A Travellerspoint blog

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On the Ground and NOT Running.

(It is too cold to run!!!!!)

sunny 4 °C

The adventure has officially begun. As soon as they took the guns in Calgary and sent them off to where ever, it started. Sparky and I got out on time and made it onto the plane. My planning and prebooking of seats got us great legroom, but as it turns out my seat had a large remote control digging into my hip and there was going to be no way I could sit there. Luckily, Sparky has a scrawny butt and we just switched. Easy flight, they seemed to feed us everytime we opened our eyes, and the air was smooth.
One of our biggest fears was the permits in the Netherlands. As it was, when they lady in Calgary did her voodoo, it was done. We didn't even ask - nor were we asked about our guns - and we saw them loaded on the plane under our window. Nice. The flight was dreadful. We had expected 11 hours, ended up being 10 and 45 minutes. Awful. I would focus on the food, but it was nothing to get excited about. I have had worse, and I have had better. One neat thing is they do is allow passengers to help themselves to drinks and snacks in one of the galleys. We didn't, mostly because there was a lady in the aisle seat who was sick and slept the whole time. Eveyone claps when the plane lands, for whatever reason, and it really wasn't that big of deal.
We were met by two fellows who were looking for the guys with guns. They kept reminding us how good they were treating us, meaning they were expecting a tip. Customs was a breeze and we followed our new friends - with our guns - to the SAP office (South African Police) - and it was there that I had a slight heart attack. The paperwork I did was in order and they fellow took it and did his thing. At one point, his female coworker asked to see the gun and the serial number. She read the number off and the fellow was immediately concerned as it didn't match the one on my permit. As it would turn out, she read the number incorrectly. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH.
There was a driver from our guest house - bed and breakfast - waiting for us when we got into the open area of the airport. He loaded us into his Mercedes, but not without difficulty. Apparently, they don't move a lot of Canadians with guns. I ended up in the back seat with the two gun cases, combined weight of seventy pounds, and the luggage in the trunk. Sparky got the co-pilot spot and felt quite awkward to not have a steering wheel on that side of the car. The was no traffice and Tim, our driver, got us to the Sunflower guest house in short order.
The guest house is in a gated community with palm trees, razor wire and high walls. Our initial impression was that it was a pretty spiffy area. Pam is our hostess and she was frozen solid when we arrived. ( I need to point out that Sparky and I are having breakfast while I write this. A full English breakfast of game sausage (tastes like rank old deer sausage), bacon (like back bacon), grilled tomato, eggs, porridge, orange juice, fried eggs and instant coffee. SMASHING!!!!)
Our room was a detached building with two beds and if I didn't know any different, I would have thought we were in England. Pam's accent, the furniture, the bathroom, everything seemed English. When Pam let us into our room last night, she informed us that she had put hot water bottles in our beds to warm them up. That was much appreciated as Sparky and I got a couple of drinks and sat out in the chilly South African night.
IMPRESSION: The South African sunset is said to be the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sunset in the world. The colors of the sky are ripe with reds and oranges, and from 33000 feet, we got a taste of what to expect. The people are kind and gregarious, but there is an underlying attitude towards some people by other people. Regardless, I can't help but feel comfortable and safe in this new part of the world. From the sound of the unseen birds chirping in the courtyard to the wonderful English breakfast, I am happy. I can't wait to see my first African sunset from the safari camp this evening.
PERSONAL NOTE: We are fine. We are safe. I have yet to hit the wall of homesickness that I usually hit around day three, but hey, it is only day one.

Posted by morganhart 22:42 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari johannesburg Comments (3)

What a Start!!!

I didn't think the first day would go quite like this....

So, the day started off innocently enough. I believe I mentioned the English breakfast thing in my last post. It was shortly before 10 when the real adventure began.
We were picked up by Willem? and Ouist (Jouist?) in a Land Rover and we entered South Africa in daylight. It was quite an eye opener. We saw lots of industry and country side. We passed the slums of Soweto, known for the riots and political strife of days gone by. We saw poverty, excess, and life from the wrong side of the highway.
Not only did we see lots, we learned a great deal about how the outfitter works. We booked through Steyn Safaris, and ended up hunting with Losberg Lodge about an hour out of Johannesburg.
It seems that not everything is available at the lodge we have been looking forward to attending. We are, instead, in this camp which has access to the big selection of plains game. We were to hunt high-fence farms for zebra, springbok, and gemsbok, and to have a good look at a red hartebeest, which the landowner was keen for us to harvest - for a significant fee of course. The first place we had to go before the hunting started was the lodge.
Losberg Lodge is a gorgeous place which can host weddings, conferences and meetings and sleep up to 63 people. Another group o 3 hunters from Texas are also here, and they turned out to be excellent creatures. We got here in time to get settled and get settled before lunch. Lunch was a South African version of lasagna, using lots of cheese, beef and veggies. Outstanding. My ideas of losing weight are rapidly fading.
After lunch we headed out. We were to warm up the guns, check their zeros, and get to it. Now, to get into the lodge, we had to drive through the lodge owner's farm which is home to critters of all descriptions. Wildebeest, blesbok, impala, springbok - the whole deal. Unfortunately, he only lets bow hunters harvest a specific few heads. Otherwise, we would be likely done without even getting out of the truck. However, it isn't done that way.
We headed off to this ranch, knowing that we would be shooting out of a truck, which caused me concern. Now, before those familiar with the white tail season in Scapa - and many other parts of Alberta - know that shooting out of trucks is not advised and significantly illegal. It is the only way, however, plains game are hunting in this part of South Africa because trucks are driving around all the time and as soon as they see people, they run. The farms are also what is often called "friggin huge". The truck we were hunting out of is also not Uncle Bob's chev truck. These are Land Rovers with special seats in the back for the hunters and the professional hunters.
Our first stop was the shooting range. Enroute, we drove past every conceivable "bok" of every sort and they just stood there. The zebra just stood there. This wasn't going to be hard.
Craig fired two shots from his cannon and he was good to go. Me, not so lucky. My firs tshot didn't hit the target from 100 yards. Moved up. Didn't hit the target from 25 yards. Craig mentioned at this time that he had seen my gun case tossed pretty roughly by luggage handlers. Nice. I ended up putting most of a box down the pipe and I was close enough, but I wasn't really happy with how things were going. Regardless, off we went.
Craig offered to be the first shooter and zebra was the target. 250 yards, now which one. All of a sudden, the truck wasn't that rigid, the zebra weren't standing there with much interest in what we were offering, and the hunters told us that there were 2 that were too small to shoot. Beyond me. They looked like red horses with black stripes - yes, red - and not like the zebras in story books. It seems the ground is very red and they like to roll around in it. Story made short, Craig eventually ended up with his zebra. We did pictures, examined it closely, took more pictures and decided we should go get mine. I mentioned that hunting in a high fence isn't that easy? Never saw the zebras again. Don't know where they went. Don't know if a space ship sucked them up. Not a clue. We drove to the top of the hill/mountain and looked. Nothing. Lots of other strange things, but no zebra. I did see some gemsbok about a mile and a half away in another farm, but no zebra. Off we go again.
As it happens, we find a landowner adjacent to the property we were on and he had the biggest gemsbok in the area. We found them in a pasture with an irrigation pivot in one end and they wanted nothing to do with us. Craig and his PH jumped out and hid - not very well - by the pivot. We drove around the edge of the pasture and I had the first opportunity to shoot. I wasn't keen on a big shot in the wind, but this looked like a monster critter in my scope. I touched off one shot and my gemsbok took a short dash of about thirty metres and tumbled. Holy crap. I just shot the animal I had wanted to shoot all my life. It was a somewhat moving moment, but I don't think anyone picked up on that.
The adventure continued and Craig ended up with his gemsbok and, unfortunately, it is one whole inch longer than mine.
We returned to the lodge and drinks and supper were on the adgenda for us and our fellow hunters.
IMPRESSION: People who don't hunt, or don't think about hunting have not likely thought about Africa from a hunter's point of view. Today, I have had the opportunity to step into a real lodge full of animals I have only read about. I have seen herds of wildebeest and discovered they are only about waist high. The romantic notions of hunting Africa which I have build from reading Hemmingway, Raurk and Roosevelt have changed from their glory days in a much rougher time and place. I would have appreciated a moment to stop and explore my first African animal. It would have been nice to rub that spot between their horns which will carry the scent of it's favorite rubbing tree. I had hoped to get pictures of the textures of it's horns and hair. Sure, I got the trophy shots, but I would have appreciated building a trophy memory of the scents and feelings of a totally foreign animal. I will get that next time.
PERSONAL NOTE: It was a good day. There aren't any pictures in this blog because there is no wifi, but I will be stopping at a computer store to pick up a card reader so I can get picts in the next entry. I am sleeping well, eating well, and am in a lion free area. I will be at it again bright and early tomorrow.

Posted by morganhart 12:48 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari Comments (2)

It's Wednesday, I think, So We Must Be In....

You know holidays have started when you don't know what day it is.

I have just spent the last seven hours in a Land Cruiser, traversing some part of South Africa. We are now in Hoedspruit, not far from our next lodge. My PH has just dropped me off at an internet cafe' so I can catch up a bit and he can go get some salt for the stuff we hope to shoot. I didn't post yesterday, so I will catch you up. More or less...
We started the day at the same game ranch, all 2200, zebra-hiding acres of it. Sparky had indicated a need for a black wildibeest and that was taken care of directly. I have to admit, it is the homliest animal I have ever encountered. When it snorts, its nostrils flap and make a farting sound. Sparky's, however, was unable to do this and will never do it again.
Our next quarry was my zebra. They had managed to hide themselves very well the day before, and we spent quite a while looking and exploring the highlands, plains and nooks and crannies looking for them. Once we did, the hunt was on, and it went quite well. At this moment I have a card reader and my camera card hooked up to this machine and I hope to post some pictures before my card expires.
Sparky harvested a springbok shortly thereafter and we were done. It was just a matter of standing around and having a beer with the landowner and his ranch manager before we headed back to the lodge.
I had hoped to lose some weight by walking, but to this point I haven't done too much. I mentioned this to Daniel, my PH, on the trip up today. He kind of smiled and said I would on the next hunts. We stopped somewhere for trout pies, which were spectacular, and I did some souvenier shopping. We stopped again at a couple tourist traps and I managed to supplement the incomes of quite a few of the locals. I will be donating some pretty spiffy stuff to the DUCKS dinner, if they don't take it away at the border.
We will be after warthog, kudu, blue wildebeest and impala over the next few days. This is Daniel's hometown and he is obviously well known here. His dad is the manager of the military base's wildlife reserve and we will be hunting in an adjacent area. The low veldt hunting is quite tricky work - or so we are told - and it is done on foot and shots are no more than 100 yards and most are less than 40. This is good because my gemsbok was taken at nearly 300, as was my zebra. Up close is going to be nicer.
Last night for supper we ate some of Sparky's and mine gemsbok, Sparky's springbok and another hunters kudu. It was fantastic. I can hardly wait for the brei (BBQ) that we are going to have tomorrow.
Tonight we are baiting lions and hyenas, which should be interesting. These are wild lions which have escaped from Kruger National Park and they are not used to seeing people who aren't in cars or buses. The company has been trying to talk us into shooting a lion, for a measly $5000, but I'm not interested. Sparky isn't either. I think.
Well, I must try to fool with the pictures.

Posted by morganhart 01:26 Comments (0)

Friday, and What a Week It Has Been

Sorry, Wednesday's addition didn't make it Wednesday, for some reason...

So, we continued on from Hoedspruit to the camp. More like a luxury lodge. My PH took the back way through the military base, which was quite cool, and we met up with the miltary police and they babbled on like old friends. It was very entertaining to just sit, listen and look around. We were in the bush veldt and you couldn't see more than 25 metres in any one direction.
We continued on and were actually driving down a trail - Kruger National Park on the left and the military airbase lands on the right. We had seen various antelope, cape buffalo and a myriad of different birds. Then, we saw it. On the airbase side of the road was a large, black critter. We pulled up along side a sable antelope which made Daniel very excited. We had been visiting for seven hours in the car and I had peppered him on every type of antelope and critter, sable included. The sable is one of those animals which you sometimes see on safari lists, but when you do, the price is always listed as "P.O.R", which means "friggin expensive" in safari-speak. Most of the P.O.R. animals start and $10000 and go up to $50000 for big elephant and even more if you can find a surplus rhino. Sable is the only non-dangerous game in the category and usually sells for $30000, yes thirty thousand dollars,for an antelope. Most of the sable antelope taken for this money run between 28 and 36 inches, with 36 being a very, very good sable.
We arrived at the lodge, beating Sparky and his PH, so I got the queen size hut and he got two twins. Awwww. This place has a fence on the outside and nothing on the inside and I was told that we need to always look before we make the 60 foot journey to the house as there is a cape buffalo which likes to sleep by the pool and it is generally a bad idea to interrupt its nap.
There was a fire burning in the bouma, which is a walled area built around a big fire pit. Ours is about 25 feet in diameter and done in circular brick. It also boasts an eating area and a fridge full of beer,water and pop. We spend our evenings smelling the wonderful leadwood fire - a smell like no other. It makes the best "zulu TV", which is how the fire is described.
After supper we went on a game drive. We left the camp and loaded into the open safari vehicle and headed out with a spotlight to see what we could see. There was a giraffe killed by lions on an adjacent property and we were hoping to see lions or hyenas on the kill. On the road between Kruger and the base, we encountered two white rhino on the Kruger side. By the end of the night we saw numerous steenbok, buffalo, and waterbuck, but no lions. We visited a military bush training camp and another hunting camp where we got up close and personal with elephant skulls and a tusk.
Yesterday will always be a day to remember. We started with a drive around the 2400 acre property, looking for anything and everything. We saw several giraffe with a unique black hide, found only in this area. Warthogs, waterbuck, impala, and birds were also regularly found. What our purpose was that morning was to find tracks around waterholes to find areas which would be good to hunt. I won't bore you with the details, but Sparky made an excellent shot on a kudu, which he hadn't planned to shoot until he saw it. I actually took 103 pictures and got the actual shot on video. I also got the part where they field scored it an determined it is a qualified Rowland Ward and SCI trophy. Nice.
After returning to the camp for lunch and a relax, was given an opportunity of a lifetime. I was given five minutes warning to get ready and we left the camp after a very special trophy. Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting on a very dead, very large sable antelope - and it was all mine.
Now, my wife is laying on the floor after reading this, but there is a story to go with it. No, I didn't pay $30000 for it. My PH's dad is the game manager for the airbase. Once we were in camp, he called his dad to say we saw the sable along the fence. His dad told him that it was an old, batterd and sick bull and he didn't think it would last the winter. His dad said he would like to get rid of it for a ridiculous sum - which shall remain unmentioned at this time - and if I wanted it, I could have it. Long story short, one shot and thirty feet later, I had a sable. The boys were amazed - as was his dad - to find out that it wasn't a 36 inch as they had thought, but instead measured 1/8 of an inch under the record books. I am hoping that the taxidermist will be able to find that 1/8 somewhere.
I am still shaking and my face hurts from smiling. Last night was a late one, full of celebrating and stories around the bouma. Today is a town day, updating blogs and seeing the sights. I am going to log off now and put some pictures on. I don't know when I wil next be on, but relax Colleen, I only have a warthog left and my taxidermy plans have all changed. Now, the full body mount of the sable is about seven feet tall, and eight feet long. Do you think we can get it in the living room?

Posted by morganhart 01:30 Comments (4)

Monday, Monday

Away we go...

So, we are going to the main lodge at Nelspruit. We are a bit pressed for time as we have the hides and skulls in the bucky, as well as the other one is full of food and luggage. I managed to load some photos, so that is good. We have been told there is a computer at the main lodge, but it is an ancient laptop, so it won't be of much use to add more pictures. I have been trying to FaceTime my kid, but to no avail. I guess the wireless is not fast enough.
Well, since my last entry, I have been lion hunting, a designated driver for the designated drunks, warthog hunting for the better part of two days, and I have been eating too much and sleeping too little.
That is all I have time for at the moment. Once I get to Durban, I will be able to spend a few hours updating and posting pictures.
TTFN

Posted by morganhart 05:01 Comments (3)

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