When we first arrived, Ron Goatley, MD of Wilderness Zimbabwe, took us out and showed us the concession and the main roads. We all know that main roads in the bush look absolutely nothing like main roads at all. They look like bush roads that are bumpy and windy and look exactly the same as one another. In fact, I could just be driven round in a massive circle and probably wouldn’t know my way back to camp.
But on Thursday, it was our turn to ‘fly solo’. As Mike has guided for many, many years, being in the bush is so natural for him and it didn’t take long to get the feel for where we were heading. So we set off for Madison Pan which is on the way to the airstrip and then to the second pan past the airstrip, with the intention of landing up at Broken Rifle Tree.
Everything in the bush has a story behind it. So you can imagine the intrigue about Broken Rifle Tree. Whichever way you think about it, it doesn’t sound good. Once upon a time, way back in the day when the concession was first secured by Wilderness; Ron Goatley, Brian Worsely and Duncan Edwards were scouting the area and took a rest under the tree to ponder. Duncan decided to get a better look around so he climbed up the tree. Although Brian told Duncan exactly where the riffle had been placed, Duncan managed to jump down from the tree, straight onto the rifle and break it. And that is how the pan got its name.
When we got to Broken Rifle Tree, there was nothing happening. It seems if you just settle down in the shade of one of the trees there, something will happen. And it did. Elephants started to file out from the bush across the pan. Two bulls: one old bull and one Askari. In elephant terms an Askari is a young elephant bull that hangs around with an older elephant bull to learn about life. The word is derived from Arabic and used in many ways, but most usually it means “soldier” and was used in central African colonies where local soldiers served with European colonial troops.
It was like watching theatre: elephants enter stage left; elephants enter stage right. Baboons everywhere filling in the gaps and from front left came three beautiful sable antelope. Birds also came in to drink: lots of yellow-billed kites and an African hawk-eagle. It was a pantomime – which is always fun.
When the show was over for us and we had enough magical footage, we left to find the road to Davisson’s Camp. Mike was delighted with his first video footage as it seemed to look good for a first attempt. Lots of exploring and learning ahead!