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Day Forty Three – Beamo Grylls, Grills

4th November 2011

sunny 39 °C

Walking along the beach the next morning the bags under our eyes told of a long night interrupted by lots of rain, the noisy Atlantic and nightmares of waking to find the water lapping against Redvers’ doors. Looking down I noticed a fair amount of discarded fishing line and that gave me an idea for a video.

Beamo Grylls. Using only what I could find here in the deserted Skeleton Coast I would craft a fishing rod and line and catch some Cod for our supper. There was plenty of line which I wound around a thick piece of wood as my spool. I found a piece of wire which I then spent an hour filing to a sharp point with my Leatherman before attaching some shells as my sink weight and another piece of wood as a float. The bait was a piece of liquorice. Whilst this may be frowned upon in fishing circles Somers and I have eaten a lot of fish and I a lot of liquorice and we both thought they might like a nice piece of the stuff. I couldn’t help but think it was all too easy. The beach dropped off quite sharply as it hit the ocean but I’d have to be in the water in order to be able to cast far enough with my right arm. I pictured Bear with his team of well equipped fishermen already out catching what would be the fish used in the final shot, I pictured his beaming face fresh from a night in the eighty quid a night lodge and I saw me, crotch deep in cold rough water, holding a supreme 10 or 12 pound Kappeljou Cod, a champion among men, Somers content with her choice of such a rugged male specimen - able to survive anywhere he is thrown. Generally I thought a lot in what was only a few minutes and when I cast my tackle for a second time the line snapped mid flight. Hook, line and sinker into the briny sea. You can’t imagine my dismay. I stormed up the pebbled beach, past a filming Somers, grumpy as all hell.

The day could have started better but we were soon nearing the park gate formulating excuses for how we’d spent two days in the park with no evidence of accommodation. Fortunately for us the gate keeper was preoccupied with a German couple (both boys, and definitely a couple) who had punctured their tyre on the way in.

We were travelling again, and at a fair old rate on the gravel road. As we rounded another corner the brakes slammed on and we skidded to a halt as the plumes of dust that we’d created sailed past us and through the giraffe that were crossing the road ahead of us. Ten of them in all, mooching around like rabbits might on an English common, as wild as is possible nowadays. We took advantage of the break and had lunch and collected some firewood for later on.

An hour later we were stopping again. At one of our river crossings was a herd of elephant playing in the water a hundred metres away from us, twenty five of them from baby to matriarch. We watched for an hour or so. During that time two vehicles came towards us from the road ahead. One was an open backed pick-up (bakkie) driven by a group of local guys who stopped briefly in awe of their local wildlife; the other was an overland vehicle with a couple of tourists in. We hold the latter responsible for what happened a few miles further on.

Somers spotted him first. A little Steenbok, fully grown but none the less small by nature, just lying at the side of the road wide eyed at the approaching Redvers. Steenbok are normally very shy and all too quick to run, but he sat there quietly, watching. We stopped five metres from him. He still hadn’t moved, but he was clearly looking at us. Something was clearly not right. I got out of the car to see what was wrong and only as I got within three metres from him did he attempt painfully to stand and wheelbarrow himself, dragging his hind legs three feet towards the bush. He gave up and, walking up to him, I stooped to stop him going further. I stroked his back as if to calm him knowing full well that he’d never been touched by a human and that his fear must have been pinnacle. He looked like he’d ruptured his abdomen as beneath the skin of his belly was a large soft protrusion, alien to his other contours. I looked at Somers and we knew what would happen next.

I’d struggle to break his neck in one go, I’d already named him Eric in my mind by this point, God knows why, so we had two options, a knife or strangulation. It makes me feel sick even now. My job means I’ve been at the surviving end of many one sided duels with animals. Each one as justified in its own way as the one I was about to add to the list. I’ve had animals in worse pain, owners grappling at their ‘baby’ unable to control their tears and unable to say goodbye but this was wholly different. Both options available were barbaric but I couldn’t deal with strangling something. I took the kitchen knife from the drawer; I knew it was sharp enough. With the sickening feeling in my stomach building even further I walked back towards him catching a resigned glimpse from Somers. Half way I stopped. “This is the right thing to do isn’t it?” I asked, rhetorically. Laura confirmed the inevitable and my reluctant walk continued. I picked him up in my arms and moved him from the road; it would be easier if the scrub hid the unavoidable bloodshed. He bleated loudly. Like a lamb. I’d never felt this awful before. I was trying to imagine what was running through his brain. To my mind he was no longer thinking ‘Predator! Run!’ I’d anthropomorphised him into thinking about how I hadn’t been so scary the first time but asking why I was now carrying a knife?

I placed his body between my legs and holding his chin in my left hand pulled it towards my stomach. He didn’t struggle. The knife was heavy in my right hand, too heavy to lift. I turned to look at Somers. She was looking away. “Hon,” I said shakily. “You’re doing the right thing,” she shouted in reply. I turned back. Sweat was dripping off my brow and my heart was pounding and my stomach was turning, my skin tingled and my head throbbed with every heart beat. I looked at the knife again, I looked at him, his slender neck, his huge black eyes, his little horns and his helpless situation. I muttered the word sorry as I drew the knife, pressing to make sure I was deep. He passed out. I made a second cut to ensure his fate.

As I’ve already said, I never really thought killing something could be so hard, the combination of the Bambi looks with the lambs cry and I suppose the forty degree heat and a tired mind all played their role. But what had needed doing had been done. Now all that lay before me was a carcass. A fresh carcass. I cleaned the blood from my knife and took the hind limbs off at the hip, taking as much of the hind quarter meat as I could. We wrapped them in plastic and put them in our fridge. Nature would look after the rest of Eric as the circle continued. Spike would be proud.

We found a community run campsite at Khowareb Schluct on the Hoanib River. Yet another extremely pretty location with running water and shady trees that overhung us like protective sentinels shielding the still fierce heat of the sun. We had been away for a few nights and it was good to be clean again in a place with plenty of fresh water. But we knew the next part of our trip would be the toughest yet. We’d be spending anywhere between three and six days in the wilderness of North West Namibia, Kaokoland. Although some of the roads were marked as D roads we’d read they’d been built by the South African army when the British had persuaded Jan Smuts and Louis Botha to take Namibia from the Germans in 1914. At best they’d be well marked 4x4 trails. At worst they’d be impassable.

In some bizarre scene reminiscent of days of yore, Mr and Mrs performed their respective chores. Laura aired our bed linen and then sat stitching our torn clothes. I took Eric’s legs out and prepared them, skinning them first before taking the steaks off and two rather large drumsticks. Given Eric’s small stature there was a reasonable amount of meat; almost two kilograms by my estimate. I washed the meat off, salted it, wrapped it and put it back in the fridge.

We lit the fire, drank beers and cider and braai’d steak trying to piece together the days’ events.

Posted by ibeamish 10:36 Archived in Namibia

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Absolutely you did the right thing! Otherwise that poor little buck would have died a lingering and painful death. I can't believe someone would hit the thing and then just leave it there to die....well yeah, maybe I can. Anyway well done and thanks for all the fantastic stories I am loving living vicariously through you wild adventure!!!

by Leslie Shooter

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