Thursday, October 02, 2008

Done like a wild dog's dinner


You know that scene, Legion of Fans (LOF) in my fourth book, SAFARI, with Michelle Parker and Fletcher Reynolds? No, you filthy minded lot, not the open air bath tub scene, the one where they follow a pack of wild dog (painted hunting dog to my conservation-minded friends) when they're chasing an impala.

If you don't know what I'm talking about then you clearly haven't read SAFARI and have no business being here as there are no pictures of naked ladies wearing gorilla masks on this blog (not yet, at least).

Anyway, in the said scene Michelle takes Fletch in hot pursuit of a pack of doggies as they expertly chase, coral and bring down an impala.

Well, bugger me if that didn't happen to Mrs B and me last night!

We are currently staying at a predator research camp on the boundary of the Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Getting an invite to a research camp conjured up scary thoughts of ragged canvas bell tents and intense young things with too many copper and elephant hair bangles living on sadza, two minute noodles and baked beans.

Imagine our surprise, then, LOF, when we emerged from two hours' bush driving to find a neat row of permanent safari tents with en suite bathrooms, well appointed kitchen (loaded with food and grog, AND a swimming pool! To top it off, as this is an official research establishment we have to go game viewing (with our own private tracker) in the mother of all research vehicles, a lavishly appointed Land Cruiser fitted with every gadget known to man. Best of all, we have to ride around on the (padded) roof.

So there we were, 'researching' this pack of Wild/painted dogs, with Windhoek Lagers in hand (us not the dogs). Two game viewing vehicles full of American tourists were nearby and they were also intently studying the dogs, in between telling each other about the snow in Wisconsin and how one of their sons was studying radiography and had met a nice girl. Another was asking their guide if a rhino was the same thing as a hippo.

But after they could take no more of Africa's second most endangered predator (some wolf thing in ethiopia is the most hounded hound on the continent) they cleared off, leaving us to our beers, peanuts, and important research work.

Being a research 'team', we were allowed to stay out after dark, so we hung around until just on dusk the seven puppies and 12 adults got up and at em. We followed them at a respectful distance as they trotted down the sandy road to the airstrip that services the resarch base and Santawani camp.

Once on the airstrip they assumed attack formation (just like they did in my book, I noted with some relief, as I have never actually seen this happen in real life). The alpha female picked up the scent of an impala and led the way. A couple of other adults branched off as flankers and the chase was on.

Our guide had to put foot (as we say in southern Africa) just to try and keep up with the pack now. Just as we caught up with them Mrs B screamed "on the left" and we say the last death throes of the hapless grass eater.

It was over, literally, in seconds - the killing bit, that was. The pups, interestingly enough, were given first crack at the carcass, and they got stuck in - literally - climbing their way inside the body of what was left of Bambi. Not nice, LOF, but real life ain't.

We watched the whole thing, from start to finish, when the adults came in to clean up all the crunchy bits. A sneaky little jackal came sauntering through the bush and loitered around the site of the kill with intent to steal a morsel for himself, which he did.

Amazing stuff. The skill, co-ordination and effortless teamwork of the dogs; the mercifully quick death (unlike a buffalo we saw killed by lions, which took two hours), and the interesting way in which the hounds divvied up the spoils.

Mrs B and I will not be returning to Australia. We have decided to become researchers and live at our rugged, spartan base in the bush.


ali g said...

sounds like a great place. We're getting restless.
now...down to serious stuff...when do we get the pics of the ladies in gorilla masks?

Java said...

You serious? Not coming back .. or just not yet. Not that I care, we rather come and visit you guys there than in the burbs of Melboure. Suits us just fine!!

Herr Doktor said...

That would have been an experience! Let me know if you indeed going to live in Afreeca and I'll come and freeload.

Heidihi said...

Live full time in Africa - I don't blame you! Forget the next book tour, the LOF's will come and visit you.....

redcap said...

Meh, it's only an impala. There's about a hundred thousand of the things in Kruger aren't there? Perfectly cute, but really only there to keep the grass down and provide food for the dogs and cats ;)

I wouldn't blame you if you didn't come back either. I've been having the most inconvenient dreams about Kruger toasted sandwiches...