Before I go on with the story of getting the lodge further developed I’ll fill you in on some activities, other than the chores, that were principally occupying our minds at that early stage.

When we first arrived at Djuma Tilman Ludin gave Jurie a .375 rifle. We thought this was rather an odd gift for a person who was not in the least bit interested in handling firearms, but the rifle had belonged to Jurie’s dad and Tilman thought it fitting to give it to Jurie. There were, of course, some other more practical reasons for this gift. Jurie was to be in charge of hunting for impala, primarily for staff rations, but also for venison dishes for our guests. Also, during bush activities – drives and walks – we had to have a rifle on the vehicle in case a self-defence situation should arise.
Within a week of arriving at Djuma Abel announced that he and Monica needed meat and, seeing as Jurie had a gun, he should go out and shoot them an impala! A friend of ours, Lance Gewer, a filmmaker, was up from Johannesburg at the time, so he and Jurie began going out together on daily ‘hunting’ expeditions. Day after day passed with no sign of meat for the pot and with Abel and Monica throwing increasing doubt on Jurie’s hunting skills. By the fifth day Lance and Jurie were equally despondent, but upon their way back to the camp they spotted a flock of guinea fowl. Out of sheer desperate determination Jurie fired a hard-nosed bullet from the .375 at the unfortunate bird. Lance described the impact of the bullet as being more spectacular than anything he had ever seen on a movie set! The boys sheepishly arrived back in camp with a guinea-fowl wing to present to an unimpressed Abel and Monica.
We then gathered some tips on quick, efficient impala hunting and the situation improved. We would go out at night, I behind the wheel of the Land Cruiser, Abel behind the spotlight, and Jurie behind a much smaller .22 rifle fitted with a silencer. We found this method to have the least impact on the herd: the animals would stand still long enough to allow an accurate shot. On one occasion an impala jumped straight into the vehicle, which was rather unexpected and very alarming.
Guinea fowl and venison dishes were firm favourites with our guests, but it was not so easy to find enough guinea fowl to supply the lodge’s needs. I decided I would love to have a tame flock of guinea fowl foraging around the camp’s grounds, while at the same time breed enough to supplement our menus. On one of my town trips I spotted a sign that said “Guinea Fowl For Sale” and gave the sellers a call. I was interested to hear that their guinea fowls were a semi-domesticated variety with lovely greyish-mauve colour and white spots; their meat was supposedly more tender than that of the wild variety. I decided that as they were going to be my ‘pets’ looking different from the local species should not be a problem. I had visions of a flock of guinea fowls pecking and scratching around on the front lawn. At night they would be put in a special enclosure Abel made for them.
I bought nine of these guinea fowls, and they actually began laying eggs almost immediately. However, possibly due to their inter-breeding, the adults seemed to have no inclination to sit on the eggs! My dream of a small guinea fowl farm was all but over within a couple of weeks. Genet cats killed them by night and vervet monkeys by day, and Douglas, the bull terrier puppy, also accounted for one of them. Next to the first chalet at Djuma Bush Lodge there is a steep embankment sloping down to a dry riverbed. The remaining three guinea fowl were on their way back to their night quarters when Douglas dived off the embankment and landed on top of one of them. While I was scolding Doug Johnson, our chef, appeared with a huge carving knife in hand and finished off Doug’s work. That night we had a fine guinea fowl potjie. Johnson being determined to cook at least one of the flock before wild predators – or Doug - got them all. The next day we took the last two birds off to Abel’s house in Utah village, about six kilometres outside the reserve, to join his chickens in a more domestic environment. Also we thought the chickens would help incubate the eggs that went on being laid. The final blow came about a week later when some domestic dogs broke into the coop and finished off the last of the birds and the eggs and Abel’s chickens!
An unusual hunting expedition occurred a short while later. The annual game counts had shown that we had a surplus of kudu, and Djuma was issued with three licences to cull three of these antelope. The issuing of hunting licences is determined by the committee of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin and depends on the actual number and species of surplus animals as well as the size of individual farms. It is then up to the individual land owner if he chooses to use these licences or not. Kudu meat is very tasty, being less gamy and more tender than other venison. We decided we would only use one of the licences, because a kudu, being a large antelope, yields a huge amount of meat and we only had enough freezer space to process one carcass.
Jurie and Abel went out during the day and found a small herd of kudu. Jurie aimed to hit just behind the shoulder of a buck and they saw it fall to the ground in some fairly thick bush. They drove the vehicle in to load up the carcass and were amazed to discover that the kudu had a fatal wound in the head! Jurie could not believe he had missed his aim by so much, but, not to look a gift kudu in the mouth, they loaded up the animal and came back to camp.
Not satisfied with what had happened Jurie went back to the place where they had been hunting and walked around looking for any clues as to why his aim had been so bad. Before long he came across a second dead kudu, and this time the wound was exactly where he had aimed to hit, behind the shoulder. He deduced that he had shot two kudus with one bullet, the bullet first going through the shoulder of one kudu, to hit a second kudu, the one they found first, in the head.
The next few days were spent processing boerewors, biltong, roasts, steaks, and stewing packs from the kudu kill. We had to phone our neighbours to ask for the use some of the freezer space in their camps, which they gladly agreed to provide in return for some packets of meat.
Every now and then, between hosting guests, we would have some days free when we could relax into activities that were not lodge-related. We had made friends with Charl Brink, who, as earlier mentioned, was also starting up his lodge, Chitwa. Charl had been joined at Chitwa by his new business partner, Martin. Their lodge was only about two kilometres away from Djuma Bush Lodge, so we saw a fair deal of each other. One Sunday after lunch we went over and, with Martin, had a few too many gin and tonics around the swimming pool. It was great seeing a big male lion come down and drink at the waterhole not far from the pool. Martin, Jurie, and I decided to go on a game drive, but failed to observe one of the first rules of the bush: always tell someone where you are going and at what time you expect to be back! The Chitwa staff thought Martin was with us at Djuma Bush Lodge, and the Djuma staff thought Jurie and I were at Chitwa, and so no one manned the base-camp radios in case we needed to contact them in an emergency.
We set off on eastern Gowrie, not far from the Kruger National Park boundary. Just to the west of Green Pan we came across a pride of about seven lions tucking into a giraffe they had killed. The sun was setting and we switched on the spot light to watch the feast going down. The spot light was plugged into a terminal beneath the dashboard on the passenger side of the vehicle. Between the light and the terminal there was a long cable, which gave one flexibility in lighting up a scene in any direction. About half an hour later we decided we should be going home, but when we tried to start our Land Cruiser we found its battery was flat: we had used the spotlight for a long time without running the engine! This was not a good situation, as we were only about ten meters away from the lions on a grassy plain. We tried radioing for help, but of course there was no one listening out for us. It was not long before the radio signal also died because of the flat battery. By now it was dark, and the only option left us was to push the car backwards a couple of hundred meters over bumpy terrain to the nearby dirt track by which we had come. We knew we would be able to push start the car from there because the track was on a slight decline down to Green Pan. We reckoned the lions would be so focussed on their meal that we could risk getting out to push.
Easier said than done! Not only is a Land Cruiser a ton or so of vehicle, but, as soon as the lions heard us move on the ground, they would shift their attention to us. One young male in particular would get up and start stalking us. We had to keep jumping back into the vehicle, banging noisily on its sides, and wait it out until he went back to the kill. The only light we had was a pocket torch with which we checked up on our pesky pursuer. At one stage Martin, torch in mouth, was pushing at the front bull bar, I was pushing on one side of the vehicle and Jurie was operating the steering wheel and pushing on the other side, when Martin turned round to check on the lion and saw, instead, some hyenas moving in very close to his legs.
We were in a terrible situation. We used the rifle to fire warning shots into the ground in front of the lions. We only had seven bullets, and joked that we would have to save the last three to use on ourselves! It took close on four hours and four warning shots to push the Land Cruiser a few meters at a time towards the track, by which stage it had started raining. Once we got the vehicle onto the track we managed to start it after the third push-start attempt – lions and hyenas hot on our heels. What was I feeling? I was, in the first place, fully aware that we were in a life-threatening situation, entirely due to our own stupidity and lack of experience. Having accepted that, I convinced myself that we were not going to die! I knew we would be very uncomfortable should we end up spending the night in the open vehicle but, most of all, we were all three determined not to panic. To do so would surely have sealed our fate. We learned a good lesson that night, although we remained thrilled by our adventure, which we related to others again and again for months to come.

To read previous chapters of “Our African Way”, please click the following link:

Our African Way