Hunt for the Last of the Spiral Horns (This report comes with the usual health warning, that reading it may cure insomnia. I tend to the long form hunt report, as many will know, so consider yourselves warned. I'm also posting more or less as I write, so I take no responsibility for long gaps, nor for this extra long introduction. If you really need to see a picture of a dead animal on the first post, please look at any South African hunt report!) By 2015, I had six of the nine spiral horned antelope of the world, and was actively thinking about how to get the last three. I booked a hunt to Ethiopia for what I hoped would be two of the last three, and a hunt to Cameroon for what I hoped at the time would be the last one. The hunt to Ethiopia came off as planned, and with more than my fair share of luck, I managed to bring home numbers seven and eight (Mountain Nyala and Lesser Kudu - that hunt report is also on AH). That left only Giant Eland. I was originally scheduled to hunt last year, but life has a way of messing up the best laid plans, so the hunt was postponed a year, to January of 2019. I had booked to go to Cameroon since the Giant Eland (also known as Lord Derby Eland) is really only huntable there and in the Central African Republic. But three years ago, CAR was effectively a war zone, and things don't appear to have changed for the better since then. So that left only Cameroon as a realistic option for Giant Eland. I booked my hunt with Mayo Oldiri Safais, the same company I used for my Bongo hunt in the Cameroon forest some five years ago. Mayo Oldiri is, I think, the largest safari operator in Cameroon, in terms of land, and employs Guav Johnson, the PH I used in my jungle hunt, who also happens to be a high school classmate of the fellow who books all of my African hunts, Dean Stobbs. Dean was coming along on this hunt both because he wanted to see a savannah hunt on his own, and because he was going to film the hunt for me. The opportunity to needle Guav at every turn likely factored only a little into the equation! In 2013 I had brought my own rifle to the forest, and I was hoping to do the same this year. The Cameroon Embassy in Canada though told me they would not issue firearms permits, and the Embassy in Washington would only deal with US citizens. I would have to send my passport and associated paperwork to the Embassy in Paris, and hope for the best. Once Guav told me that regardless of whether I had a permit, the authorities at the airport in Douala would make life miserable, I decided to take him up on his offer of renting a rifle ($150 for the duration). He assured me that they had a good .375 H&H in camp, and he was right. It was a very solid Winchester Model 70, with a Zeiss Duralyt 2-8x42 scope. The scope in particular really impressed me – my first experience with a Zeiss, and a good one. I had planned my packing for this hunt meticulously and, as usual for me, over a period of about a week. I brought lots of bug protection, both physical and chemical, a new pair of hunting boots I had well-broken in, and a reasonable assortment of hot weather gear. I was told that daily highs would be in the 35 degree C range (about 95 F), with night time lows in the mid to high 20’s. Cool first thing in the morning, but warming up quickly. I also had a small fan, powered from a rechargeable battery. While these temperatures won’t scare many of you, I tend to struggle in warmer temperatures, so I packed accordingly. As for flights, well, Douala is, shall we say, a bit off the beaten path. From Calgary, I had pretty much two options, both involving getting to Europe. From Brussels, Brussels Airlines flies there, as does Air France from Paris. Others fly there as well, but from less accessible places (Kenyan Airways from Nairobi, of Ethiopian from Addis Ababa for example). I booked Brussels Airlines because it had the best connections and was a member of the Star Alliance, as was Air Canada, which I would use to get to Belgium, via Montreal. This choice would shortly become important . . . About a week before departure, I double-checked the flights, and discovered that I had a 55-minute layover in Montreal between my Calgary flight and the Brussels flight. Normally, I wouldn’t stress about that, but this is winter in Canada, so I called the travel agent and asked if it would be possible to take an earlier flight to Montreal. The news was that it wasn’t, since the only earlier flight was booked, but that I shouldn’t worry. As departure day neared, I kept watch over the forecast, and things were not looking good in the east . . . I woke up on Wednesday, January 16, departure day, to a text from Air Canada telling me that the flight to Montreal, scheduled for 12.15 pm, would be delayed by 15 minutes. I have a fair bit of experience flying, and I knew a delay announced 6 hours before a flight was unlikely to be the last. And so it was . . . By the time I left for the airport, they were predicting a 45 minute delay. The check-in agent told me not to worry – the weather was bad in Montreal and likely the Brussels flight would be delayed as well! By the time I got to the airport in Calgary, the weather here was also beginning to turn bad, which meant de-icing . . . which meant more delay. We arrived in Montreal an hour late, just in time to see the Brussels flight leaving. Not good . . . I was met at the gate by an Air Canada representative though, who told me I was booked on a flight to Paris leaving in about an hour. From there I had been booked on Air France, scheduled to arrive in Douala within an hour of my earlier estimated arrival on Brussels Airlines. I asked about my bag, and I was told it would be checked on the same flight. No cause for concern. I arrived in Paris early on Thursday, January 17, had a hot shower in the lounge, killed a couple of hours and was soon on my afternoon flight to Douala. After a brief stopover in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, I arrived in the same hot, steamy Douala which I recalled from many years ago, not an hour later than I was originally scheduled to arrive. A quick check by the yellow fever people (DO NOT forget this yellow card evidencing the vaccine – they will turn you around or give you the vaccine on the spot – with re-usable needles!), and a perfunctory passport check, and I was in a newly (somewhat) air conditioned baggage claim area, where I was meet by Mayo Olidri’s meet and greet man in Douala, Amadou. And there we waited, and waited, and waited. Finally admitting defeat, Amadou took me to the lost baggage office, where we quickly filled out the forms and were on our way. A bit lighter than I expected. It was close to midnight when I arrived at the Star Land Hotel (very nice, by the way). Amadou said he would be back at 7 am to pick me up. I sent Dean a note to meet me downstairs at 6.30 for breakfast, had a shower, and went to bed. When I woke up – Friday, January 18 - I had an email from Air France saying they had found my bag and it would be on its way to me shortly. Good news to start the day. Another shower, down for breakfast, Amadou at 7, and the airport by 7.30 for our 10 am flight to Garoua, in Northern Cameroon. We met Guav at the airport, which surprised me, since he was supposed to have gone on ahead the day before (he had just arrived in Cameroon after the SCI Show). His flight to Garoua had been cancelled . . . and so, it seemed, was ours. Apparently, the government wanted the plane for some reason, so all flights were cancelled. This is what comes of having one jet in your fleet, I assume! The airline would try to re-schedule a flight at midnight, so we went back to the hotel, killed the day (not much going on in Douala), and were back at the airport by 10 pm. We were told there would be a flight, but no one had any idea when. So we checked in, and waited, and waited. Finally, at about 3 am, we were told they had found a plane, and we were on our way. After a stop in Yaounde, we landed in Garoua around 5 am. I still had no luggage, but was told it was at most a day behind me and would catch up. I wasn’t overly impatient – though it was now three days in the same clothes . . . The plane is an older 737, and is as dirty and rough inside as I’ve seen. The condition of the interior made me wonder a bit about mechanical maintenance, but best not to dwell on those things . . . We were picked up at the airport and driven a short way to the house which Mayo Oldiri keeps in Garoua. There we had a quick bite to eat, loaded up Guav’s hunting Land Cruiser, and another truck, and got ready to leave. We had a few passengers on the back of Guav’s truck – one was a tracker for another of the PH’s on an adjacent block, who was returning to camp on one leg . . . he’d just left hospital, where he’d been treated for a gunshot to his right leg, which, I was told, came from an inadvertent rendezvous with a group of poachers. I assumed this was a bit of drama for my benefit . . . By 7 am we were on the road, if you could call it that. It is a 245 km trip to camp (about 150 miles), and that journey takes 7 hours over both paved roads (potholed and dangerous) and dirt roads (only marginally less dangerous). Our average speed was a little over 20 miles an hour. In reality, of course, it’s sort of fast, and mostly slow, so you never actually get a rhythm. Until a few miles from camp, there were villages on both sides of the road, almost the entire way. There are a lot of people in Cameroon . . . or at least in this part. Finally, at 2 pm, we arrived in Camp, which was certainly rustic, but had everything we needed. This was my first camp powered entirely by solar power, which meant we had access to lights and charging 24/7. I had left Calgary mid-day on Wednesday, and arrived in Camp Saturday afternoon. In the same clothes. It takes a long time to get to the middle of nowhere. Apparently a journey too far for my luggage.