Caprivi Strip, 2014 Part 11

by david on April 10, 2015

Elephant Tracks

On the road/trail at 7:00 AM to look for elephant tracks or any buffalo still on the Namibian side of the Chobe River. For as much as I was hunting elephant, Johann was hunting buffalo. Neither of us cared which happens first, as long as it happened for both of us. We were heading east along the riverbank and were going to see the sun appear shortly. Johann and Byron were in the cab of the Land Cruiser discussing the day’s strategy, leaving me in the back with everyone else. Johann had brought his tracker, Johnas, to get some more experience with elephants and I was glad to have him along. He is a superb tracker and a good all-around guy. Byron had two trackers of his own, Angel and Patrick, and rounding out our little group was Hombrek. Hombrek was the local park ranger / game scout, and his duty was to make sure we followed the rules and did everything by the book.

Riding through Africa in the predawn light is an experience into its self. With my diminished hearing capability it was futile trying to talk over the rattles, squeaks, and wind noise in the open back of the truck. With that sense out of the picture I took extra notice of the others. I started by trying to pick up the shadows or shapes of any game animals in the vicinity. It is not as easy as it sounds, even for someone familiar with the shapes and sizes. With no hearing and limited sight, I tried to use my nose as well. I could smell the fires from a village, but I had no idea where it was. I even tried to tell the difference between the domestic cattle in the area and the Cape buffalo. I probably would not know the difference if the smells went down each nostril screaming here I am but it was fun to try, and without trying there is no learning. Soon the sky started putting on a light show capable of distracting most anyone. The stars were bright and clear. Just as they started to flicker and fade out, the sky turned from pitch black to a phenomenal shade of purple and then royal blue. Next was a sliver of a bluish grey on the horizon, followed by a ribbon of orange. With the expansion of these two layers, the sun couldn’t be far behind. Sure enough, the bright yellow rays of the sun popped over the horizon. It was almost as if someone was pouring a pitcher of golden yellow over the edge of the horizon. Slowly at first, ever quickening until it came over in a sudden wave, trickling down to nothing, the sun had cleared the horizon.

We ride for hours and had yet to cut any tracks. Where were the thousands of elephant I saw yesterday? Somewhere around midmorning the decision to relocate was made and we headed off to another area in the conservancy. Upon arrival, we finally got to see some tracks. We then played a guessing game as to where they were going. Normally, everyone piles off the truck and the walking begins. Since it was already midmorning and time was short, we were trying to come up with a plan to at least get a glimpse of the group before we started walking. We knew which way they were going, but the thinking was if we could guess which road they would cross next, we could perhaps get close and have a look-see. At first I was thrilled to be riding and not walking through the soft sand of the Caprivi. The thrill soon faded as all the guesses seemed to all be coming up goose eggs and we were still burning daylight. We finally stumbled across one cow and her approximately one-and-one-half-year calf. Byron decided that this would be a good opportunity to sneak me in for an up-close-and-personal look. We were closing in to about 30 yards and Byron asked me to pick the aiming spot. After confirming I was looking at the correct spot, he asked for me to shoulder my rifle and look at the sight picture again. After satisfying myself and, more importantly, Byron, I knew where to put the bullet when the time came. We eased our way back out without the elephants ever knowing we were there.

After lunch we started out with more driving, guessing, and arguing over where to go. Johann could finally hold his piece no longer and we started walking the tracks we’d been arguing about. We finally found a small herd late in the day in cover so thick you couldn’t see an elephant thirty feet in front of you. With the late hour and not knowing where the whole herd was, we decided to back out and try again tomorrow. No shots were offered and none taken. All that was left to do was to hike the 3 or so miles back to the truck. The total distance walked today was about 7 miles.

The sundowners were pleasant and dinner was good. I, however, was tired and needed bed if I were to repeat the activities of the day again tomorrow. It was off to the shower and into bed for me. The hot shower did wonders for my mental and physical state, and I decided I could handle tomorrow just fine. That is until I stub and break (not confirmed by x-ray, but my toe turned blacker than a cast-iron skillet and hurt like a “@7# %$”) my second toe on the piece of log turned bedside table. Just what I needed.

The first hint of sunrise making its presence known. The first hint of sunrise making its presence known.


Monday: Wild Goose…Err… Elephant Chase


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