Wild Times: It even snows in Africa, Part Six
I would have just as soon stayed on the ground for an hour, but after about 15 minutes Ockert gave the signal that it was time to move over to the next ridge.
Once upon the top of the next ridge over, we would begin the trek down to the herd. I still had not even seen the animals but I really did not even need to. I just followed along blindly.
Once again in single file we made our way to a rendezvous with a Vaal Rhebok ram. It is amazing how fast one can travel when heading downhill. I had to admit that more than once I stole a look back to where we had to go to get back to the sheep herder’s shack. In about 35 to 40 minutes, we stopped to have a group discussion.
“I think we have gone down the slope far enough,” Ockert said. “See that rock ledge over there?”
“I am pretty sure that is where the herd was lying,” Ockert said. “We will work over that direction and have a peek over that rise.”
The pace now slowed down to a step by step progression. We had to cover a distance of about 300 yards to get to the lip of the drop-off to where this band of animals was supposedly lying. We slowly made our way over to the lip. Off to our right rose a rocky cliff that had a ledge of rocks that ran down and in front of us.
We eased up to the spot where the ground began to drop off steeply. We glanced to our right and to our left. Nothing. I could tell by the puzzled look on Ockert’s face that he could not believe that the animals were not there. We all moved up together into a group and waited to hear Ockert’s prognosis.
“I just know this is the spot where those animals were resting,” Ockert said.
I have to admit that in my mind I was thinking as to how Ockert could have picked this spot on this huge mountain from as far away as we were over an hour ago. The terrain all looked alike to me with numerous rock ledges and cliffs. All I could think of at that moment was how far back up this mountain we would have to go to get back home.
As we stood there scratching our heads in wonderment, Ockert moved ahead of the group about 50 yards. He was now standing on the edge of the great abyss. I could tell Ockert was upset. He wanted this animal more than I did. I glanced over at Ockert. Suddenly he dropped to the ground like he had been shot!
He was frantically waving at us to get down. We all dropped to the ground immediately. I watched Ockert raise his binoculars to his eyes. Within seconds, he looked back at us and gave us the thumbs up sign. He was looking down and slightly off to our right. He began to crawl back to his left toward a rock ledge to rise up from the grass. He was now sitting upright and glassing.
In short order, he gave us the sign to move forward on our bellies. I have to admit that my heart was up in my throat. The two trackers and I began to crawl forward. When we had crawled about 25 yards, he motioned for us to stop.
Ockert continued to glass off to our right. He then gave a hand signal that indicated that there was a ram in the bunch and that he had a good set of horns. He motioned for us to just stay where we were, and he began to move toward the herd on his belly.
The wind was in our favor. It was blowing from our right to our left and away from the Vaal Rhebok herd. I don’t know how many minutes passed, but it seemed like a long time.
We were lying there waiting for Ockert to tell us what to do when off to our left came the strangest sound. I cannot even describe to you what it sounded like, but it was obvious that it was some kind of animal.
Since the types of animals living up here are limited to Vaal Rhebok and Mountain Reedbuck and we had Vaal Rhebok right in our lap, I figured it had to be more of the herd we were sneaking up on.
Once more the bleat-like sound came from our left. Suddenly it dawned on all of us that there were more animals off to our left and the wind that we thought was in our favor had now given us away. I glanced at Ockert and he had a panicked look on his face.
Suddenly he just jumped to his feet and began to move quickly toward the herd off to our right and all the while frantically waving for us to come down to where he was. I jumped up and began to trot to where Ockert was now setting up some shooting sticks. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew the next few seconds were going to be crucial.