Mozambique Journal part two

CROC DAY

The next morning after about a two hour drive from camp, we checked the little sandy beach for the croc.  It was only 8:30 AM and I thought it would be a waste to check so early, but he was there.  We had already built a mini-blind when we threw the warthog in the pool.  So after removing our boots, Craigh, Il Ling and I snuck to our hide at 60 yards.  (I shot a croc last year in Zambia.  It was the biggest one we could find on the ebbing Luangwa River and he measure about 10 ½ ft.  Craigh called it a lizard not a croc.)  When we reached the blind, I couldn’t believe the size of the croc.  He was lying on a slight mound.  From my position I could only see the barrel of the trunk of his body.  His head was facing toward me, but concealed by grass.   And, his tail was lying on the far, down side of the mound.  Craigh told me to shoot him in the spine at his neck.  I didn’t have a brain shot.  I fired my shot and the old dinosaur didn’t wiggle.  I fired three more times just to make sure he was dead.  (Later I accused Craigh of setting me up on a dead croc carcass, because I couldn’t believe he didn’t even react to my shots.)  Craigh got to the old monster before I did.  This was the first time he saw him and to his dismay, the old croc was missing about 3 feet of tail.  Even so, he was larger than my other croc.  I was ecstatic and very pleased.  I had shot well and taken the “phantom” croc of Coutada 11!  We winched him into the truck and headed back to camp!

BUFFALO AND THE SWAMPS

By now, day seven, I was getting very concerned that we had not seen any buff spoor since the second day.  So plans were made to go to the SWAMPS for day eight.  The normal route is a three hour drive by truck to the Argo.  A one hour Argo ride to the hunting area, and then however long it takes to find the buffalo.  Then a night or two in a fly camp.  However, this was my lucky day, if going to the SWAMPS is every lucky.  Craigh departed at 2:00 AM in the truck and about 8:00AM Mark flew Bob and I and Il Ling in his helicopter.  We rendezvoused with Craigh, Johnny and the Argo via GPS coordinates.  The heli ride was spectacular.  We saw elephant, hippo, hartebeest, waterbuck and buffalo.  And, just the vast expanse of the SWAMPS was overwhelming.  (No tourist beach on the Zambezi!)  I should have realized what I was getting into, as Il Ling, who hunted her buff in the swamps last year, didn’t want to come along.  So Mark and Il Ling flew off and Craigh, his tracker, and Bob and I launched the Argo.  I’ve hunted black bear in Saskatchewan using an Argo (to and fro the tree stands).  So I knew how rough, jerky and hot the ride could be.  But, pushing through papyrus and sawgrass in varying depths of mud and stagnant water makes the Canadian episode seem like a limo ride.  We bumped one herd of cows and calves and finally Craigh thought we were about 400 yards from another herd where he spotted cattle egrets.

It was about 11:00 AM.  When Craigh and Johnny lithely jumped out of the Argo into waist deep water.  The reeds and sawgrass were at least four feet above their heads.  As I was getting out, Craigh told me to be sure of my foot placement in the slimy mud.  One step could be into a deep hole, and the next, just slippery silt.  My disembarkation (if that’s a word) was not pretty.  I fell directly into the water trying to keep my rifle above my head.  No question now, my nearly blind husband would wait in the Argo.  So we sloshed off, Craigh parting a path through the papyrus, then the tracker, and then me.  I told Craigh I was concerned about all the noise I was making.  He said the buffalo would just think I was another buffalo.  (No kidding!!!)

Each step was slippery and tentative while I tried to stay upright in the water.  Not only was step placement difficult, extricating each step required pulling suction.  I was wearing my Converse high top tennis shoes, perfect for this situation.  I had my pants tucked into the top of my socks. I was trying to avoid leaches and ticks from having totally free access to my skin.

It took three hours to go 300 yards like this!  The last 100 yards was done on hands and knees.  (Johnny followed behind me carrying my rifle.)  It was kind of like swimming over reeds and really easier than trying to walk.  We got within 40 yards of the herd.  It was about 2:00 PM.  The driest ground was where the buffalo herds or elephant had fed or bedded.  The reeds and sawgrass are crushed over a foot of mud, pocked marked by animal tracks. The bulls were bedded down in the mud and the cows were on the perimeter of the herd, feeding.  We crawled around to try to assess the bulls, while being careful about the wind.  We slithered to relocate a couple of times.  Time was becoming an issue as it would be dark at 5:30 PM and we had to be done and out, well before that.  Finally we found a shooter bull asleep on his feet.  His head was hanging down and the only shot he offered was a quartering toward me spine shot to the area below his shoulder hump.
From a position on my hands and knees, I climbed the side of the shooting sticks to about half way up and made my shot.  The buff went directly down and the herd took off.  Craigh quickly asked me if I wanted to shoot Bob’s buffalo.  Bob and I had already agreed to this, so I said yes.  He told me to shoot at the bull running through the reeds at the end of the herd about 80 yards.  It looked like he bucked, but he continued running. I tried to follow Craigh, who can sprint through this muck, but I was plodding behind him.  Craigh and Johnny reached out to me as they could see what was about to happen.  Seemingly in slow motion, suction held my foot and I fell face first…me, rifle, scope…into the mud.

Once the herd disappeared through the reeds, we returned to the first buff who was still flailing from his severed spine.  I finished him.  Craigh left Johnny and I  to go retrieve Bob and the Argo.  When he returned, he used his satellite phone to call Mark with GPS coordinates.

The helicopter arrived about 45 minutes later.  The guys did a short recognizance to see if they could spot the second buff.  But no luck.  Bob and I boarded the heli. Craigh and Johnny tracked the herd and looked for blood for a while before heading back to camp.  They arrived back after 10:00 PM.  No sign of the second buff, but Craigh was fairly sure the birds would point it out in the next day or two.  He would recover it then.


HUNTING FOR IL LING’S NYALA

We took the next morning off.  The other couple in camp departed.  That afternoon we hunted Nyala for Il Ling (using her Ruger Super Redhawk .454 Casul).  My hunt was complete, although Craigh wanted me to hunt Blue Duiker, I wanted to relax.  (I think I hate those little critters now!)  If we found an unsuspecting reed buck, bushbuck, either Il Ling or I would shoot it for camp meat and/or to feed the leopard hounds (being used in another camp).  A group of eighteen people arrived for the permanent Portuguese Camp across the air strip.  They would be hunting “four of everything” and had four videographers along too.

The next afternoon, Il Ling took her Nyala with her pistol and made an excellent shot.

We combined our last night in camp with Bob’s 71st birthday celebration.  Camp seemed quiet and intimate with just Craigh, Colleen, Il Ling, Bob and I.  The PH’s, dog handlers and pilots that were awaiting their clients and visiting our camp, were now at the other camp.  (They ended up taking two leopards the first night.)


GOING HOME

It’s always depressing for me at the end of the hunt.  I consider each safari to be the last one we’ll be able to make.  Our friends refer to my syndrome as “the annual last safari.”  We’ll make that decision early next year.  September 3rd we chartered out of camp, SAA from Beira to Jo’burg, and British Airways to Los Angeles.

We won’t call it MozamBLEAK any more!  Zambeze Delta Safaris, Mark Haldane and his staff were super.  And, our PH Craigh Hamman is one of the best!!!   This was an amazing experience.

If you missed part one click here...