Never a dull moment
In the African bush many things can go wrong, but a lot of things can go right too.
Iam taking you back to 1969 and the Luangwa Valley of eastern Zambia. The hunting operation, and probably the original “Wilderness Trails” were run by Norman Carr and Peter Hankin. Their hunting concession was divided into six blocks, each with a seasonally rebuilt grass hut-type camp and resident professional hunter.
The field H/Q for the operation, with more permanent-type structures, was at Chanjuzi where Peter Hankin was based, while Norman Carr had a camp in the northern Luangwa Game Reserve where the “wilderness trails” were conducted. Luang- wa North was not open to the general public and there was no infrastructure; it was a real wilderness environment.
During my first season as a professional hunter in Luangwa I had a roving commission; going to different camps when a second professional hunter was required. And so it transpired that I was to rendezvous with Bryan Smith at Chanjuzi whence we would go to Mfuwe, where charters bringing clients from Lusaka landed. We were to meet three Canadian clients who would be hunting with Bryan and myself at Lilundi Camp. Two of them, the Ashtons, father and son, had hunted Luangwa with Bryan previously. Their associate Franc Sutcliffe, on his first safari, would be hunting with me.
As the hours passed without Bryan putting in an appearance, Peter Hankin and I realised that something was amiss. Eventually Peter said that I should leave for Mfuwe as further delay would result in the clients’ charter arriving without anyone to meet them. I left and within a short distance arrived at the junction where the Chanjuzi road joined the north/south road. I hesitated briefly hoping that Bryan would put in an appearance after all and just then his Land Rover appeared from the north.
He had already stopped at one of the other hunting camps en route where he had received some first aid, but was in a gory state none the less: a leopard had jumped him from behind and bitten him in the back of his neck. Fortunately he was able to get the animal off himself after which the leopard disappeared into the patch of tall grass from which it had attacked. Bryan back-pedalled some distance towards his vehicle, which was close at hand, and then as he turned towards the vehicle the leopard came for him a second time; again landing on his back. A front paw came over his shoulder and inflicted a nasty gash on one of his cheeks. Fortunately he was able to dislodge the animal from his back, get into the vehicle and leave the scene.
I returned to Chanjuzi with Bryan. Peter told me to make haste getting to Mfuwe and to tell the pilot to wait so that Bryan could fly back to Lusaka with him and get to hospital. Peter would bring Bryan after rendering some emergency treatment.
I just made it in time to Mfuwe. The Ashtons were rather put out by the news. They had been looking forward to a repeat hunt with Bryan. They were consoled by the decision that Peter would stand in for Bryan.
The clients and I left for our camp while Peter returned to Chanjuzi to make multiple emergency arrangements before coming on to Lilundi. When he eventually joined us Peter told us they had spotted a dead buffalo close to the track from the back of his truck. Closer investigation showed it to be lion kill but not much had been eaten. The lions had probably moved off when I drove past earlier. The spot was not visible from a