Simba !! Simba !!

Turning to look back at the lioness, I am suddenly aware that the wind has picked up and the stars are no longer visible. There is a lightning flash to our north.
“Storm come, Bwana. Smell like big rain. It come quick.”
“Oh man, Jacob! This area will be one big mess in a hurry.”
“Guess, I’d better sit tight for awhile. Don’t think I better head back carrying that beast in the back of my truck – could get stuck, could get lost. I’ll wait it out. Might blow over, ya’ know.”
“Good idea, Mate. Chuck spun out earlier in a muddy spot. Had to pull him out with my winch. If it starts raining, could become impassable – even dangerous.”
“Well, I vote we let this man-eater get wet and the rest of us go inside and I’ll cook up some grub. We’ve got quite a story to tell you about today. If you stay until morning, you won’t believe the discovery we’ll show you. You drove right passed it after the last waterhole. Tell ya’ all about it inside.” turning to walk toward the motor home. “Care for a little Jack Daniel, or a shot of scotch?”
“Thought you’d never ask. Lead on gents. By the way Chuck, nice base camp. You boys sure are roughing it!”
“Yep, with no clients on this trip, we’re just kicking back and enjoying some vacation time.”
“Of course, with a few man-eaters thrown-in, Mate!”
“Well, every vacation has its bad points, Myles.”
“Yes, and we captured one of those bad points today. We’ve got a story for you Jacob.”
“Can’t wait to hear it. Myles, couldn’t help but notice that your Land Cruiser seems to have some new damage. Is that part of the story?”
“Oh yeah, and I’d better try to cover-up my broken window just in case…”

We are startled by a brilliant flash of lightning. A rumble of thunder rolls around us, as the wind begins to whip and swirl through the trees. Big cold raindrops, begin to fall. The lioness lets out another deafening roar, as the sprinkle instantly turns to a downpour. A clap of thunder booms from almost overhead. We turn to run for the camper. The light on the pole above us explodes from a lightning strike, momentarily blinding us and showering us with bits of glass and splintered wood. Now no light, total darkness. Makali trips and falls over someone. Another clap of thunder, followed by an instant flash of light. Jacob grabs Makali with one hand and carries him toward the motor home. Marble size hail stones are pelting us and sound like rocks slamming the camper. All but one of us reach the motor home.
From five yards away, Benga screams, “SIMBA! SIMBA!”


Surrounded (trapped in camper)

The lightning has knocked out our electricity, there is no light. Myles uses his flashlight and finds the switch to turn on the interior lights. We have light. Using battery power we probably have 3 – 4 hours before it is dead. To switch to generator power, I’d have to go outside and remove it from the storage hatch and fire it up. Not a very safe idea right now. Jacob helps Benga to a seat at the dining table. He is shivering and visibly shaken-up. The sound of hail hammering the camper is deafening.
“Watch your head, Jacob. This thing only has a 6 1/2 foot ceiling. It is too small for five people.”
“Well, thank goodness we could get inside as quickly as we did. Crowded or not, it’s all we have to protect us,” Jacob answers. He starts helping Benga.
In a whisper, “Awabariki, Makali (bless you). Shukrani, (thank you) Bwana Kifaru.”
I reach out and touch his hand, “Wewe ni kuwakaribisha rafiki yangu (you are welcome, my friend).”
Makali simply lays his hand on Bengas’ face and smiles into his eyes.
“Hold still, Benga. I’m afraid this is going to hurt.” Jacob, wrapping his hand in a towel, pulls the glass from his shoulder. It is deeper than it first appeared and is bleeding badly.
“Chuck, where is your first aid kit?”
“In my black duffel bag in the front seat. I’ll get it.” I glance out the side window and don’t see the simba. I hand the bag to Jacob.
“Miles, put pressure on this while I get some bandages ready.”
Jacob rips open a package of gauze and finds the surgical tape. A mighty thunder blast rattles the camper. The cabinet over the refrigerator opens from the shaking and a cup shatters on the floor. We all jump from the noise.
“Sorry, I need to tear your shirt.”
“Ok, Bwana. Asante.”
“You’re welcome. Looks like the bleeding is stopping. Let me clean it first with this antiseptic. You may need some stitches, it’s pretty deep. Benga, I’m making a large gauze patch – now taping it down. Here, use this towel to clean your face. There ya’ go. Good job being prepared Chuck.”
“We always carry a first aid kit. It’s come in handy more than once.”
The continuous illuminating by lightning strikes is like constant flashbulbs going off all around us. This 25′ Iveco Discoverer 4 camper is only 7 ft wide and has windows on all four sides. The windows are 5 feet off the ground. The largest is a double window over the table and chairs where Jacob is tending to Benga. It is facing the wind and is taking some direct hits from the hail stones that are now noticeably larger. The light flashes are almost blinding and the power of the wind is rocking the camper.
“Watch out for the big window, it may explode! Myles and Makali, pick a smaller window and look for the killers.”
“I’ve got this back window, Makali.”
“Me take this one.”
“I’ll take the front windshield,” as I slide into the passenger seat in the cab.
The lightning flashes have slowed to one about every 6 seconds. The rain continues to fall in sheets. Between the flashes, I see nothing from my vantage point but the flooding ground in front of the camper.

“Bwana, big male simba near cage! Cage have much water around, but she simba ok. Now he gone Bwana.”
“Miles, watch for that big male. Do you see “one-eyed” female?”
“No, Chuck. I’ve got nothing.”
“There he is! He’s coming around camper toward you, Miles!”
“Ok. I’m watching. Nothing yet!”
“Bwana, one eye simba! There is one eye simba! She run toward you, Bwana Miles.”
“Yeah, see ’em both. They both just ran by my back window.”
“Got them up here! Now they’re heading back toward you Miles. What are they doing?”
Makali stands and steps away from his side window vantage point. He looks directly at me. (This is only the second time that I have witnessed fear in his eyes.) In a soft but firm voice, “Bwana, simba are circling us. They surround us, Bwana.”
Benga jumps to his feet and yells, “They attack us, Bwana! They prepare attack, Bwana.”
“Oh my God, Chuck. They are searching for a way to get to us!”
“Jacob, my friend, did you bring a weapon?”
“It’s in my truck. I’m sorry!”
“Here, Mate. Take my .375. I’ve got my 12 gauge. If anything happens, it will be at close range.”
“Thanks, Myles,” taking the rifle and facing the other side window.
“Good idea for all of us to lock and load! Benjamin, do you have your rifle?”
“Yes Charles, right here – and it’s loaded.”
“Tranquilizer gun?”
“It’s leaning against the wall, right here.”
“Yes, Charles.”
“Benga – do you feel well enough to hold your rifle?”
“Yes, Bwana K. Me stay near this window.”
“Everyone, we are in tight quarters. Stay alert and watch all sides. Point those guns always toward the windows – away from each other,” screaming to be heard over the sound of the hail hammering the camper.

Turning to return to my post at the front window, there is another booming thunder clap, and the camper seems to almost elevate from a powerful wind gust. There is a deafening explosion from near overhead. I am knocked off my feet and thrown against the wall close to the driver compartment. Benga falls out of his seat and yells in pain. I see Jacob slam into the refrigerator. His impact shakes open the cabinet and a whole stack of plates hit the floor. The interior lights flash off momentarily, then back on. The explosion is followed by a blinding flash of light. The air is filled with sparks and flying debris. Through the front window, I see a large acacia tree engulfed in flames and falling toward the camper.

“Watch out!” is all I have time to scream.

There is a violent crash and a sound similar to a bomb detonating over our heads. The flaming tree slams into the roof of the camper throwing us all to the floor. The three ceiling lights in the front and mid section of camper flash and short-out. A giant limb extending from the tree trunk like a sword, stabs through the ceiling as if it were made of paper, barely missing Benga, breaking the table in half, and planting its jagged point 6 inches into the floor. The large limb must be a foot around and is blocking a clear path to the door. The ceiling has been ripped open and the large acacia limb, still smoldering, is steaming and filling the camper with musty smelling smoke. Rain water is pouring in. The gash is about five feet long and at least a foot wide. I jump to my feet. There are two small lights still providing a small amount of light in the back window area. Remarkably, no one seems to be hurt. Benjamin is standing and helping Makali to his feet. There are several other gashes in the ceiling from the impact, and large amounts of rain are beginning to flow into the camper from these holes. The roof has been crushed down about a foot from the trees’ weight, and the floor is covered with pieces of shattered branches, wet leaves, and chips of still sizzling tree bark. The continuous flood of rain instantly extinguished the flame engulfed tree. I take a step forward and offer my hand to help Myles stand. Before I can reach him, there is a violent collision against the right side of the camper near the door. Myles jumps to his feet and moves toward the side window. “I can’t see! I can’t see! Throw me that flashlight..” – another booming impact to the side of the camper.
“Chuck, Chuck, it’s the big male! He’s trying to get in!” he yells.
“Myles, make sure that door is secure! Jacob, you ok?” I asked.
“Yeah. One of those limbs gave my arm a pretty good cut, but we’re ok.”
“Where’s the female, Myles?” Benjamin screams, pointing his flashlight out the side window.
“Don’t see it – here comes the male again. Oh shit – he just spotted me! Oh my God! Oh my God! Look out!”

Think best we walk quiet, Bwana..

I had everyone pause for a break to show them an amazingly large termite mound. My teaching instinct took over.


“Termite mounds are like icebergs,” I explained, “1/3 above ground and 2/3’s below ground. Some can be 1500 years old. They have a constant temperature of 28 to 30 degrees celsius. They also have a central chimney that can be closed off in an emergency,” I added. “I suggest we view from here, and not get too close.”

“Anyone need a sip of water?” asked Bryce. Continue reading →

I love a parade..

So, with a cloud of dust and a hearty display of great anticipation we started walking to the south. I always have our guests do this “yee haw” as we start our first morning. It’s great fun for me, and I know they get a kick out of it. I also chuckle to myself, we must be quite the scene as we are leaving. This morning there are four of us on horseback, two wranglers walking their camels, one assistant tracker walking to our flank, and Makali leading the way. I love a parade! Our first stop would be the Samburu village which is about a two hours ride from camp. I need to stop and visit with the Chief. Last time we brought a safari to this area was last March. When we stopped at the village, the Chief told us that they had just lost two of their cattle to leopards two nights before. We tried to track them, but it had rained during the night, and we couldn’t find any signs. We would have been big heroes. The Chief and his herdsmen will be a big help. I may even borrow one of their “warriors” for the next few days.

Modjaji means “rain goddess”

I interrupted, “Oh, but first gentlemen, let me introduce our chef extraordinaire, Modjaji. We affectionately call her Jaji. Her name means Rain Goddess in South Africa where she is from. So, Jaji, I believe we must thank you for this needed rain over the last few days. However, we are glad it has ended.”

“Thank you Bwana Charles. I am so happy to be here”, she said in a giggle, as she poured Bryce some coffee.

“Thank you Jaji”, Bryce said.

“Welcome Bwana Bryce”. She replied.

“Jaji, we are hungry and ready when you are”, I said.

“OK, Bwana”. She said.

“Ok Bryce, now gives us that personal resume”. I said.

“You bet. Let me take my first sip of Jaji’s coffee.” he said picking up his cup.

“Man, that’s good stuff”, he added.

“OK, let’s see. I am a retired Colonel in the South African Army. I am originally from J-burg. My wife and I now reside near Nairobi and have 3 wonderful children who are grown and still live in South Africa. I started hunting as a boy and when I retired ten years ago I decided to bring that passion to Kenya. I was one of the assistants to Dr. Charles Henley when he came to East Africa to begin his biology and botany research. He and I hunted together during his spare time and decided to make this a real business a couple of years ago. You may know, his real name is Dr. Charles Henley. We just call him Bwana Charles” he ended.

“Wow, Bryce, has it really been that long?” I added.