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Bushcraft Abroad. A True Safari Adventure

Discussion in 'Bushcraft Chat' started by Cavatina, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Cavatina

    Cavatina Extremely Talkative

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    I'm going back a while, in fact back to 1972 when I was invited to an adventure groups introduction to the finer arts in Bush craft, and boy what a weekend it was. I can still remember it, thirty nine and a half years ago, as if it was yesterday. It was a crash course in survival of epic proportions, resulting in one guy losing his life. His death was so repulsive, it will live with me until the day I die. We were all aware of the dangers, but as with any adventure, risks are abundant and tragic events do occasionally happen. Non more so tragic than this one.

    The trip was arranged and spread over five days, allowing one days travel, with three days in the bush, and one remaining day for our homeward journey. Ten of us made the outward leg travelling in four sturdy Landrover jeeps. Filled to the gunnels we had tents, sleeping bags, nets, guns, cameras, food in abundance, drinks to last a life time, and every conceivable tool imaginable.

    It was mid June 1972 and the middle of winter as we left the copper belt mining town of Ndola in Zambia, three hundred and ten kilometres on tarmac road to the capitol Lusaka, then two hundred kilometres of mud sodden track to the magnificent man made lake of Kariba, boasting a length of 226 kilometres and a staggering thirty eight kilometres at its widest stretch, all this water fed by the mighty Zambezi river and held back by the largest dam Africa had to offer, the Zambezi Dam. Feeding power and electricity to most of Zambia and Zimbabwe, this towering inferno almost matched the 7th wonder of the world which happened to be just a few kilometres down river. The Victoria Falls, or as they were locally known, the Smoke that Thunders, and what a sight to behold.

    We arrived at our pre-arranged campsite around thirteen hours after leaving the rising sun growing over Ndola. The journey, was uneventful, the rains had stayed away and a bright winter sun had followed us all the way to the camp, which was some fifteen kilometres from the town of Kariba and neatly situated along side the lake. Dusk was setting in rapidly, only half an hour from sunset to darkness, and all the equipment was still to unload, arrange, erect, and organise. We all set about our pre determined tasks, and with Landrover lights shining brightly, the campsite slowly developed amidst our combined efforts. Camp fire aglow, mosquito nets reassuringly hanging inside the tents, cold bottles of Chibulu the local brew, flowed freely, and with steaks on the spit, everything was perfect. The night sky was crystal clear, with millions of stars never to be witnessed in our western hemisphere, but it soon became uncomfortably cold. With the camp fire burning, and the two unfortunates, who drew the shortest straws, left on guard for their first four hour tour of night duty, the rest of us slowly disappeared into our tents, listening to the many strange noises that encircled the camp. Elephant and hippo all had their say during the cold still night.

    Morning broke to the bustling sound of the awakening camp, timbers being thrown onto the fire, kettles whistling in the breeze, the jovial laughter in anticipation of the coming days bush craft events. The splashing sound of some one swimming.

    The swimmers name was Adam Allison, a terrific guy who would have a go at anything, however, on this occasion anything was not allowed, and certainly swimming in the Kariba Lake so early in the morning was definitely off the menu. Perhaps I should not have used the word menu, because we had all been warned.

    Just at that minute, one of the group leaders shouted so loudly, about one hundred birds cleared the tree tops in an almighty panic. “Get out of the water now” he repeatedly screamed. Then Adam returned the scream, he screamed again, help me, he cried as the water turned into a turbulent bright red colour with all hell breaking lose. Then absolute silence, more silence, nobody moved, the fear on all our faces told the dreadful story. Adam had been on the menu that morning for one of lake Kariba’s most feared predators, the crocodile. It must have been twelve feet long. Crocodiles were a known threat on the edge of the great lake, indeed government warnings appeared almost every where, nevertheless, killing humans was thankfully something of a rarity, until today. At first we thought we had seen him again, still alive, but to make matters even worse what we actually saw was his left leg and part of his hip, It was horrific, of obscene proportions, yet with all the experience we shared, not one moved, no one spoke a word, we stood still gazing at a vast expanse of empty lake which stood eerily calm.

    After what had appeared an eternity, one of the group yelled, what is that in the lake moving slowly towards us. We were all staring, trying to make out what it was we could see in the hazy morning air. One, no two, no three, or was it four pair of evil eyes gazing straight towards our camp. Adam had indeed been attacked by not one crocodile, but a family of four who had finished their feeding frenzy and were now looking for more of the same. Crocodiles are known for their grace in the water, however, on land they are no mean slouch reaching speeds of thirty miles an hour. Before giving these creatures the chance to reach land, there was an immediate panic as the remaining nine members of the bush craft group raced to the safety of the four Landrovers.

    We had all received training, in fact we were all experienced bush craft members with many bush camping trips to our names. Lions, tigers, hippo, crocodiles, snakes, and the many deadly insects had all been studied and survival tactics were well understood. However, no training in the world could have prepared us for the unbelievable tragedy which developed so suddenly on this dreadful winters morning.

    Peering from the safety of our Landrovers, we nervously watched as these four evil beasts emerged from the water and on to the land. They were indifferent to the camp fire, indeed it might as well have not been there. Savagely they destroyed the tents, tearing to shreds the canvas material as if it were made of nothing more than toilet paper. They quickly discovered the food store devouring fifty kilos of prime steak as if it were candy floss. We noticed part of Adam’s shorts on the side jaw of the largest crocodile which was, as we had previously guessed, twelve feet in length. The nightmare was worsening, the crocodiles seamed determined to stay on camp, the frenzy had subsided but they were giving the evil eye to every member of our group. No one dared move. Where are the Landrover keys I screamed to the other members of the group, because there are none in this vehicle I added. None in this truck came the reply from one vehicle, none in here was the response from the third vehicle. The fourth vehicle was empty. I’m sure I left the keys in that empty Landrover came a sheepishly reply from the vehicle furthest away. Any one fancy making a dash for it, came a hopeful cry.

    For nearly five hours no one moved, the crocodiles were basking in the warm winter sun, we were in three groups, four in one vehicle, three in another, and two in the other, all wearily staring at the fourth vehicle with the keys. We slowly began to realise that someone was going to have to make a move for that one Landrover. A ten meter sprint, that’s all it would need, but would the door open, would the crocodiles remain lazily basking in the sun. I was the closest to the Landrover so it was increasingly obvious that I was the idiot on the spot. Without a thought, not even a second breath, I opened the door and sprinted the ten meters as fast as I have ever moved in my life, and never again have I achieved such amazing speeds. The other door opened, the keys were indeed there, and the crocodiles never moved a muscle.

    It was fifteen kilometres to the township of Kariba, and luckily I had moved the Landrover alongside one of the other vehicles and one of the lads jumped across and accompanied me on that long lonely journey. We were both shaking as the reality and seriousness of the situation started to dawn on us. Adam was dead, how could that be. The journey seamed endless but eventually we arrived at the run down and dilapidated building which had the sign above the door, Lake Kariba Police.

    No fewer than twelve police officers escorted us back to the camp site, and all were terrified as they saw the four crocodiles sleeping in the dying sun. A burst of gun fire more than twenty rounds awoke the startled crocodiles who instinctively dived straight back in to the water, A few ripples on the lake, then deathly silence, the predators had gone. The camp was just total devastation, the fire had dwindled out, the sun was ending its day, and the temperature was starting to fall. Nowhere to sleep, nowhere to shelter, and no one was in the mood for another night under the stars.

    It took two hours to file the report, exchange papers, and check passports, and night had drawn upon us. The police advised us against travelling during the night and suggested the police cell in Kariba was probably our best option. Having accepted this unusual hospitality the police helped us clear the camp site, salvaging what little had been left by our unwelcome vicious guests. We left a cross by the side of the lake and in a convoy sadly departed our sorry camp, drifting into the darkness and on to Kariba, it all seamed so unreal.

    The following day we travelled the five hundred kilometres back to Ndola with not a word spoken. Bushcraft is a superb activity, and rarely do situations like this arise, however, even in countries with less intimidating inhabitants, careful planning and preparation is essential. It is the unexpected that can cause difficulties. It is the unprepared who suffer in difficulties.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2012
  2. stephenjames213

    stephenjames213 Technical Support

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    geoff this was a very good read my friend and a very sad story at that,,,like you have pointed out preparation is essential when planing any sort of camping/bushcraft event, 9 out of 10 trips never suffer any sort of difficulties because everything has gone to plan but there is always the unexpected difficulties there laying and waiting to jump up and bite you in the back side..
     
  3. Cavatina

    Cavatina Extremely Talkative

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    Steve, It's the unknown that makes it all so interesting, tragic as it sometimes can be. Geoff
     
  4. Gazo

    Gazo Administrator Staff Member Site Donor

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    Very good read but something I would not want to witness, I bet that will stay with you forever.
     
  5. Cavatina

    Cavatina Extremely Talkative

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    Unfortunately it will, but life goes on even though I can remember it all as if only yesterday. Things like this become part of your make up.