It’s Monday 10th September 2007 and the plot unfolds


It’s Monday 10th September 2007 and the plot unfolds

Last week we said goodbye to Barbara and Frank – who at 85 have decided they should hang up their safari boots after 34 safaris, the last 12 being with RPS. Admittedly they said that last year but I have a sneaking suspicion that this year they mean it. They have become great friends with Dr Death over the years and the three of them have been a regular sighting in the Nsefu Sector every August. We will miss B&F!!

This week we have had a new guest, Martyn. Having spent much of his childhood in Tanzania, he now lives in Europe but loves to revisit Africa. This was his first safari to South Luangwa, and I invited him to write something for It’s Monday. So over to Martyn…..

MartynWild Dogs

A trip to South Luangwa promised to be special. That it should prove to be a veritable work of classical literature, comedy, tragedy, murder mystery and suspense was more than expected.
The plot unfolded upon arrival in the park, where in fact the denouement came first, about an hour after landing at Mfuwe. Sixteen years spent searching fruitlessly for wild dogs in East Africa finally had an end with a glorious sighting of the dogs setting off on an evening hunt in the Nkwali area. A bit like reading the last pages of a thriller first – nothing could beat that so why bother reading the whole book. So should I read on, or not….?

Leopard up a tree with its supper It would have been a mistake not to continue – a leopard in a tree with an impala just half an hour later got me back into chapter one, riveted by what was to unfold – (who wrote this story, anyway?) As with the best stories, it started with a body being discovered…..and we returned to the scene of the murder, much like the hyena the following night.

Tracking spoor A morning of suspense was to follow, when at the Bush Camp, we spent the morning looking for a leopard – another one this time. Tracking spoor, puku calls and hysterical squirrels, the crack team of Debs and Ison followed suspect number one to his lair, for a thrilling sighting lasting all of fifteen seconds of an immature male before he took slunk off into the bush. The suspense was very real – a real thrill after an hour or more at breakneck pace through the bush. Thanks Deb and I hope you managed to repair that broken nail….

Lion relaxing After the lord mayor’s parade, send in the clowns! – on our way back from the leopard tracking on foot, we discovered some very fresh lion spoor – and crept up on them to a vantage point where they did not see us at all. How they jumped and ran away when we revealed ourselves – the king of the beasts reduced to a scaredy cat to beat the best of them – sheer tragicomedy to discover what lies behind the regal façade. Ison hooting with laughter is a memory which will stay with me a long time.

A fantastic two days spent in the Bush Camp was followed by Nsefu, a wonderful lodge with wonderful people. I was roped into spotting for the car one day and got to sit right next to Braston, our guide. Got fired from the job about 4 hours later having identified the same beast as, consecutively, an eagle owl, a genet cat and a white tailed mongoose. Daudi was sure that it would have turned out to be a pangolin, had we just waited for a little longer…

Lions feeding after the hunt But I digress from the plot. A well known RPS favourite entered our story, Dr Death, on his last night at Nsefu. Determined to witness murder most foul, he set off with Daudi and myself on an evening game drive, and sure enough, we witnessed a lion hunt from right in the middle of it – lionesses stalking left and right, and the fall guy was as usual, the Puku. What changed this from a boring lion kills puku story, was the fact that we witnessed it using only ears, as it was pitch dark. The sound of calling lions setting off, the almost silent pad of the paws, flying, galloping hooves, a snarl and the death rattle of the dying puku, before turning on the headlights to reveal, in traditional whodunit style, the body, still kicking, and the prime suspects caught, if not red handed, certainly up to their neck in it.

Buffalo A final scene sums up the South Luangwa experience – during breakfast a radio call to tell us of the final battle – (all good stories have a final battle) between the lions and the buffalos. Too far to catch it going on we resolved to drive out and witness the crime scene after the event. This time the buffalo won a famous victory, but the evidence was to be seen by all in the dust, with myriad hoof prints overlaid by unmistakeable lion spoor.

Carmine Bee Eater As with all good stories, this one had to come to an end, (the sequel is being written as I write) – the cameo of the leopard in the gully, tracking impala unseen, or the elephant passing by the lions within ten metres but not catching wind of them. The sub plot of the killer kingfishers making life unsafe for catfish, and the carmine bee eaters, or the Luangwa Strangler, who most story tellers would not give a fig for, the elephants crossing, and even double crossing – all adding to the background setting of a never ending story of life and death in the African bush.

Thanks to all, especially the staff at Nsefu for finding the sister cola, for keeping off the venomous spitting squirrels and pointing out the rare water lion, which appeared in the local trees after the floods of February. And of course, Bwalya, for practising the art of coffee making until he had it down to a tee. This story will have an end, but I am reliably told it is not over till the pangolin makes an appearance….

Martyn

Many thanks Martyn, quite a story to have packed into a few days !
Until next week,

Cheers,

PS – photos are all Martyn’s except for the carmine. Thanks to Doug Mahaffy for the carmine photo.

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