Another basic rule of the bush is never ever to walk around at night outside the relative safety of the camp.

The consequences of breaking this rule were tragically brought home to us when late one night a man called Elphas was killed by a pride of lions just beyond Chitwa’s camp. He was employed as a tracker at another lodge to the west of us. He had had the Sunday off and had spent the day at the Djuma staff quarters. Johnson, our chef, had come to Jurie that afternoon to say Elphas had been drinking beer and was a bit worried about how he was going to get back to his camp. Jurie went up to the staff village, told Elphas to sleep over at Djuma, and left it at that. Little did we know that, at around midnight, Elphas had decided to walk to Chitwa to be with his girlfriend. On Monday morning Elphas’s employer phoned to ask us whether we knew where he was as he had not returned to work. His girlfriend was also worried, as he had not arrived at Chitwa, where we had thought he was. On the Tuesday morning Charl was walking near his camp when he came across a piece of human skull and a shoe. He threw up as he realised he was looking at the remains of Elphas and pictured the events leading up to his gruesome discovery.
There was a pride of lions, two lionesses and three sub-adults, in the area. The lionesses seemed to be struggling to hunt sufficient game to satisfy themselves and their growing brood. There had been one or two incidents, a few days prior to Elphas’s death, when the lions had reacted aggressively towards game-drive vehicles, and we had been keeping our distance so as not to irritate them unnecessarily. The tragedy was heightened when the Sabi Sand Wildtuin decided that the whole pride would have to be culled because they would now have learnt that hunting humans was a lot easier than chasing down fleet-footed antelope. The lions were shot and when the post mortems were performed they disclosed that the lions all had pieces of human remains and clothing inside them. We were able to recover a small bag of remains to return to Elphas’s family for burial.
Our dogs, Bingo and Douglas, the latter mentioned above in connection with the guinea fowls, were fabulous companions to have sharing our lives at Djuma. Wherever we went they were close at heel. I have mentioned before that Bingo, many years before in Botswana, had had to be severely chastised after giving chase to a herd of impala. Well, Doug also had one chance to give chase, but he picked on a more threatening quarry: baboons! Jurie and Abel were fixing a pump near Djuma Bush Lodge when Doug spotted a troop of baboons. Bingo knew the drill and stayed close to us, but the temptation to chase was too much for an eager puppy. He took off through the long grass and the baboon troop erupted into a chaos of complaint as he entered their ranks. Jurie realised there was trouble brewing and ran at the centre of the cacophony just as a male troop leader was about to sort the dog out. At the last moment the baboon decided not to complete his mission. However, Jurie finished Doug’s ideas of hunting grandeur by beating him with a branch torn from a bush. Doug turned out to be extremely obedient after that and, together with Bingo, became a pleasure to have around. The two dogs were never allowed on game drives with guests, but always came out with us, and rapidly became seasoned bushwhackers. There was one drive we did with Jurie’s mom and a friend of hers, a lecturer/house master from Harvard University in the United States. We came across a pair of mating lions and stopped to watch for a while. Lion mating is a very noisy affair, with lots of growling and some pretty unromantic overtures – paw slapping, neck biting and the like - between the pair. However, before long both Bingo and Douglas became utterly bored and fell asleep on the floor of the car!
Every now and then the dogs would be allowed to accompany guests to the airstrip, should they be doing an air transfer out of the lodge. Airstrips are very important access points to and from lodges, not only for guests, but for supplies and emergencies should the roads become inaccessible. Due to the remote locations of the lodges, the airstrips also become a convenience and a necessity for quick journeys to and from safari, even if road access is possible. On one occasion they were sitting on the passenger seat up front next to the driver in the game drive vehicle, with no door to afford any additional safety. As luck would have it, we came across a pack of wild dogs, a very rare and special occurrence. The guests and our dogs were fascinated, but not once did Bingo and Doug try jumping off the vehicle.
Once, Jurie tried to take Doug hunting. We had thought that, in the event of a non-fatal wounding of an impala, it may be useful to send a dog in after the tracks to find the animal for Jurie, and so help put an end more quickly to the animal’s pain and suffering, but when Doug heard his first gun-shot - that was that. He became a shivering wreck and refused to accompany Jurie anywhere, ever, if there were a rifle in eyeshot.
We knew the biggest risk to the dogs would be leopards, which have a special fondness for hunting and eating dogs. There are many accounts of game rangers losing dogs to leopard, and we took extra precautions in keeping an eye on ours. However, snakes were more of a worry to me. We suspected Bingo must at some time have had an encounter with a snake, as she used, when walking in the bush with us, to be very wary of suspicious-looking sticks on the ground. She would also immediately alert us when she found the real thing, such as a shield-nose cobra under our bed one night! One evening it was Doug who had a face-to-face meeting with a Mozambiquan spitting cobra. We heard a yelp and he came running towards us with his eyes streaming. We immediately started flushing them with milk and water and kept it up for the good ten minutes needed to sort the problem out.
At one stage Jurie took up archery and crossbow target-shooting to keep himself busy when not performing guest-related duties. When Wally Petersen was up on a visit from the Cape we thought we would go out and shoot some arrows and bolts out in the bush. We were dressed in casual gear – T-shirts and shorts, brightly coloured – and the dogs came along for the outing. Later, when we were returning home along the Kruger/Djuma boundary, the road became quite bad. We decided to hop over onto the parallel Kruger road, some 10 meters into the Kruger National Park’s territory. We had done this before although, strictly speaking, it was not permitted, as the Kruger’s road was used to monitor poaching activity. We were just about to turn off westwards, back towards the lodge, when a group of soldiers in camouflage gear, carrying automatic rifles, burst out of the bush and ordered us to stop. They closed in on us to inspect the vehicle, where the dogs and crossbow were lying in plain sight. In their eyes we were trespassers and suspected poachers. After some friendly interrogation we learned from this anti-poaching unit that some neighbours of ours had been suspected of playing tapes of lion vocalisations to attract lions into their property away from the Kruger National Park. The neighbours were also suspected of hunting impala illegally in the park. It took a lot of explaining to get out of that situation and, needless to say, we were careful about never ever to cross over to their side of the boundary again.


Although the lodge was up and running Tilman still at this time was pursuing the possibility of selling the land if he could obtain the right price. Jurie and I were not keen on this at all, because by then we had worked ourselves to the bone for many months and put other options on the back burner in order to get Djuma up and running. We disliked having to play host to potential buyers and show them around. Representatives of the Sierra Club in the USA were some such potential buyers, who were staying at Gowrie Camp, the Moolman/Ludin family lodge. They had brought their own food along, and Jurie and I joined them for a braai one evening. Begrudgingly we told them about the land and our adventures. While the meat was grilling over the fire Bingo sneaked in and stole their steak. It was all I could do not to laugh outright. In the end it turned out that they were after something larger than the property we had to offer.
Another potential buyer was a very well-spoken Englishman, representing a group of Greek nightclub and casino owners from Johannesburg. This man - let us call him John - told us about his years of living and hunting in Kenya and other places around Southern Africa. John met up with Tilman in Johannesburg to get some more details, as his partners were very interested in buying Gowrie. Tilman did voice some concern to us, as John actually seemed to have very little real knowledge of the safari and hunting outfitters in Kenya, something about which Tilman knew a lot. In the meantime we had also started getting suspicious, as the stories John told us were not that believable. Jurie and I started speculating as to whether John could possibly be the infamous fugitive, Lord Lucan. In 1974 in London, Lord Lucan, a compulsive gambler, had gone into hiding after being suspected of murdering his children’s nanny and attacking his estranged wife with a metal bar. All fingers pointed at him, but he managed to leave England within a day or so of the murder. Since then there have been several sightings of the elusive earl, mostly in South Africa and Swaziland, and some in East Africa. Our suspicions were kept under wraps, as we had no proof at all and John disappeared out of our lives. However, I did later see him on two occasions in Hoedspruit, of all places, and found it very odd that he brushed me off when I went up to greet him! Perhaps we were right and are better off not having had to deal with such a shady character. Perhaps, however, John was totally innocent, and I apologise, should he ever read this, and put two and two together. More than likely Jurie and I were actually looking for some stimulating mind-games to keep us out of mischief while we waited for business to pick up.
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Our African Way