A Hot Day

Jan 08, 2021
This is an account of one day of an elephant safari in Botswana, November 2008. This was an extremely hot time of year.

The early morning wakeup call was 4.15 am as we tried to leave camp by 5 am every morning, just as dawn was breaking.  We found tracks at 7 am, after the normal short “Chinese Parliament” we set off. The tracks were of a very large, animal, probably the largest we were to see on this trip.  Let me add that I was following advice and drinking lots in the evening! I always do, but seldom water. I was drinking at least a liter with and after supper and taking another liter to bed which was gone before breakfast. This is a lot of water for me, but no way was I going to drop out due to heat exhaustion. Plenty of juice and tea when I got up, must be good to go.
 
When we left the Land Rover the cooler was emptied into the two small rucks the trackers were carrying, unbeknown to me there had not been enough water in camp that morning as the staff had underestimated our requirements. I also carry a 2-quart US canteen, this enables me to drink whenever I want to without disturbing the trackers concentration, on this occasion I wish I had kept this in reserve.
 
Elephants amble along at 6 mph, Jeff has us stepping out at 4 mph which was fast given the conditions. The only way you can gain on an Elephant in his type of tracking hunt is when they stop to browse, an adult Ellie has to eat for 15 hours a day as they require 500 – 600 lbs of food. They normally stop at mid-day and stand in the shade of a large tree gently flapping their ears. Not us, as the mid-day sun reaches its height our pace quickens and the excitement of catching up increases.
 
After 2 hours we had a 10 min break, Robert and Jeff conferred in whispers, this was a BIG BULL and he was not stopping to browse, why not? Maybe he had heard us, the wind was in our favour, at least what little there was, maybe he was in “Must” a hormone change in males, which has them searching for a receptive mate.  All I could do was dream of giant tusks, but it was hot, very, very hot, I was glad I was travelling very light, but tomorrow I would leave my knife behind (something I will never do again in Africa!) and half my shells to lighten my load even more. How soon will we be catching up with him I asked? Robert replied “Mid-day”, Jeff grinned.  I thought to myself 3 to 4 more hours, I will give this my “best shot” we carried on.
 
By mid-day I was burning up, no breeze, no shade from the noon sun and water almost all gone, I needed a pail of cold water to dunk my head in, but there was nothing, not even a cattle trough. This big Bull had me beat, dreams of taking his ivory home were wilting in the heat. A halt was called at the base of a rocky outcrop, the trackers were sent up to the top to scan the area. Normally, I would also climb up with them but not today. My head felt like it would explode, and my whole body was on fire. I sat on a rock and tried to throw up, the water in my canteen was now hot and I had a couple of swallows and decided to save the rest as the day was not over. I remember that at that point I saluted the old bull which makes me smile as I write this, he was king and not me!
 
The PH’s conferred, I watched a tiny lizard crawl under a rock and wished I could do the same. They estimated the bull was still 1 – 2 hours ahead, it would take us until 5 pm to catch him at the rate we were going, and our water would not last that long. It was also obvious that I was suffering with the first effects of heat exhaustion, the decision was made to call off the hunt. The GPS gave us direction for heading back to the Land Rover, the two scouts heading off separately as they thought they could find water.
 
Time to head out. I was given a fresh bottle of water and Jeff took my rifle, there was shame in that for me, as no one has ever carried my rifle before, and it hurts to admit that but I was very thankful.  Now we took a leisurely pace and stopped every time we passed a shady tree.  The time blurred but after a few hours we came to a couple of native huts and were invited over to them.  We propped our rifles against the fence and walked over, chairs were provided. Set in front us were plastic 5 gallon cans of water, water from the wells in the river and it was the best tasting water I have ever drank. It was hot from sitting in the sun and I tried not to think of the frogs that I had previously seen in the well. I walked over to a small bush, took off my glasses, leaned over and poured a bottle over my head, this hot water hit my head like it was icy cold, within 10 minutes I felt much, much better.  We thanked them and left; I shall never forget that elderly couple. Later the GPS told us we had walked 35 km. Little did I know that by the end of the trip I would be addicted to hunting elephants.

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Keep your powder dry,
Mr. Wolverine

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