Safari, Namibia 2016: Next Link In The Chain. Blog #20 “Uni-What?”

by david on June 19, 2017

According to Jonas, they are on the backside of some kopje or other and we need to travel via Unimog rather than Landcruiser. Johann, Ilouwna, myself, and a few other hands piled in to go and retrieve the animal. For those of you unfamiliar with the Mercedes Benz Unimog let me try to describe it for you. Picture a large post WWII era vehicle, perhaps 7’ wide, 18’ long, and 7’ tall, or about the size of a delivery truck here in the US. The vehicle is all wheel drive and will literally climb a mountain if it can get at least one wheel on it. Riding in a Unimog is not plush in the best of circumstances and maneuvering over a washed out road with rocks exceeding the size of basketballs pushed me (not the vehicle) to the limits of endurance. When we left the road (and I use the term loosely), things really began to get interesting. A Unimog has a turning radius only slightly better than the Queen Mary, so its forte is running over things. Johann had a homemade extra, extra heavy duty push bar on the front to aid in just such endeavors. Trees (up to 10”-15” in diameter), bushes, and stumps all are falling to the unimog. What it can’t push over or break off, it crawls over. Seriously, we climbed over rocks the size of bathtubs to get to the downed mountain zebra. The only problem is when Johann decides to go between the trees rather than over them. It was during one of those in-between moments one of the thorns I had pushed aside decided I needed my nose pierced and proceeded to do just that. A limb snapped back faster than I could duck and poked a nice round hole for me. How would I look with a nose stud, I wondered?

We finally got to the site. While I tended to my wound, Johann backed up to the animal. I stood there watching my little brother. He had taken the blessings Africa offered up early, persevered through the trying times in the middle, and was still at it. He had taken one of Africa’s more difficult animals to hunt on the morning of his last full day in camp. He had come as a newbie and was leaving a thoroughly initiated veteran. I was happy and proud all at the same time.

With the vehicle finally in position, recovery was as simple as opening the gate and dropping the ramps, spreading the tarp, and winching the Zebra into the bed. Going back was easy, as long as I knew when we were going throughas opposed to over things I was able to avoid a repeat of the trip up. It was while trying to duck another limb that I discovered one more peculiarity of the Unimog. The engine is in-between the driver and the front passenger. In the older models (at least this one anyway) there is no insulation between the bare piece of metal separating the engine and passenger compartment and the sidewall can get hot. Hot enough to fry an egg or an uncovered leg. I should have worn long pants. After having learned two lessons from this little adventure, the rest of the trip was extremely bumpy but uneventful. We got back, and I rounded up some ointment, had lunch and dozed off.

The easy way to load a zebra into a vehicle. You can also see the size of the boulders and trees we ran over to get here. The easy way to load a zebra into a vehicle. You can also see the size of the boulders and trees we ran over to get here.

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