Having a great meal (chicken-fried warthog), good friends, a campfire and all the stars in the solar system as your backdrop, make for one very good night’s sleep. Our wakeup call was precise, as it had been every morning and the coffee was particularly satisfying this morning. We had been without technology for days. At this point, we had no idea what the US response to Syria had been and to be honest, it just didn’t seem important. Our lungs were full of the most perfect air and our heads were so full of memories already; the girls had all begun to journal and take notes because we didn’t want to forget a single experience.
Today, Monty was determined to get his M’bogo – that’s Swahili for Cape Buffalo. The boys were all starting to change their good luck rituals – shaving, no shaving, lucky beans, lucky rocks, M’bogo gum, Ella’s elephant…whatever it took. We each loaded the Land Cruisers and were off on our mission, serious, but smiling and excited.
I remember looking at this picture thinking Penny looked like the wife of an elected official in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Draeger Safari pulls out
Team Worley and the Replacements headed back to look for our camp M’bogo. And it wasn’t long until we got on foot and started tracking. There were four or so in this group and the trackers found them pretty quick, probably by 7:30am.
Settling in on the Camp M’bogo
We got quiet pretty quickly and Johnny took Monty closer leaving Jim and one of the trackers watching out for Amy and I. They had identified an old bull and seemed like they were going to get a good look at him.
This is as close as Amy and I were going to get. If you click on the picture, you can see one of them in the middle looking over at us.
M’bogo checking us out
Johnny got Monty set up and, with two quick shots (Monty and then Johnny – AKA Johnny “Boom Boom”, formerly Johnny “Warthog”), the herd of four took off in front of us. Jim and the trackers kept their eyes on Amy and I and the front three as they were circling back.
About now, I formed my back up plan – climb the nearest tree.
They didn’t stay around, most likely they ran towards the swamp. Monty’s fell quickly and we waited quietly. It’s an odd thing in these situations in that you pray that the shot was true and everything goes as it should. And in our case, it always did. We had very sure and steady hands in our group; precise and purposeful.
When Johnny signaled, we approached the bull with caution. He was amazing. I’ve never been close to anything like it. Such a large beast. And his hide wasn’t anything like what I expected, very thin but course hair, not like our cattle. His ears were tattered and torn showing his age and roughness of his environment. His cape covered his head and you could tell he was old from the wear and tear. It was smooth in some parts, sort of like a well worn Aggie ring.
And with that, Monty pulled out his good luck charm – that morning he had put a cigar in his pocket using positive mojo to conjure up his M’bogo. I think it worked.
Monty’s lucky cigar
We asked about the meat and how we would eat it. Johnny got all excited talking about Buffalo Tail Soup, to which I promptly turned up my nose. Earlier in the week, I might have thought he was kidding, but we did learn that Johnny was almost always quiet serious about the seemingly far fetched, especially when it came to food. He also told us that the meat was far too lean. These animals exercise and run way more than our beef cattle do and there’s just not a lot of fat on those big bones. However, there would be a lot of jerky that could be made.
And so, Monty could leave a happy man. It had taken several days and many hours of tracking and stalking, but that’s why they call it hunting. And I, well I rather like that about it.
If memory serves me, it’s now only 9:30am and we’ve still got a full day ahead of us. Jim and Johnny looked for the other three from that herd, but after following their tracks, we determined they had indeed made their way into the swamp and we just weren’t going to sop through that mess for these guys.
On the road again where we came upon this guy who I just couldn’t get enough of – the Fish Eagle. He’s a lot like our Bald Eagle. Simply gorgeous when he flies.
You can get pretty philosophical while you’re in Tanzania. For instance, you spend a lot of time pondering and discussing the whole Mother Nature’s camouflage concept. Take the zebra – how on earth does trendy black and white make you so invisible against a backdrop of green and brown? It’s like the whole “what is nougat?” question. Makes you go “hmmmmm”
Black and white is the new black
About 45 minutes into this drive. Johnny and the trackers jump out. Seems they’ve found the tracks of a large herd. Jim and Monty join them, while Amy and I follow behind from the truck. This lasted about …….oh 15 minutes. Monty and Jim determined it might be a long hike and as long as the truck was going to follow, might as well save the energy for when it would really be needed
The first hour
And so, they tracked
The second hour
And they tracked,
The third hour
And they tracked…..
Meanwhile, we saw the usual suspects: Warthogs, Duikers, and Baboons. And, Amy and I were getting glimpses of giraffe off in the distance. We came across one group that looked like two adults and three juveniles. It might have been the same group that Rachel and Donnie had seen the day before. If you look close, you can see one of the juveniles in this picture.
Then a bit later, we saw a herd running across the open plains. They had been spooked by something and were covering some major ground. Their strides so big, they looked like they were in slow motion. Fascinating.
We had been at this over three hours and 10km before Johnny signaled to the truck that they could see the herd, at least 200. So, we parked the truck and the rest of us got on foot. Salad gear for all, GoPros ready, this was a large herd and we would be going deep into the trees with them if we could.
Below is one of my famous, “I know you can’t tell, but there’s a Cape Buffalo just a few feet away” photos.
After the 10km hike.
You could hear them snorting and blowing all around. Johnny and Jim looked at as many as they could, but the herd was moving like a flowing river. They never quite settled down. Must have been deep in the trees for about an hour. Again, being this close, I had my own Plan B at the ready – found a tree that looked like I could scurry up it faster than Johnny Manziel scrambling against Alabama early in the 2nd quarter on 3rd down (whoop!)
So, did we get them?
Five hours later
Well at hour five, Johnny and Jim called it. They just couldn’t spot one in a herd of that size. Monty chalked it up to running out of M’bogo gum, a situation we would look to rectify. Looking at the Scoreboard so far for today:
- Cape Buffalo = 2
- Monty = 1
- Jimbo = 0
So, we still had some work to do, again, that’s why it’s “hunting” and not “getting”. But the next order of business was “hunting” our way back to the truck and to camp as we were due to move to a new camp later this afternoon. Johnny called the truck, but we were so far off the grid, it took them a while to find us.
And it was still too early for beer.
What happened next was one of the many “hold my beer and watch this” moments. We were a good couple of miles from any form of road – again, I use this term loosely – and we were in the middle of pretty thick brush – and this is what God created brush guards for. With Johnny “NASCAR” at the helm, we must have spent the next hour or so doing a little “brush clearing”. It would have been every seven year old boys dream to have driven that day. Just like the 12th Man, Team Worley and The Replacements stood for that hour or so, but mostly because sitting was a one way ticket to the camp chiropractor. It got to be quite comical, especially when Monty had had enough. This doesn’t happen too often but his keen sense of direction had predicted we’d be out of the forest about 45 minutes before it actually occurred.
Eventually, we made it back to camp and I snapped a few pictures of our living conditions as I plan to write a letter to management about how “terrible” it was
Fish Eagle Camp 1
Fish Eagle Camp 2
Fish Eagle Camp 3
The Draeger Safari was loaded by the time we got to camp; they went on out so they could hunt along the route to Jacana. Team Worley and The Replacements had experienced a wonderful day and Johnny “NASCAR” was going to get us to Jacana before the sun set so we could see everything. We were cruising along at a pretty good speed, and as we rounded a corner, there they were. My jaw fell open and my eyes got bigger and bigger. Johnny stopped on a dime. We had been in Africa for six days and for the first time, here they were. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the African Elephants.
There must have been 20 or 30 of them to begin with. We had spooked them and they were running this way and that, kicking up dust everywhere. Many of them were running directly in front of us crossing the road. Some of the herd split and went the opposite direction. But what caught my eye, I think caught all of our eyes, was the biggest elephant I have ever in my life seen. He moved across the road in front of us and never took his eyes off of us. Johnny got out of the car and asked for his gun and no, he wasn’t kidding this time either. Everybody was watching everybody.
What a moment
I will never forget this moment.
My guy 1
My guy 2
My guy 3
My guy 4
My guy 5
my guy 6
I was getting a few pictures, but Amy reminded me of what I had said earlier, that I wanted not to get caught up in taking pictures but more importantly be present in these very special moments. And this guy was special all right.
Once they calmed down and saw that we weren’t looking to interfere, they went back to doing what elephants do, eating trees. The especially like the fruit from the Marula tree – there is a liquor that Jim and Amy introduced me to, Amarula, made from the same fruit – yum-my! We enjoyed a few more moments with them and we were off again, but my head and my heart stayed there with the big guy. I was feeling like a pretty lucky girl to have seen that, in that way, in that time, in that place, with these people. Others on the trip will recall their own special moments, but this was clearly mine.
Over the river and through the woods – only the woods were infested with Tsetse flies! We looked like an episode of the Three Stooges swatting each other on the head, on the back, in the face – all in the name of helping a brother out. Monty looked more like Kenny (South Park) in his Salad suit and we all got a good laugh The Reed Buck were everywhere as were the Topi and Oribi, apparently, the Tsetse flies didn’t bother them so much. The sun started to set over the Malagarasi River as we got to the last leg of this day’s journey.
Sunset over Jacana
We downloaded our trucks and uploaded our boat.
Last leg of today’s journey
We knew we had arrived at Jacana Camp when we saw our campfire….
Jacana camp fire
In thinking about that day, it’s hard to believe how much we did, saw, felt, experienced. And this doesn’t even cover all that the Draeger Safari – did I mention Donnie got his Cape? Our daily update shaped up like this:
- Cape Buffalo = 2
- Monty = 1
- Jimbo = 0
- Donnie = 1
- Tsetse Flies = 1 billion in less than 20 minutes
- Team Worley and The Replacements = Uncle!
I don’t remember the conversation at the camp fire that night, we must have been so exhausted we didn’t keep the baboons up, for once. Amy had a song for every occasion, I can’t remember what we sang on the way in, but I think “Oh What A Night” might have been appropriate.
Wow…..What a Day!