ZIMBABWE: Hunting Elephant Near Hwange With Mbalabala Safaris

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I prize heavy horns / antlers / tusks etc. as much as anyone else. But to catch an animal that is on the thin slice of the bell curve? Something with the unique combination of the guts, smarts, luck et al to live that long is special. I value age above any other measurement.

Congratulations on a superb bull. Not a bad shot either.
 

Medicine

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I hope this was just a great preface to a really thick novel cuz I’m hooked. Let’s have it.

Well done and congratulations on that old bull!
Thank you. Safari Press requires at least 60,000-75,000 words and no profanity. There'll either have to be a new publisher or no more writing at night.
 

Medicine

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Ishmael carries the bag and his cup to a camping chair overlooking a dry riverbed with a pool of water barely hanging on in the bend. He sits down and sips the coffee until he empties the cup and opens the bag he smuggled from home. The jerky is tender, smoky, good - the first food he can remember in several days. Baboons are playing in the riverbed below. Guineas appear and francolin are calling.

“This is pretty damn incredible,” Ishmael thinks. And then. Something in the bush. A bushbuck. It’s a ram and he’s big and old and fairly skittish. He drinks from the pool and then instantaneously he’s back in the bush. “Unbelievable” Ishmael mouths and then two more bushbuck spill out from across the river – a ram and a ewe – he’s younger but his horns aren’t bad and like Methuselah, they drink among the baboons from the pool.

When they’ve gotten their taste, Ishmael goes back to the coffee station for one more Bailey’s and then switches to water. “My mama didn’t raise but one fool and that was my sister” he thinks and something about a dog going back to his vomit but, my apologies, I’m not as informed of the Proverbs as he.

Lin shows up in time for dinner. There is also a visiting PH and his client who have come to hunt tomorrow morning’s hyena over what is left of the elephant carcass. We all eat together. Eland steak, kudu sausage, chips and red wine. It is scrumptious – much welcomed nourishment. The visiting PH, feeling his oats, starts bitching that his room has no door and he’s seen lion tracks in camp. Lin leaves to call the lions to the bait and away from camp and the PH, client and Ishmael head to the firepit. Idle conversation - Ishmael and the client attempting to play the name game but no solid connection found except intelligence and personality. And as the sound of elephants bulldozing trees echoes across the river bottom, Ishmael goes to bed for the third time that day; however, before, he pushes all the furniture of his room in front of the plywood door to keep the lions from chomping his skull. I suppose he’s read too much Capstick and although he always thought he killed more with his typewriter than his gun, he takes no chances tonight.
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Nyati

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Eland steak :E Drooling:
 

Medicine

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Ishmael wakes. The lions have not come in the night. He heads to the shower but there is no water when he turns the handles so he dresses into his hunting clothes and proceeds to the dining hall. There is hot water awaiting which he pours from a thermos into a cup, stirs in the coffee granules and tops it off with a shot or three of Bailey’s and then stirs again.

“Damn, that’s good” he thinks, “I wonder what the po’ folks are doing right now?”

Lin appears and they head to the lone cruiser. Mr. Steal your Girl and the client have left during the night for hyena. If I may go all James Joyce on you for a minute - never bring your wife or girlfriend on safari for she will see how competent your PH is in the bush and how incompetent you are and she will fall. Please don’t take offense but this is Africa and you could do his job no more than he could do yours in America by running your business or drilling screws into an elderly ossifying spine or proving a capital murder case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Or having to preside over one, making damn certain no errors are committed by uttering one of only two words and, then knowing which mitigating factors must be met before a Defendant’s death can be ordered by simply hitting the print button on your government-issued laptop computer.

We head to the place where the buffalo tracks have been so plentiful; however, there are no tracks today. Entering the bush in an attempt to cut one also proves fruitless and we end the half day with Lin taking the cruiser down narrow trails frantically searching for and trying to produce a buffalo that doesn’t exist. We see other animals though in this non-plains game area - animals like klipspringer, steenbok, warthog, jackal, kudu, impala, and bushbuck; however, when Lin asks Ishmael does he want to shoot any of them his answer is always the same.

“They’re just not here today. It’s hit or miss,” Lin says.

“I thought you said this wasn’t a plains game area”

“We’ve gotten very lucky,” Lin says and Ishmael agrees.

“Lin”

“Yeah”

“I think I want to go see the falls tomorrow. Let this place rest. Maybe they’ll move back in in a day or two”

“OK but there’s buffalo at the Zambezi camp. They’re wild - I’m telling you. Nothing is guaranteed”

“But I like this place,” Ishmael tells him, “we’ll see the falls tomorrow and then I’d like to come back here if OK.”

“Yes, of course”

After a quick trip back to the photo camp for their things, they begin the three hour trip back to the Zambezi with Ishmael drinking water and Lin wondering why his passenger was being so stingy with the bear claws. The lead ones. And for once, I am gratified to report, this was not an economical decision.
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ActionBob

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Great report so far Medicine ! Can't wait for the rest. Nice to get a rifles perspective on things ;)
 

Medicine

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They drive to the falls the next morning. I can tell it’s by far the most beautiful thing Ishmael has ever seen. I will not attempt to describe what countless others have done with eloquence. I will only tell you that they’ve failed – all of them. Miserably failed because there are no words. It is as though you are looking at God’s own face. Ishmael stands among the sunbeams, in the light, on the winding path along the gorge, wind blowing and the spray devouring him, arms extended, being baptized by the mist of the Zambezi, soaking wet, dripping and inhaling the cool vapor of the river into his lungs. And he is changed - transformed and he cannot get enough. Two or three times he goes back and when he finally breaks himself free, others have started emulating him for their turn to be washed in the spray of the Zambezi.

They walk across the street to the open-air markets for curios for the lady and the kids but his mind his blown. 100%. Lin leads him like a puppy to the Victoria Falls Hotel where they have lunch on the veranda and he cannot stop staring at or thinking of the spray.

Later that night, back at the camp along the Zambezi, Lin tells him to pack again for state land and he retires early and in the morning, after the three hour trip, a lap around the boundary proves the buffalo haven’t yet made their way back; however, Lin has a trick up his sleeve and parks the cruiser.

“Follow me. 10 o’clock in Africa is a good time for animals to water”

We drop down into a bottom and proceed to the water and, sure enough, an animal is drinking – a bushbuck, male, and he is humongous – 16 ½ if he’s an inch. He’s 190 yards away and has no clue we’re there. Lin is excited and attempts to explain what a monster he is. “He’s beautiful,” Ishmael exclaims and they watch as he finishes drinking and heads for the bush.

A quick survey of the mud along the dam proves the animals are here – lots of them. We see tracks of kudu, bushbuck, warthog, klipspringer and buffalo – TATONKA! – and although the tracks are fresh, they are coming from and returning to the safety of the park and can, therefore, not be followed. Lin hangs a camera and instructs the trackers and driver to construct a blind and in exactly one hour we are sitting in the finest blind in Zimbabwe. In the camping chair, reclined, Ishmael starts to doze and thinks, “this is great. I’ve got Lin to watch for me” and then he hears Lin cranking his Poulan and decides, “fuck it, I’ll get up”.

Ishmael puts in his earphones, plays “The Wanderings of an Elephant Hunter” and struggles to stay awake. Egyptian geese splash in the water and a monitor lizard swims to an island along the side. And the animals water – lots of them. There are thirsty warthogs, bushbuck, klipspringer and kudu but fortunately for Lin’s ears there are no thirsty buffalo or sable. Ishmael scans like hell searching intently for either of the latter so he can turn me into an alarm clock and wake Lin much more for the fun of it than the trophy at the end. “That’s the most expensive sleep I’ve ever paid for,” he thinks, but he is not mad as the blind reminds him of his youth and that is priceless.

At dark, after seven hours, they slip out and back to the photo camp for dinner, wine, and the sound of elephant breaking branches across the river. On the way, two bull elephant charge from the bush and cross the road in front of the cruiser. Ishmael can’t help but notice their tusks are big, long, beautiful, smooth, symmetrical – everything his isn’t. Jealousy starts creeping in and then he thinks back on the day in toto and realizes he has found something much more valuable and rarer than ivory – fun. Legal fun too. Like playing in the sandbox when your mama and daddy are still together fun. Jumping on the trampoline after your sister sprays it with the water hose fun. Riding down the river, driving with your feet, listening to the radio and knocking rats off the gunwales with a beaver stick fun. Watching Nathan C. shoot his parents on a Saturday morning before planting foodplots fun.

Tomorrow’s plan is, again, riding the boundary checking for buffalo tracks and climbing in the blind before ten if there are none. And Ishmael hopes that there are none. And I am starting to believe that he is. Crazy. Unless, perhaps, there was truly more power in the water than the blood.
 
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Medicine

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Thank you everyone for the nearly 300 likes. I'd like your thoughts. What do you think is Ishmael's occupation?
A) Law Enforcement and/or Military Sniper
B) Felony Judge or Prosecuting Attorney
C) Present or Former White Collar Criminal and/or Mafia Hitman
D) Assisted Suicide Physician or Death Penalty Executioner
E) Professional Hunter and/or Guide
F) Government or Private Wildlife Culling Officer/Feral Hog Eradicator
G) Syndicated Fish and Wildlife Poacher/Smuggler
H) Veterinarian
I) Writer
J) Whaler or Deckhand
K) None of the above
First member to PM the correct answer gets a prize. I will announce when contest has been won. I can also tell you are a bloodthirsty bunch as the traffic has waned since the killing has stopped. Don't forget there are still two more hunting days left. Good luck.
 
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Mauser78

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B) and I really hope you got some range time in Africa, coming all this way for one shot, almost sounds like you are still a safe Queen on a different continent. I think you must come stay with me, I have you little Portugese cousin in 375H&H to keep you compony, cant promise you any big 5, but you will see some Kudu, Gemsbuck ext at least.
 

Randy F

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I’m going with A)

Love the writing, intriguing style.
 

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