Adventure Safari

Trip Start Apr 10, 2006
Trip End Jul 24, 2006

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Thursday, April 20, 2006

The next day we headed on foot for the caves, and climbed down and in to one of the caves, wading through the stream barefoot to catch site of the bats - we spotted a few baby ones flying and hanging around, and then headed further up the mountain to clamber into a split in the rock, hanging precariously to peer below at a throng of noise fruit bats with incredible wing spans of some 2 feet. Further up the mountain, I was amazed to find elephant spoors, I had no idea elephant could climb so high and so well, even I with deep rubber soled boots was finding it hard going - OK was carrying two stone of lard up the mountain, so perhaps that accounts for it.

Our safari continued through the undulating countryside, with grass 10 feet tall, even taller than us on horseback. The horses were completely blind in this terrain and were trusting us to lad them through, which was often tricky having to watch for massive holes in the ground, which would break a leg and at the same time those infernal spider webs, often spanning 6 feet across our path and at face height. I managed to spot several and take avoiding action, but on more than one occasion I had sticky web stretched across my face and me wondering where the bloody spider had gone!

Much of our journey was slowed by huge poles of bamboo, which now dying off, was no longer erect but strewn across our path at odd angles. At one point the pack horse got in front of me and a bamboo pole got caught on a pack and was then slowly pulled back, like a long bow, with the forward motion, suddenly it was released and with incredible speed and force it whipped towards me - how I wasn't hit I don't know, but I kept my distance from the pack horse then on. Bamboo is a superb material used in buildings and weaponry alike as well as being loved by Elephants.

So a tough rugged journey, especially for an old, unfit, man like me - but I was loving it.

As dusk started to fall we finally made it to our nights resting stop, a rocky flat plateaux on top of a hill surrounded by grass and woodland. We quickly tethered the horses, and hurried about making camp before the last minutes of daylight left us. I managed to find a dead tree and quickly snapped off branches and using a lump of rock as a wedge, broke the branches into smaller lengths and carried them up to James who had already got a fire raging from dried grass and kindle. I'd like to imagine he rubbed two sticks together but it was probably a lighter that did the trick. The kettle was soon boiling - oh the priorities of man. William and Nesbit took the horses down to the river for a well earned drink, and then ran up a 'long line' to tether them for the night. They worked quickly and efficiently but more amazingly; totally in the dark.

The packs were unpacked, bed rolls unrolled, and supper cooked on the fire - it was real boys stuff, a real adventure and great fun.

I have never seen so many stars - I am sure the Southern hemisphere has more, and for the first time in my life I could clearly make out the Milky Way. James pointed out many of the constellations and how to navigate at night, very useful when my sat nav breaks down - Venus was incredibly bright and moving majestically across the night sky, I saw a shooting star - which I had originally thought was an aircraft until I realised it would have to doing about 2000 miles an hour, and none fly across this part of Africa. The only constellation I can recognise easily is The Plough, up it popped on the horizon, but it was upside down - and there was no way of seeing the north star as it was below the horizon.

As we settled down for the night William and Nesbit built another fire and camped closer to the horses. I settled into my sleeping bag warily as James had nonchalantly pointed out scorpions sleep under some of the broken rock strewn around - it was only the next morning he told me they were vegetarian scorpions - "thanks James", one of his little jokes on the tourists no doubt. Well as I tried to settle in my sleeping bag, which lay on a thin piece of foam stretched out on the hard rock, I heard a puffing sound; James was blowing up a lilo! The great white guide left his guests to suffer the hard rock, while he lay comfortable on his air mattress - he isn't going to hear the last of this!

James had detailed how the stars moved across the night sky, and knowing I would awake at some point knew I would be able to see the changes in the night sky. Yeah, sure. I was awoken with water splattering over my face - it was bloody raining, and not a star was insight due to the cloud cover. I pulled a cagoule over the sleeping bag, but not well enough as I had formed a valley in the material which collected all the water off me and deposited it all over my arse, I only realised this as I buried my head deep in the sleeping bag - how I wish I had had a wash or shower before bed - well at least the smell would probably ward of any animals. In all honesty it was only a shower and really added to my sense of pioneering adventure. One could imagine this being a really dangerous adventure, with snakes, scorpions, spiders, elephants, boar, lions, cheetah's and all kinds of other creatures anxious to devour me, but I was with three of the best guides in Africa who had pistols and rifles, and I knew wouldn't intentionally put me in any danger - I just had to hope Judy hadn't paid them to get rid of me!

At day break, we strolled, well James strolled and I puffed and panted our way up a mountain to see if we could pick up an elephant spoor we had come across late the evening before. We found some scorpions, had a chat with the Baboons (I speak their language, you know), and watched some eagles floating on the breeze. It was a beautiful day.

We tracked elephant spoors all day, alas they were aloof, but again the riding was superb. When we finally got back to camp, it turned out they had been through there earlier in the day! That was the end of an absolutely brilliant trip, and as for not seeing an elephant, well that gives me even more reason to come back - I'll have to bring Judy with me next time though, as I've promised not to go off like this again. Even though it will mean a few days without the hairdryer; I'm sure she'll love it.
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