Man Magnum

Baobab Death


I much enjoyed the Baobab Tree article by Gregor Woods in your February 2020 edition. On page 42 he mentioned the death of a baobab tree, and how quickly the wood disintegra­tes. A few years ago, I went on a hunting trip with a good friend of mine in the Messina area, where I saw the remains of one of these dead giants.

On our arrival at the farm “Caliente” south of the Messina-pontdrift road, the manager, David, who was also our guide, mentioned that he would like to take us out the next morning to show us something that had occurred on the ranch about 12 days before. That was it... he gave no explanatio­n or hint of what it was. David, who was born in that area, was as hard and tough as a Hardekool tree.

My father and my two sons, then aged ten and twelve, accompanie­d me and my friend Gerrie Snyman early the next morning, when David took us out on a ‘game drive’. This was my third visit to the ranch, so I knew the sand roads quite well and I had studied Google Earth and marked my previous hunts (successes) with their yellow pins. I had also outlined the perimeter fence with yellow lines as viewed from above.

I knew there were a few baobabs on the ranch, but nothing could have prepared me for what David was about to show us. He drove around some thick mopane bush, and then the veld opened up somewhat, but the ground was completely white in front of us. He stopped and explained that not two weeks before, this had been a big baobab tree!

Once we had disembarke­d from the Land Cruiser and I looked at our surroundin­gs, I could vaguely remember the tree from our previous visits. David explained that, about 12 days earlier, late one afternoon, there had been a huge cloudburst. (We were there during the first week in December, during the rainy season, and it was extremely hot and humid.) Later that night, he and his wife were awoken by a very loud thumping sound some distance away. Early the next morning, he drove the Land Cruiser around the perimeter fence to investigat­e, but all was in order. Then he started driving in the area from which the noise had come the previous night, and discovered the fallen tree.

After his explanatio­n, we began walking about on the soft, spongy white carpet... similar to what Gregor described in his article. I can remember that we all walked about without anyone saying a single word. Later, as we departed, everyone began talking about the fallen tree. Each had his own opinion as to what had caused it. We suspected that too much rain water had caved the soft sandy soil away on one side of the tree, and caused the old giant to topple.

That night, as we sat around the campfire, I told my dad that I’d had a sad feeling that morning, on the site where the old baobab had stood… almost the same as I felt at a funeral. His only reply was, “Dit was vir my soos dood in die familie, ou seun”. (For me, my son, it was like a death in the family.) I could not have described it better. We never spoke about it again, but for telling our wives on our return.

This article was so interestin­g and descriptiv­e, and I would like to thank you for the diversity of your magazine, and its contributi­ng staff. Thank you, Mr. Woods.

It is not always about the guns, the ammo and hunting, but rather the environmen­t you are in, and all the exciting elements that form part of the experience. Treasure our trees… – Corné Viljoen, Gauteng

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