Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 7

The temps are getting seriously cold after the sun sets. Nights are going down to the low 30's and even into the high 20's. This huge weather fluctuation makes it difficult to prepare for the days hunt as you never know how the day will turn out to be. There is no television or internet here, so weather reports are few and far between. The agenda for the day is blesbok. These creatures are very wary and tend to hang out in large groups out in the pan. The pan is a large low area with very little vegetation. It floods in the rainy season to a depth of a few inches on one end to maybe six inches at the deepest point. This is not the rainy season and it resembles a dry lake bed a mile in diameter. The animals stay towards the center for safety and have a commanding view of the entire area. Nothing can sneak up on them without being seen by hundreds of eyes.

The pic below shows what is referred to as the pan. the green area is the part that floods in the rainy season. Although it's hard to tell from the picture, this is well over a mile across.

Our plan is to get dropped off just over a slight roll in the landscape where we can just see the animals a 1/2 mile out. We sent our driver Solomon on a quest around to the other side of the pan. We watched as he approached withing a half mile of the heard and they started moving our way. At first in a mad stampede, then they slowed to a stop as soon as he stopped the rover. Our driver would move forward slowly 10-20 yards at a time and the group would move 100 yards. The blesbok were now strung out in a long line heading our way. Our PH's Jeff and Leon, as well as myself were watching through binoculars. Kyle was watching through the scope of a .300 Winchester Magnum. Jeff was keeping an eye on a particular stag and quietly talking to Kyle as to it's position in the long line of moving animals. When they were 180 yards out Jeff gave the go ahead  to shoot. Kyle sighted in the the front shoulder of the animal and squeezed off a shot. The animal went 50 yards and dropped.

From left to right: PH Leon, PH Jeff, Kyle, Tracker Solomon.

When I asked our hosts why this place is called "Fort Richmond Safaris" they told me..."Because there's a real fort here." They explained that the fort was build by the English during the Boer war. It is actually more of an encampment  than a fort. It was built on a hilltop for for greater visibility and defensive purposes. The walls are just high enough to be able to fire a rifle from and you can still see the ports for cannons. The fort held about 3000 troops and was named after the high ranking officer who had it built (i'm told). When we learned of this, we asked to see it right away. Kyle is a huge history buff and wouldn't miss out on a chance like this.

The pic below shows where a cannon once sat init's defensive position.

We could see our lodge below from the fort.

The stars REALLY come out at night here in the southern hemisphere. This is one of the darkest places on earth according to Kyle. I won't argue that, he's the astronomy major. 
He took this picture just off our front porch. You can easily see the milky way, and it wasn't even dark yet!

This blog wouldn't be complete without a bunch of Kyle's pictures of the heavens...
All of these were taken with his Canon SLR.

Just after sunset. You can still see the suns light low on the horizon. 

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