fine lunch. After lunch and hugs all around, we were off with Marius to the ranch in Vaalwater, about a 3-hour drive from Jo Burg. We arrived there right at 5:45 pm, just in time to see a lot of game at last light giving us another happy return to a fine place. We have been there many times before too, and just love it. Our PH, and old friend Piet Fourie, was waiting for us at the campfire, just beckoning us to enjoy the evening. It was a full moon tonight, so what a way to start the trip. Thursday: We had coffee and rolls at 7 am, and then out to look around. A Jackal made the mistake of stopping and looking back, so he became the first trophy. At 11:30 am, an Eland made the same mistake, and hesitated at the wrong time, and found out what a 338 Mag with a 225 gr Barnes TSX will do. After a short run, the Eland piled up dead, and of all things, in an open area where they can get the recovery vehicle into. A guy gets “extra points” for dropping them in an accessible place road instead of in the middle of nowhere. Marius has a big John Deere tractor with a platform that can come right to the game. It is rolled on the platform, lifted up and taken home. That sure beats trying to load a 1,000 plus pound animal on a truck by hand. We took a break on this hunt. One Sunday we went to a Rhino Museum and looked at Rhino horns and a lot of old wagons and artifacts that the pioneers of Africa brought up with them. How these folks ever survived is just like asking how the pioneers in the old west survived here. Over the next few days at African Dawn, we continued to shoot various Impala, Warthogs and Wildebeest. To list each animal each day, just takes up too much time and space. We just had our normal wonderful time at there and ended up shooting 1 Eland, 2 Impala, 3 Bleu Wildebeest, 3 Wart Hogs, 1 Blesbok, and 3 Jackals. Our next stop was Lyon Safaris in Thabazimbi. Again, we have been here many times before. Look up their new web site at www.Lyonsafaris.com for details. The weather remained perfect. Here in Michigan, we suffer from “Sun Deprivation”, and in Vaalwater and Thabazimbi, we suffered for Sun Overload, with 101% pure sunshine everyday. It was cool in the mornings, and quite warm by 11 am, and then cooling off after 4 pm again going into evening. We hunted on several different ranches and areas. Some ranches ranged from quite thick, to others that had some more open country. As one heads up north and west of Thabazimbi, there really are not many people, just a lot of land, with lots of game on it. Two of the very best walk and stalk hunts we had, were for Gemsbok. One on the first day, and one the last day right at dark. I was still using my 338 Win Mag with 225 gr Barnes Triple Shoks, (TSX). They were the bullets of choice the 2 weeks before, and at the shorter ranges of the Transvaal, I wanted pure punch and penetration. On both Gemsbok stalks, we crawled up to within 75 yards, and just could not get the “perfect” shot. The first one was quartering away, and I had to slip the bullet behind the last rib, and drive it forward to the off shoulder. He went down at the shot. On the second stalk, the Gemsbok was looking right at us, and I got him low, right in the shoulder. He wheeled at the shot and took off. A few minutes later we had the dogs on the trial, and they did not go but 100 yards, and had him spotted. A final finishing shot, and our hunt for the year was over. They grow some really nice Impala in that part of the country, and we took several. It is hard to imagine, but another 6 weeks has slipped away from us. We ended up at Lyon Safaris with 5 Impala, 2 Gemsbok, 2 Bleu Wildebeest, 1 Wart Hog, 1 Red Hartebeest, and 1 Baboon. Finally on May 26th, Hennie took us back to Marius and Lana Kruger’s house in Jo-burg, and we stayed the night with them. May 27th, we did some last minute shopping, got cleaned up and were at the airport at 4:15 pm to check in for our flight back to Atlanta. The plane was full, but the service was quite good, and we did survive the 17 hours. May 28th: Whoa, landing in Atlanta at 75 deg and 90% humidity is quite a shock after leaving Africa at 75 deg and 10% humidity. There were a lot of hunters on our flight, and when the guns came out to be unloaded, the ground crew was quite careful, and did a good job. US Customs were quite efficient, and we had no hassles at all. They did want to check the serial numbers on the guns, and see our Form 4457, but no problems at all. Then onto our last flight to Grand Rapids, for there is no place like home. The next day it was time to sort out the clothes, check everything, and get ready for next year. We stay prepared, so that if at anytime, a golden opportunity should arise, we can leave the next day if need be.