Within a few weeks we had a trailer camera semi-permanently placed at Gowrie. The large dam in front of the camp was bone dry, but, as at Bush Lodge, we daily filled a cement trough with water from a borehole.

The game sightings from that vicinity were good, and it gave Jurie a little relief in that he did not have to move the trailer to other ‘special event’ sightings, like lion kills, unless it was absolutely essential.
However, Jurie decided to do a major conversion on the trailer to enable quicker and easier setting-up procedures when he did have to move it. He knew the biggest problem in this connection was when he had to move between it and the tow vehicle, a process repeated frequently during each rigging procedure. He decided to convert one of our oldest game-drive vehicles, the one named Skedonkie, into a new, improved, mobile camera rig. The game-viewing seats came out and all the equipment, including batteries, transmitters, receivers and spare parts, went in. The antenna was also adjusted in such a way that half of it was up before we even found the sighting we had set out to film. Apart from the seats in the front getting wet during rain showers and the paint work fading in the relentless sun the mobile camera rig worked like a charm. A second vehicle was still needed to accompany Skedonkie into sightings, but only to convey the person who switched the rig on.
Of course, if something can that easily be accomplished, a more complicated scenario must be initiated immediately. Jurie and Graham decided we had to have lights so that the mobile rig could also function at night. We heard about a kill not far from Gowrie and set off with the gennie (the little generator) hooked up to the lighting equipment. Skedonkie was driven into place, but, of course, the noise from the screaming gennie sent the predators packing. The result was a dead kudu in bright, washed-out light, and us watching, and waiting for something to happen. It did. The lights went out as the gennie ran out of fuel! By the time dawn broke the kill had been finished off in the couple of hours between the time when the gennie went silent and the natural lighting became good enough to permit daylight filming. We learnt a good lesson concerning the way animals behaved under the impact of cameras. The noise from the gennie deterred them from moving in to feed; once the gennie fell silent, the animals felt secure enough to feed as normal. We did not feel good altering the behaviour patterns of the animals, which is what happened due to the noise, so new batteries were ordered and installed and kept at the ready for the next special nocturnal event.
Back at home in Gowrie I began feeling I had a life again after the craziness of the past year during which so much had happened: Bingo and Douglas being killed, a baby with a heart problem being born, puppies arriving, hearts being mended, AfriCam being started, and - oh yes - and the lodges continuing to host guests on safari….
I discovered that a computer was more than just a glorified typewriter and, although still only a two-finger typist, I started enjoying skipping around the internet and spending much of my time communicating with the AfriCam community around the globe. Gradually – Rebecca, propped up with pillows on my lap, feeding - I became my own person, someone more than Jurie’s wife and mom to my girls. I was me, and loving it. My ego loved all the attention and it was great having something other than lodge work to do, even if it happened at all hours around the clock.
It was about this time that I ventured into the AfriCam chatroom for the first time. It was bizarre, about twenty people all “chatting” away, in a new language, basically English, but with cyber slang, funny little symbols, bursts of music, etc, thrown in. I probably learned more about computers in that chatroom than anywhere else. Like me, the chatters spent long hours in front of their monitors and popped in and out of chat, an abbreviation for ‘the chatroom’, while watching what the cameras were showing. Most people would at the same time be involved with other work on their computers but how efficiently is anyone’s guess. Chat provided a nice distraction from more serious work, well, for me at least.
The following one night’s sequence of events is best presented as it is recorded in the chatroom logs of the time, (See Appendix for actual chat log from that night). “Ikati” from Johannesburg having happened to have stored the logs, which I only later learned could be done by the click of a mouse. Over the years, whenever I once again read them, I not only find the logs thrilling, but also am struck by the lengths to which we went to gather the all important content. On the night in question Skedonkie was the mobile rig and the battery-operated lights had been installed. We had been filming two lions at a zebra kill for most of the day and well into the night. I was, as usual, in chat at around twenty to eleven when the lions pulled the carcass just out of camera shot.
After many hours of filming riveting action and, therefore great content the mood in the room quietened as the only image updating was now of a floodlit piece of African bush, sans a lion kill. Jurie had been asleep in his bed for a while, and I phoned Graham in Johannesburg, to tell him the lions had pulled the kill out of sight of the camera. I knew I could not move Skedonkie on my own, and needed a bit of encouragement to wake Jurie up and get him to move the camera. Naturally, Graham was all gun-ho and enthusiastic for some more content and he and the chatters spurred me on. Jurie, once awake, was also keen for some more action from a Djuma camera, and obliged us by setting off into the night in his Land Cruiser.
We (Graham, I and the chatters) were all joking around about how dangerous it was going to be, especially as Jurie was going out alone and I was staying behind to be with the children and check the monitor for new images of the kill once the rig was moved. I was light-hearted at that stage: it was easy to be caught up in the fun spirit that surrounded our cyber world in chat. In actual fact what Jurie was doing was really very dangerous, moving about in close proximity to feeding lions in the dark. When reality set in, our mood sobered as we saw slight movements over the internet while Jurie adjusted the angle of the camera. We knew Jurie would be doing his dance around the rig between the two vehicles – Skedonkie and his own – to get all the settings perfect, but unfortunately he had not turned his two-way radio on. About twenty minutes later, with less movement on screen than expected and no radio communications, Graham and I and, to a lesser extent, the chatters started getting worried. I now was worried that Jurie was unable to get back to his own car, and walking – even a few paces – that close to lions at night is a very stupid thing to do. Then we saw a blue screen image on the internet, which meant that power between the camera, rig and base station had been lost. I was really worried by that time, and not at all enjoying this experience in such a public forum as the chatroom. Graham stayed cool. Within minutes the picture was back, and closer to the kill than before. Jurie had once again succeeded in pulling off some awesome content, and viewers were able to watch the lions on their quarry, in thirty-second snatches, for another hour.
Jurie arrived back home just as cool and calm as he normally is, quite unconcerned about the stress he had created among about twenty people around the globe. The images were incredible for at least another hour, but the resulting muscular spasm in my shoulder lasted months.
There were several hundred messages posted on the Boma message board every day, and I took it upon myself to reply to all those relating to the bush and animals, whereas technical questions were mostly answered by Graham, Paul or one of the PC literate people in the chatroom. One day we even got a posting from Antarctica! South African researchers at SANAE (South African National Antarctic Expedition) watched AfriCam from their station and enjoyed viewing their natural heritage back home. There are plenty of South Africans living elsewhere in the world who are becoming hooked on their daily bushveld fix. We also heard that a huge monitor showing AfriCam had been linked up in the London Stock Exchange, and people there were trading amongst scenes from the wild. The AfriCam phenomenon was spreading far and wide.
What with all the excitement and hype surrounding AfriCam Graham decided to have a party - you guessed it - a cyber party! A date was set for what was to be the first “AfriMeet”, which, for a weekend, was to be held at Gowrie Camp. I think about ten actual people turned up, but hundreds took part in different forms – either the chatroom or Boma - from many countries around the world. Confused? OK, let me try to explain. The ten actual or rather real people came to meet each other in real life after having been cyber buddies in chat or on the Boma. They were able to go on actual safari drives and to help move the mobile rig that happened to be on a lion kill at the time. The night of the party we set Skedonkie, aka the mobile camera, up with very bright lights, filming the ten actual people having dinner, while the world watched. With the camera only updating every half minute, we all kept getting up and moving round the table, so that we all could be viewed from all angles. At the same time there were “shifts” operating at the PCs up at my house. Usually two of the actual people were in chat and on the Boma, describing the scene and who was being filmed right then and there. At one stage I was doing the cyber shift up at the house when an AfriCammer with the nickname (or nick) of “Chris-n-Chicago” instructed me to log onto a website. I took some convincing, as I was not all that adept at PC literacy, but, after being persuaded I was not being sent off to some unknown cyber den of impropriety, I did as I was told. As I logged on the phone rang, and when I answered it I found it was him, Chris-n-Chicago! At that moment the images of him at his desk in Chicago were on my screen while his voice was coming to me on my phone. All very exciting in the “you-would-have-to-have-been-there-to-know-what-I-mean” kind of a way. Needless to say, that weekend a huge amount of alcohol was consumed and before long, some of the ten actual people were taking a swim in the cement trough down at Gowrie dam, and also live on the internet.
Possibly even more remarkable on the last night of the two-day party was that the heavens opened and the sweet, sweet smell and feel of rain happened. In the morning the dam was full, as witnessed by hundreds at thirty-second intervals around the globe.


Appendix 1

Kill-Tension – edited AfriCam Chat log as it happened, LIVE and WILD
Chat session logged by Ikati/SA

Session Start: Sat Nov 07 22:38:38 1998
[22:39] hi mouse go to mobile cam there’s a lion on it
[22:39] lion at mobile
oh - i could not make out what it was
[22:39] ok, lions gone...behind a bush
[22:40] THEY’VE GONE DAMN
[22:40] we're debating going out to move the cam!!!!!!!!!!!
that was amazing :) i just got 2 shots before they went behind the bush
[22:40] be careful
[22:42] i say chop the darn bush down....where are the elephants when they are needed
[22:43] cover me pip's goin’ in
[22:43] graham, i'll send jurie........
[22:43] we need to see more lions there ;)
[22:43] pip - good idea
[22:44] graham, we need a remote control cam next....please
[22:48] drinks all round
[22:48] * pip does a group hug for all the amazing people who know what africam is about
[22:48] pip - tell jurie i'm glad he woke me up
[22:49] sure he is sitting next to me surfing the science sites
[22:50] graham, should i ask him to go move the cam a tad to the right?
[22:50] no no no
[22:50] pip - gee i would be a touch nervous
pip - that would be dangerous !!!!!
[22:50] it's up to him
[22:51] fluff he'll have a ranger with a rifle right pip?
22:51] no, chuck that is the problem...rangers are with the guests now
[22:52] hi all! saw my first lion!!! awsome!!!
[22:52] geez he's going....yippeee and oh no!
[22:52] gotta to go that was sure great, you guys should be rich and famous
woooooooooooow pip - big eyes - will he be ok ?????????????
[22:52] batten down the hatches
[22:52] jurie going there?
[22:52] a bit boring tonight (steve lies through his teeth well he would if he could stop smiling) :-)
[22:54] who is jurie?
[22:54] heheh the cam is showing the lions again
[22:54] graham, i hope he has time for one last smile......
[22:55] lol
[22:55] it's stuck a min
oi pip i hope jurie will be ok
[22:55] me tooo
[22:55] me too
[22:55] you see how devoted to africam we are...
[22:58] oh boy, here we go again
[22:59] love /hate thing for africam
[22:59] a tense moment as the intrepid ranger approaches our eyes
[23:00] graham, once he moves the cam, how is to get back to the car? i hope he has thought of that dilemma
[23:00] pip, who is moving cam?
[23:00] yeah, what if the lions decide to have seconds..?
[23:00] Jurie, hubby...that was
[23:01] oohh!! does he keep a sidearm
[23:01] this is scary
[23:01] no, limpit, he hates the hand guns
pippa has the strongest nerves
[23:01] no sign of movement
[23:01] he is dead and eaten
[23:02] ikati, my shoulder is in a spasm actually
[23:02] oh, Pip... don't do that anymore!
[23:02] this has got to get on the news networks
[23:02] the monitor shows movement
[23:02] oh cam has moved
[23:03] i can see his spot light
[23:03] i think the aerial is stuck in the trees
[23:03] I’m going to radio him
[23:04] hheheheh what if the lion comes back i hope he can run fast
[23:05] graham, his radio isn't on...
[23:06] pip - you really know how to make me nervous
hmmm pip - cant make out much on the mobile - hope jurie is ok
[23:06] maybe this was not such a good idea
[23:06] i see his spot light
[23:06] this is dangerous ;(
[23:06] it is
[23:06] maybe he is still in the other car?
[23:06] yeah, holding breath till Jurie is back. Alfred Hitchcock would have loved this.
oiiiiiiiiiiiii
my nerves are not good with things like this hehehhehehehe
[23:07] cam moving again
[23:07] I'm scared
[23:07] Oh, good. It's moving.
[23:07] oh god this is scary
[23:08] what if the lions are still hungry
[23:08] how is he going to get back to his car? graham...
[23:08] is jurie out there?
[23:08] we might have a horrible kill on our hands
[23:08] wow. what suspense this is.
[23:08] pip do me a favor give him a huge hug for me when he gets back
[23:08] Dreamer, don't
pip - lets hope he doesn’t have to sleep in the mobile car :)
[23:08] i think i'm going to be sick the cam has gone black
[23:08] dreamer. this is real life here ok
jenna - there are two lions eating on a zebra - jurie just went our there to move the camera so that we can see what is happening !!!!
[23:09] blue screen
[23:09] jenna the lions dragged their kill off and Jurie has gone out alone to move the cam to the new spot.
[23:09] he knows his stuff
[23:09] gadz
[23:09] he'll be ok
[23:10] I can hardly stand this.
[23:10] pip has he got back up
[23:10] geez he has to be close to his car...
[23:11] he's still got to get away from there
[23:11] river...my nerves are burnt out
[23:11] wow we got it back
[23:12] this is really dangerous having a lion at the kill while he moved the cam
[23:13] he’s back, thank god
[23:13] Jurie is home?
[23:13] oh well done pip and jurie, i can breath now
[23:13] cool you should have him post in the diary about this
[23:13] pip - can you see the vehicles from where you are?
[23:14] this is so awsome ;)
[23:14] pip tell hubby well done
[23:14] no g , some one please make a copy of what just happened
ehhehehe pip - i have a log of this chat
[23:15] Pip next time, go take the distrubutor cap out of his jeep!
[23:15] god, i want to die...the tension, never again
[23:15] wow jurie just jacked up the image quality too
[23:16] would someone send my appreciation to the guy out there he has some guts to go out there and get so close
[23:16] pat on the back for pip
[23:16] graham, he's back as though nothing happened
[23:16] pip - give him a big kiss from me
[23:17] pip ask him if he was really nervous
[23:17] i did
[23:17] was he?
[23:17] chuck, he says - not nervous just careful
[23:18] not a bad evenings viewing
[23:18] graham this is awesome
[23:18] ok graham, we should be satisfied hey?
[23:18] i am now utterly exhausted!!!!!!!!!
[23:18] now that’s content
this is what makes africam the most exciting channel to be in !!!!!!!!
[23:19] geez graham, a hard one to follow
[23:19] pip - yeah a tough one to follow
[23:20] this is the first time i really worried and we have been through some things here in the bush!
[23:20] Wow, really??! No wonder I was scared!
lol - i cant stop laughing from pure stress
[23:20] now shaking actually
[23:21] wow, I feel for you... my husband works in corrections facilities, but is never really in danger of wild lions!
[23:21] he thinks all is just hunky dory
[23:21] pip - it is
[23:22] he could only move the cam 1 car length at a time so that he could get away
[23:22] pip, So is this the same kill that going on right now?
[23:23] this has got to be the world's first internet lion kill..
[23:23] can anyone tell me how to massage this smile off my face it's starting to hurt :-))))))


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

Our African Way