South African Adventure May 11 – 30, 2014 On the afternoon of May 11, my wife and I left Calgary, flying with KLM through Amsterdam to Johannesburg. We arrived in Johannesburg late in the evening of May 12, too late to fly on to East London. The Air 2000/Hunter Support personnel are worth their fee. Nothing like being met at the gate, expedited through the immigration booth and on to the SAPS office where the pre-approved rifle permit made for a speedy exit with no headaches. We were then escorted to the City Lodge, which is a short walk from the airport through a walkway. The City Lodge is very nice and certainly convenient, especially as we had an early flight the next morning. Who knew that South Africa was so rugged? Our Outfitter and PH Patrick Fletcher of Hotfire Hunting and Fishing Safaris met us in East London. Our rental car was quickly obtained and then it was off to a light lunch at Mugg and Bean where we became hooked on lime milkshakes. A few groceries from the Pick and Pay and a quick tour of the local gun shop, and we were sent off to Morgan Bay for a few days of much needed R&R. The views of Morgan Bay from the deck of our room at the Morgan Bay Hotel. Moon over Morgan Bay, May 13th. The dining room and sitting room of the Morgan Bay Hotel where we were served scrumptious 5 course suppers and breakfast buffets everyday. Morgan Bay Hotel from the beach. We went on some hikes. This is some remains of a water intake for a defunct titanium mine. We finally reached the lighthouse visible from the hotel after traipsing through some thick forest. The most notable wildlife we saw at Morgan Bay was the dassie at the top of the cliffs south of Morgan Bay. On May 16th Patrick came over to Morgan Bay and took us into the Trans Kei. Our ferry. A Kraal. Seaside cattle. Lunch by a shipwreck. The Jacaranda lost propulsion and drifted ashore on September 18, 1971. Not much is left. The best example of nguni cattle I could find on the Trans Kei. Perhaps the tribe doesn’t care about their cattle as much as Wilbur Smith wrote in his novels like “ Blue Horizon “? I figure we found the anchor from the Jacaranda at the resort called Trennary’s in the Trans Kei. On May 17, we said goodbye to Morgan Bay. We dropped off the rental car at the East London Airport and Off we went to Addo Elephant National Park with Patrick as our guide. Here are some of my better shots : On May 19 we finally arrived at Hotfire. It was everything that was advertised. We quickly went off to the range to check zero before sunset. Check out a episode of the African BBQ Hunter TV Show. On May 20, about 15 minutes into the hunt, I was able to harvest this great East Cape kudu. What an old warrior! Even though he was injured in the hind end, blind in the left eye and with a split right ear, the crevices in his horns were filled with bark from his rubbing. After photos, while stalking zebra, we located a humongous impala. After an exciting cat and mouse stalk through the bush, I rushed my shot trying to beat the impala as it bolted once again. Everyone was confident that it was well hit, if a little back, but we lost the track/blood and even with the help of a dog, we were unable to locate it, although we searched until dark. Lesson to be learned is to never be so arrogant that your reflexes can beat a wild animal. May 21 yielded no animals, although there were opportunities. I missed a really nice impala on a steeply uphill shot with the setting sun in my eyes. I’m beginning to think that impala are my nemesis! May 22 We hunted hard all day. Towards sunset, we were looking at a solitary blue wildebeest bull. I could tell that Patrick was getting frustrated when he said it was up to me if I wanted to shoot it. My opinion was if he was hesitant, it was too small and not to his standards. Patrick asked the trackers opinions. Waca, the second tracker/skinner spoke up form the rear in his deep voice “skull mount and back skin”. I took that to mean that it was too small for a shoulder mount, but good enough for a skull mount and back skin, in other words, too small. We turned around and spotted a nice impala ram with some ewes. I was finally able to make my impala jinx go away. May 23 The early morning hunt yielded a blue wildebeest. Late in the afternoon, I was able to harvest a nice zebra stallion. May 24 We hunted another property called Imvani near Queenstown. I was only able to cull this red hartebeest, although I somehow missed a black hartebeest. May 25 We’re back at Imvani, looking primarily for a fallow deer. Another belly crawl resulted in this nice black wildebeest. We spotted some springbok, but did not hold much hope we could get one. So while scouting for the elusive fallow deer, we quickly positioned ourselves to take advantage of any mistakes the springbok might make. We were rewarded with this nice ram. After the photos, we tried until dark, but still no fallow deer bucks. May 26 We’re back at Imvani for one final crack at fallow deer. No joy, so we are off to Lalapa to try for fallow deer there. It is also a great mountain reedbok area. It is another very windy day. We spooked some fallow deer does right off the bat, but have no luck seeing a buck. Our efforts seemed futile until this guy popped up. I wasn’t intending to shoot a warthog, but when you’re frustrated and one like this pops up, who can resist? We quickly showed the landowner the pig and left it and the skinner at the skinning shed and headed out for a final few minutes to look for a fallow deer or a mountain reedbuck. With just minutes of daylight left, critters were popping up all over; eland, waterbuck, fallow deer does, impala, and mountain reedbuck. Finally this guy showed up. When I first saw him, he looked so big in the fading light, I had to ask if it wasn’t a common reedbok. It was a sight I will not soon forget. May 27 We set off up the mountain at Hotfire to harvest a blesbok. After photos, Allman the tracker, gutted the blesbuck and without any assistance, packed it off the mountain. He almost beat me, but them I am so crippled up, I not very fast. None the less, IMO, it is an impressive feat. Allman can’t be much more than 130lbs. By 1130 we had packed up and were off to Fort Drummond Safaris to search for gemsbok. We were cursed by high winds and warmer than normal temperatures, but were finally able to harvest one the next morning on May 28th in gale force winds. We tried for a fallow deer, but were unable to locate a buck. Not surprising given the warm temperatures and high winds. If they are like most deer (and I don’t have a clue) they’d be hiding in the shade in a sheltered spot. On May 29th, we said our goodbyes to everyone at Hotfire and began our journey home. Patrick Fletcher, Waca, Allman, Speedy, Philemon and myself. Luisi, Jennifer Fletcher, my darling wife and Lucille Fletcher. Jennifer and Lucille entertained my wife by visiting with her around camp and taking her to various game drives and spas and just being good company, except for the gemsbok hunt, which is the first time she has ever come hunting with me. We had a lengthy layover in Johannesburg. Air 2000 arranged for a driver who showed us some of Johannesburg and took us to Cambanos and Sons, the African super souvenir store. Air 2000 staff assisted with getting us through SAPS and our bags checked in. We had a final lime milkshake at Mugg and Bean. KLM took good care of us. We arrived home on May 30th and were glad to see our girls. Sorry for being so long winded, but this may be the only time we do this. We hope not. It was the best vacation of our lives.