View Full Version : And I guess...that's why I go to Africa (LONG)

Hammock Parties
08-10-2005, 09:35 PM
This guy frequents a forum that I visit, he just returned from Tanzania on the 8th. In spite of his last remarks, his Westley Richards is now for sale.

Pierre slowly signaled for me to come abreast of him and when I arrived he cupped his hand to his ear and begin to listen intently. A four letter word then hissed from his lips and I turned my head towards him in askance only to see him staring intently into the thick bush just ahead. Following his lead, I the studied tightly woven grass right before us and saw his cause for concern. The two tawny rear legs and the round belly of a lioness was barely visible about 15 feet away. Both of us slowly raised our rifles.

I was on the third day of a ten day hunt in the Selous, enjoying a few days of 1x1 hunting for buffalo with my old friend and P.H., Pierr'e van Tonder. I'd gotten into some really exciting and close up encounters with buffalo the first two days, but had no success putting everything together. After spending most of the early morning driving around in the Land Cruiser without results, upon the trackers recommendation, we drove to a dry river bed to check the sandy soil for tracks, hoping that a buffalo or three might have decided to wait out the midday heat in the shadows of the thick vegetation on both banks.

We arrived at our destination about 11:00 a.m. and parked the safari car in the shade and walked down a steep hippo trail to the white sand. After only a few hundred yards of travel down the winding koronga and fighting the powdery footing below, I was drenched in sweat and suffering in the 90 degree heat. Buffalo hunting isn't always fun. I was already breathing hard.

Twiga, the Masai tracker, suddenly froze. I then heard branches snap and the unmistakable bovine bellow of a buffalo up on the bank. It didn't sound very far away at all. We scrambled as quietly as possible and listened some more. Again and again, we all heard the characteristic grunts and groans of a herd slowly feeding along in front of us. Soon, we began to find dung, still green and wet. My pulse quickened and my focus became more intent. Pierr'e turned and made sure I was carrying my rifle, a vintage Westley Richards .450/.400 double. "Keep up," he whispered and,. "We're really close" were the only and unnecessary words that he'd say for about 20 minutes as we slipped along, both following the willowy Masai. We often stopped and scanned the shadows for the black shapes of buffalo, and occasionally saw movement but couldn't determine gender, much less the quality of a possible trophy.

Then it happened. As described in the first paragraph, we were only a few feet from a lion whose intent was the same as ours and that was killing buffalo.

I gave an involuntary shiver when, although unseen, but closer than the length of an F250, a buffalo bellowed. The lion before us sprang and there was a tremendous whack of flesh on flesh just to the right of me. I couldn't tell if the lion had hit the buffalo, or the other way around, but within a second or two, the harpies of hell broke loose.

The tremendous thunder of hundreds of buffalo hooves were all around us. Lions growled and roared. The thud of hundreds... no... thousands of pounds of bodies colliding was seemingly contentious. Twiga had moved just to our rear and Pierr'e and I were back to back... and I silently thanked God that he shot left-handed. His .500 Jeffery was at his shoulder and my double at mine..

The thunder got infinitely louder and a cow and a full-grown calf came around a large clump of brush and headed directly for us with a lioness only inches behind them, swinging deliberately with her left front paw at the left flank of the mama buffalo. I could easily see terror in the eyes of the cow and cold deliberation in the coal-black pupils of the pursuer. The cow had a huge part of its ham ripped from it and its nose was spraying blood like a garden hose.

Before either Pierr'e or I could even react, all three animals saw us and skidded to a stop, a distance we later stepped off at seven paces. Pierr'e whispered to take a buffalo if they come an inch closer and I told him that I'd take the buff on the right... I guess we just prayed that the lion would flee at the shot. I don't remember why the buffalo seemed the greatest threat, but I clearly remember that it was.

And then I could feel Pierr'e become steel. "On the left..", and somehow, still keeping my attention on the two buffalo and the lioness in my sights, I saw a full-grown killing machine's head and shoulders appear only a couple of feet below the up raised rifle barrel of the Professional Hunter against who my spine pressed. From a slither like a snake, she never gave us a glance and sprung for the calf. I'll never forget that leap. From almost under our feet she had no trajectory in her flight, but just powered straight at the animal, hitting it full on, spinning upon contact and attempting catch the nose within her powerful jaws. She succeeded and wrenched the calf's neck almost off its body as she dug her claws into the horribly moaning buffalo.

When the lioness under Pierr'e feet had jumped at the calf, its mother had valiantly lunged at the oncoming blur but missed. As a byproduct of her attempt to save her calf, she caused the lioness behind her to miss in its simultaneous attack from the rear, all this resulting in a blurry and bloody tangle of two lioness and two desperate buffalo in a tornado of death immediately before us.

As if a time out whistle had blown, the lions just let go of the prey and the temporarily reprieved buffalo stood only inches away from their attackers (and only feet from us). I could see the gore-covered heaving chests of the lions. Their teeth were bared. They purred a terrifyingly gentle r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r. Both cats just sat on their haunches for ten or so seconds and gathered strength, it seemed. And then with a look that said, "I know you're there", they turned their stares to us and squared their shoulders in our direction. I was so damn close to the "right" lioness that the round bead on the front sight didn't even cover the entire bloody nose of the animal I had targeted. I began to very deliberately pull the trigger. I had had enough.

A millisecond before the sear broke, the buffalo took the opportunity to spin away and the chase was on again. "My" lion was after the calf this time and she whipped her paws at the retreating legs of the animal and ripped at her hams with teeth that seemed as long a those of a saber-toothed tiger.

What the hell! Three additional lions that we'd never seen flew past us just missing Twiga who was at our rear. Later he told us he'd seen them within yards, crouched in the shadows, but figured there wasn't a damned thing we could do about them with all the hell going on in front of us.

Both the wounded buffalo tried to get up a steep hill, but with the damage already done and the harrying of the lions, couldn't make it up and over. They turned and came charging back directly at us, only to be turned to my right by another lioness, yet unseen, until she professionally performed her blocking tactic. I'd never seen her even thought she first appeared only the length of a good trout rod from me. I aimed at the hole in her ear until she completed her task when the buffalo turned back and bayed against a tree trunk. By this time, if full view, we could count six lion, one or two, juvenile males... but big as hell... as they all fanned before us and made a semi-circle around the screaming buffalo.

The lions had it figured out. The two in the center just awaited the inevitable while the other four began to slide to the sides and rear of the buffalo.... again, all this no further away than the length of a fairly "makeable" birdie putt. Twiga tapped me and pointed to our right side. A fully adult male, albeit with only a thin mane and a still yellow nose was slipping through the brush with a path that would go over my shaking feet. I signaled to Pierr'e that I wanted to give way.

Pierr'e grabbed me by the shirt and pulled".. Still back to back, we moved away from the oncoming lion who alternately glanced at our retreating figures and back at his prospective dinner. He was pretty well stove up, and we latter figured that the initial contact had been a successful, if temporary bashing of this big guy by one of the buffalo in the herd.... but who knows? Thankfully, he made his way into the circle of lions and let us retire to where we now had twenty yards of comfort. Whoope.. Twenty yards. Think about it.

For the first time, I took my eyes off of the lions and buffalo to assess a path up the hill and to relative safety. Pierr'e, angry as hell, said, "Don't you dare take your eyes off of them". I complied.

As if on a signal, the lions again attacked and all the animals, the killers and the prey, thundered in a cloud of dust and flying blood down toward the dry river bed. Ripping, tearing... all taking their turns in perfect time. I was in awe.

Pierr'e, Twiga and I didn't speak or move for maybe a full minute, still expecting another lion or tiger or dragon or Viet Cong or T-Rex to come out of the bushes at us. Then we heard the plaintiff death moan of a buffalo... a short pause and the sound of a single buffalo galloping madly away from us through the brush and the whip of the grass as the lions followed..

We looked where we had stood during the majority of the incident. Blood was all around where our feet had been. We looked at our britches... we were peppered with tiny specks of red. Our legs wobbled. We want to sit down, but were afraid to do so because we didn't know if we'd be able to get up. We began a stupid giggle and the game scout and assistant tracker who had witnessed the whole thing from the immediate hillside, joined us... We all jabbered, no one paying one bit of attention to the other...

Finally, we began to all tell our stories to each other..... stories bound to be embellished some as time passed, but right then.. It was real and we couldn't lie to each other. Pierr'e, Twiga and I had bonded as brothers... it was the most exciting time I had ever spent in my life...
I didn't just witness the Cadillacs of Killers in action.. I had been a part of it. I didn't see it on television or even sit in a safari car and watch it from a distance. I had blood on me. It was primal, basic, perfect, raw and the scariest damn thing that man may be able to walk away from.

And unlike Francis McCumber, I, in Pierre's eyes, had passed the test....

And I felt pretty darn good about that.

We carefully backtracked to the vehicle and I tried to eat lunch. I threw up my guts when I took the first bite.... And then thought a little more kindly about the dear deceased Mr. McCumber. My reaction was just took 15 minutes longer than his, I guess.

I've been to the mountain top, it seems. I loved every frantic second and I wanted it to last forever. I wanted the Westley Richards to thump against my shoulder when the lion took one more step or the buff lowered her head to charge. I felt strength in my brothers' back and pure joy in their laughter afterwards. And the memories are mine until I die... burned into my brain as sure as a brand.

And I guess that's why I go to Africa..