It even snows in Africa, Part Five
We watched the herd disappear and then struck out again in single file always moving downward it seemed. We moved on about a half a mile and spotted a large herd of Mountain Reedbuck on the hillside opposite of where we were. We were in the market for a reedbuck as well as the Vaal Rhebok.
We plopped down and began the glassing process, but the small animals had already spotted us and were moving away from us. They were at least 600 to 700 yards away and moving, so we moved on. We were now in the bottom of an extremely deep drainage. We now opted to work our way back up the mountain to where we might find a saddle to cross over to the next mountain over. I glanced back up to where we now had to get to, and it made me shudder.
We began the slow trudge back to the top. There was no talking, just the steady sound of boots moving through the two-foot-tall grass. The sour grass is so thick that it is difficult to maneuver through. It was not easy walking. We were now unzipping jackets and pulling off stocking hats. The heart rate had increased and the breathing had become labored. We were traversing the mountain on an angle.
A half an hour into the forced march, and on the opposite hillside we all saw them at the same time, a herd of five Vaal Rhebok. The tracker and Ockert went to work immediately with the binoculars.
“Get ready to shoot!” Ockert instructed.
I threw my backpack to the ground and dropped down into a prone position and attempted to get the animals located.
“The ram is a shooter and he is the lead animal,” Ockert said. “He is 398 yards but you need to do it quickly.”
I found the ram in the scope but it was moving forward the entire time. In just a few seconds, the small herd was running all out. This was not going to be an easy outing. We watched them disappear and then picked up our gear and once again moved upwards.
To get back to the top required us to work our way up and then drop back down three times. It was becoming laborious. I will note that only Ockert and I were laboring. The two trackers were behaving as if we were taking a stroll on some beach in the Caribbean!
We eventually made it back to the sheep herder’s shack. We had been gone for four hours. I know it sounds crazy, but I was exhausted. It was some of the toughest walking I had ever done. Getting through that grass was a nightmare! Ockert broke out the lunch boxes. I collapsed into a heap onto the ground and began to eat.
Ockert and the two trackers went on the backside of the shack out of the wind and began to glass the distant mountainside. After a few minutes I got up and headed over to see what the situation was.
“We have spotted a nice sized herd over there on that side hill,” Ockert said.
That hillside was over a mile away. I could not even see the herd. Ockert and the tracker went back to speaking Afrikaans to one another. Obviously I had no clue what they were talking about.
“Go back and finish your lunch and lie down and get rested up,” Ockert said. “We are going to have a go at them and it is going to be a very long hike. I am extremely confident we can get up over the top of these and work down to them. They are lying down underneath a rock ledge.”
My energy level just got a boost. I went back and woofed my food down and plopped down on my back. It was soon going to be go time. Ockert soon joined me.
“We have just enough daylight to work our way down to where they are, shoot the ram, and then hike all the way back up here,” Ockert said.
It sounded daunting, but what choice did we have?