A Big Bad Buffalo in Wakkerstroom

Monday 20 August 2018

Sylvia and I parted in Addis Ababa last night, she heading for Singapore and back to work. I arrived in Johannesburg at 4am, checking into the Intercontinental for a few hours sleep. Around noon Linda and Leon picked me up and we drove southeast to Wakkerstroom. I had come here for a day last year after meeting Louis in Sweden a couple of years ago. Louis and Linda run a 16,000 h farm here. The first couple of hours of the drive the land was fairly flat with a few small hills and gullies. There were a number of large coal power plants and the odd mine. Coal trucks clogged the road feeding the power plants, which were never fed by rail. Arriving at their farm I was dropped at the fisherman’s cottage. A couple of paper bags of bill tong (Jerky) on the kitchen bench were much more tasty than any other I have tried. There are nice views down the valley over the tarns.

I freshened up and soon Leon picked me up and we headed into town to the local pub, also owned by the farm. Linda and daughter Lois, Leon and a number of others dined with us at the pub. An ostrich stew was served and was really tasty. Leon’s father was sitting beside me and gave me a great rundown on the history of the area, including the battle at the River Blood in the first half of the eighteenth century, where three hundred settlers fought of thousands of Zulu warriors. There is a monument carved into the hill here celebrating the journeys of the Voor (forward) trekkers who settled this country 180 years ago.

He also tells me of a friend of his who has just had his farm taken a few hundred kms south of here. Everyone is waiting with anticipation as to how the land grab is going to turn out: will this country end up like Zimbabwe or will some sense of reality prevail?
Leon got a phone call: “the blacks have set the farm on fire again”. I offered to go and assist but the offer was firmly declined. Two nights ago when the guys had gone out to fight a fire they had been shot at. Some background:  recently a villager had turned up dead on the farm. The guy was on the farm illegally and may have been killed by a buffalo or some such beast – the autopsy results are not yet available. The villagers are blaming the death on the farm and retaliating by lighting fires. Leon and a couple of others headed off to sort the fire while the rest of us enjoyed a few drinks before heading home.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

I wandered past the old silos,now apartments, and old stables, now being turned into accommodation, up to the main house and office about 8am to meet Leon.

Leon informed me that there is an old rogue sable bull that has become very evasive, breaking through fences and staying away from its kind, that needs to be found. He went on to say some hunters last week spent five days looking for it. He also informed me about a dangerous rogue buffalo that is mine to hunt. More about that later.

We headed east out the main gate for a few km then south across paddocks and up a track into the small hills. We headed up to the top and along a plateau giving us a view below. We stopped and headed out along the hilltop on what may well be a full day of hunting with no result. We had only gone a few meters when we spotted the rogue sable crossing a clearing below, then bedding down in the shade at the bush edge. We could just see the tips of his horns as we stalked closer. Soon he was out of sight as we stalked through the scrub; the wind was swirling and changing direction. He must have winded us and got up to move. Luckily we saw him as he moved behind a bush and as he moved again I was able to take a shot through the scrub having fully identified the target. We raced across the gully and a second shot was required to finish him.

Leon left me and headed back up the hill to collect the landcruiser. We were lucky to get it close enough to winch this fine beast on board so the meat would go to good use in feeding people. We had been lucky but that’s hunting. After dropping the beast off we headed into town to the pub for a relaxed lunch. Louis soon joined us and we spent a great afternoon chatting and catching up.

In the evening we all met in the dining-house-come-bar with Louis and Linda preparing a great meal including ostrich sausage and quail.

Manni and Tony are here from Pretoria working on the stables conversion. Nandus is doing a gap year helping out on the farm. Louis points out a fine looking and once a prized buffalo mounted on the wall. “He was our most friendly buffalo and was killed by his brother who has gone rogue; you’re going after him tomorrow”.

After dinner Leon and Nandus manned the bar while we sat around telling yarns until it was time for bed.

Wednesday 22 August 2018
After a coffee and a chat in the morning a guy turned up who was supposed to bring a large caliber rifle for Leon as a back up gun, but for some reason he didn’t bring it. As we drove out to hunt the beast Leon pointed out where he was stabbed a couple of years ago when confronting a guy trespassing on the farm. I asked what about the pistol he always wears: “I was a cocky young bugger and left it in the truck”. He then proceeded to give me a run down on what to do if we find this buffalo. He will probably charge prior to which he will lift his head – that’s the time to shoot right where the neck joins the chest. If the charge is already underway then you must aim just under where the horns join. Don’t miss as if you hit the horns the bullet will bounce off and remember I don’t have a back up gun! He also went on to say that one of the trackers was attacked by the beast recently, knocked from his horse and quite badly hurt ,only just escaping. “This beast has been hunted quite a few times and on one occasion we were lucky to get out alive when he attacked us in long grass.”

We stopped in to see the rather well-fed, old neighbor. Leon and he had a lengthy conversation in Afrikaans and then he turned to me in a gruff voice and said “are you up to a buffalo boy?” I said “I guess we will find out!” We got back in the truck and Leon explained the the beast had been breaking into his farm and damaging his crops.

We parked up not far from the farmer’s place and headed down to the bush covered creek.

About a km down the creek Leon picked up fresh tracks leading through the bush up a steep gully. We followed cautiously until the bush got thick and too dangerous to hunt in as there would be no time to react if we were charged. We headed out into the tussock and carried on uphill,. Finding a track, Leon worked out it had left the bush and gone across to the next gully. We followed where he crossed through the next gully and then headed down hill. Some fencers were gathered around their tractor for safety as he had come down the hill towards them and gone back in the bush. We headed in on full alert. A yell went up from the fencers; he had left the bush and headed into the next bit of bush. We rushed over hot on the trail. We eventually saw just the top of his back in some thick scrub. He was on the move heading back the way he had come. We ran to cut him off but the cunning beast had bounced back and I saw him briefly through the bush in the tussock then he was gone. We picked up his tracks as he was headed for another patch of bush. We headed over to it and were about 60m away when we heard loud crashing noises. “He is setting up for an attack” said Leon. I could just see flashes of him through the bush, then he crossed a gap in the bush. I pulled the trigger aiming at the front of his shoulder just as he was disappearing again. That was it – suddenly it was all over and the threat was no more. We had tracked this beast over 5kms.

We headed back to the homestead and got some helpers to winch it onto the landcruiser and in no time at all it was dressed and hanging up ready to be turned into sausages. Leon explained that when bulls get old they leave the herd, taking a couple of young bulls with them. Eventually as they start losing sight, hearing and becoming grumpy old men, the young bulls leave them to it. There is a lot of luck involved when hunting, helped in this case by Leon’s excellent tracking skills.

I had used a South African made Musgrave 375 H&H magnum with a big 350 gr bullet on the buffalo and sable. Now we had to cull a couple of injured Bless buck so we zeroed a 6.5×55 before heading out for this task. As the afternoon drew to a close the bless buck seemed to mob up and at one stage several hundred of them ran past us as though doing a PT session. Wildebeest also mobbed up and ran around, the bulls fighting each other as they went. There are in excess of forty thousand wild animals roaming this land, many are sold on each year to restock parks and other places where the numbers are dwindling.

Leon had had a bet the night before that he could cook a five course meal so on dark he was in the kitchen working away, yes he won the bet.

Thursday 23 August 2018
Malibongwe, the tracker who was knocked from his horse by the big bad buffalo, came over to shake my hand looking rather relieved.

Louie took me for a drive to look at his heard of Nguni cattle, bred for this country originally by Shaka Zulu a couple of hundred years ago.

We also checked a mob of sheep, a few of which had four horns, called Damara. They are like many African sheep, quite different to what we are used to in NZ. In fact it’s often difficult to tell the difference here between sheep and goats; one has to look at the tails – sheep’s tails point down and goat’s tails point up.

All of a sudden the stay is over and Linda runs me back to Johannesburg to catch the flight back to NZ .

4 thoughts on “A Big Bad Buffalo in Wakkerstroom

  1. Jo-Anne Hitchcock says:

    Love the look of the house in the first picture

  2. Ming says:

    That’s intense, Roger! ????????

  3. Dave k says:

    This heading should be “Silverback versus charging buffalo” . Great read roger!!

  4. Rosie and Lardy says:

    Great white hunter Roger!! Well done.

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