Back to Africa Chapter 2


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Roebuck
August 7, 2007, 02:33 PM
Good eating is not difficult to find in RSA and even in a very small, seasonal and tourist town like Kenton, there was a first class restaurant where again we enjoyed a fine dinner. Regrettably, our accommodation for that night was nowhere near the standard of the previous night, but it was tolerable and since we knew that the next night we would be at Kei River’s Rentons Lodge, it did not seem to matter that much.

Twelve noon on the next day, we were at East London Airport, handing back the rental vehicles. (My vehicle was handed back, full of fuel, no bashes or dings and nothing due to pay since it was prepaid in U.K. However, when my Visa statement came in last week, Europcar had hit it for £57!! No explanation, justification or anything! Beware of Europcar.

Sharyn Renton was there to meet us along with Professional Hunter, Allan Schenk. Andrew Renton had sent his apologies for his not being able to meet us personally, as he was out hunting with two gentlemen from North Carolina. Once all of our gear was loaded on to Allan’s truck or into Sharyn’s Toyota Landcruiser and we were ready to take off for Komga and Rentons Lodge.

There is an adage that whenever one goes away from home, business or vacation, one will always forget something. Well, Paul is no exception to this rule and he had indeed, forgotten his rifle sling. Accordingly, a side visit to East London’s gun store was necessary. This is a family business and we had met one of the sons before, as he is one of the Professional Hunters (PH) that assists Andrew Renton at Kei River Hunting Safaris. Visits to gun stores are never onerous and this was no exception. I think that we all bought something.

Sharyn and Allan then took us for lunch at East London’s best (in my opinion) sea food restaurant and having satisfied the inner man and woman, we left for Komga.

The journey from east London to Rentons Lodge takes about an hour, so after my usual trick of falling asleep before we left East London, it didn’t seem long to me before we were pulling up at the Lodge door. It had been a year since our last visit but when we walked through the door of the Lodge, it seemed like we had never left. It is a difficult feeling to put into words but the atmosphere of the Lodge, the setting, the smells and the real feeling that you are welcome, I guess had never left me, when, after the previous visit, I left them. Memories of hunting past and hunting still to come seemed to fill every corner of the Lodge. You can read about “the magic of Africa” in just about any story about Africa but in this case and for me at least, that magic felt very powerful indeed and the urge to visit again gets more impelling with each visit I make.

The Rentons’ Lodge.

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Since there was still plenty of daylight left, Allan suggested that we take a trip to the firing range, to check that our rifles still held their zero, after their time under the tender care of the airline baggage handlers. On the way to the range, we met Andrew Renton, returning from a successful hunt with the two hunters from the U.S. They had been out looking for a baboon and had managed to get one. Introductions and pleasantries over and having given each other assurances that we would meet up in the bar later, we continued to the range, while the two U.S. hunters, Mike and Don, headed back to the Lodge for a shower. They were at the end of their hunt and were looking perhaps just a little fatigued. Iain took the opportunity our chance meeting provided, to pick up Andrew’s .375 H&H Magnum, which Iain was to use during his hunt and which Andrew had been using that day. Having arrived at the range and having set up a target at a hundred yards, we checked our rifles to find, amazingly, they were still shooting straight. None of us had ever shot a .357 H&H Magnum before and found it an interesting experience and not as daunting as we may have thought.

“Sighting in” over, we repaired to our respective accommodation for a shower and change before meeting up at the bar.

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As usual, I was there first, to be welcomed by Andrew’s father Gordon, who ensured that I had a cold beer in my hand by the time the others started to come in. As the conversation turned, as is almost obligatory, to hunting, we were joined by Mike and Don. In conversation, we found out that Mike and Don were from North Carolina. To say that they were keen hunters is really unnecessary, as anybody who travels to Africa to hunt must be so. I was very interested to meet North Carolina residents as it is a State that, along with South Carolina, I would love to visit and which is certainly on my “Places to Visit List”. As I understand, after the Scottish 1745 Rebellion ended in the disastrous (for the Scots at least) Battle of Culloden, in 1746, where Prince Charles Edward Stuart (The Bonny Prince) and his army of Scottish Highlanders were defeated soundly by the English army, a great many Scots left Scotland to settle in the Carolinas and West Indies. I also understand that there is an area (in which of the Carolinas I am unsure) in one of the Carolinas where folks speak Gaelic, and English with a Scots accent, have Scottish Highland Games, Scottish Highland dancing and enjoy Scottish bagpipe music!! Maybe some kind reader can give me more information, for alas, my two new friends could not. However, again I digress.

Mike and Don joined in with our company and we with theirs as naturally as could be and in the way I have sometimes experienced with fellow hunters, even where language barriers occur (Which did not in this case.). The evening that followed was one of the best evenings of hunting and human camaraderie I have ever experienced and it was sad we were, when Mike and Don left camp the next day, to return home to the U.S. Mike and Don may meet up with us next year, as they intend to return. As a result of this chance meeting, I have an invitation to visit in North Carolina and hope to do so later this year (one more tick on the list) and God willing, will take Mike hunting in Scotland, in September this year.

Mike, Don and Iain share a joke

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Mike and Don had had a most successful hunt and have kindly agreed that I may show some of their hunting pictures.

Here is Mike with a very fine Lion.

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Together with Don and his Lioness, joined by their PH Benton

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And a Nyala

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Don got a Red Hartebeest

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and a super Nyala

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and a Black Wildebeest

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This fellow was caught stealing the beer on the previous hunt!!

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Partying till late is easy in good company and I did stay up a little later than was strictly speaking good for me and 0530hrs soon came round, in fact, too soon came round and a somewhat jaded Scot, stumbled into the shower to wake himself up. That being effected, it was into the cammos and down to the breakfast area for coffee, before loading the kit into the truck and driving some forty-five minutes to the hunting area.

PH Allan’s tracker Msetele loads up the truck

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While Allan (left) and Paul have a second cup of coffee

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Allan, who was the Professional Hunter who would accompany me on my hunt, has been a full time Professional Hunter for the last five years. Now, Allan may look young but do not let the boyish good looks fool you. Here is a PH in every sense of the word. A man who knows his country and the fauna thereon. Allan always seemed to know just where to point his binoculars to find the right animal and when he did, would talk his client (me) on to the selected animal just like getting a “Fire Order” in past military times.

He would then brief me on how he wanted to conduct the stalk, in a polite, quiet and decisive manner, patient when I asked him to repeat any item I did not fully understand. The stalk would then be undertaken at my speed and not the speed that Allan is capable of maintaining. As an older hunter, I am no longer able to move as quietly quickly as I did twenty years before and I particularly appreciated the fact that I was never made to feel rushed or embarrassed when I would have to rest when climbing hills or negotiating a particularly difficult bit of terrain. Allan did his best to try (and most often succeeded) to get me into the shooting position with my breathing rate in a state where I had confidence in taking the shot.

PH Allan, with his Ruger .300 Win Mag

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That first morning, I was to hunt for my trophy impala. I have hunted impala on other occasions, indeed my first hunted animal in Africa, some ten years before, was an impala but this was to be my first trophy impala and was intended to join that first impala on my trophy wall. Arriving at the hunting ground, we met the farm manager, who gave us some information as to where he thought the animals might be and having parked up the truck, I loaded up my rifle and followed Allan into the bush.

The first animals we saw were part of a herd of blesbok, who eyed us up suspiciously as we went by but they need have had no fear on that morning. We had walked for about two hours without seeing any impala, when Allan suddenly motioned me to stop. He pointed up ahead and about seventy yards in front, I saw a young blesbok. As a practice exercise, we stalked up on that blesbok. At fifteen yards, Allan passed me his video camera and he moved forward in an attempt to get close enough to touch the blesbok. In the event, he did get to about ten feet from the animal before it realised he was there. Allan’s parting comment was, “Wish I’d have had my bow”.

Having had no luck in finding an impala, Allan was thinking as to where our next direction should be when his thoughts were interrupted by his cell phone. (No, he didn’t have the ring tone audible, just on vibrate.) It was Andrew, the boss. He and Paul had been out looking for a baboon (Paul likes to shoot baboons) and having located a baboon and taken a successful shot at just a tad under eight hundred yards, was driving along a mountainside track, when he saw a fine kudu bull down in the valley, a goodly distance away. Paul volunteered to give up his afternoon hunt to stay and watch this fine kudu and to follow it until Allan and I could get back to Andrew’s land and stalk this kudu bull.

By the time we had called in to speak with the farm manager and to advise him that we had been unsuccessful in our impala hunt, it took us around one and a half hours to get back to Andrews land. We parked up the truck at the high end of this steep sided and deep valley and proceeded on foot. I do not have a picture of this terrain as negotiating it took all my concentration and my camera was the last of my thoughts at the time. Suffice it to say that the valley side would have been forty-five degrees and just barely negotiable for me. Difficulty was compounded by a mass of thorn bushes and loose rocks. I could hear Allan communicating with Andrew about the kudu’s whereabouts but the kudu could not be seen from our position. We moved some fifty to seventy-five yards down the valley side and then stalked along, parallel to the valley floor, about two hundred yards away. The stalk was very hard for me and at one point I lost my footing and went down on my butt, barking my right shin on a sharp rock. However, the rifle and scope were saved from hitting anything unfriendly and me being full of adrenalin, did not feel any pain till later. So recovering and having assured Allan that I was O.K., we made our way further along and downwards into the widening valley. After what seemed like an age and not the forty-five minutes that it was, we stopped at a fairly sturdy thorn tree with a wide fork that would give me a good shooting rest.

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