From the successor to Ruark and Hemingway comes the most lavishly illustrated, historically important safari ever captured in print.
Peter Hathaway Capstick journeyed on safari through Namibia in the African spring of 1989. This was a nation on the eve on independence, a land scorched by sun, by years of bitter war. In these perilous circumstances, Peter Capstick commences what is surely the most thrilling safari of his stories career. He takes the reader to the stark landscape that makes up the Bushmen's tribal territories. There, facing all kinds of risks, members of the chase pursue their quarry in a land of legend and myth. the result is an exciting big-game adventure whose underlying themes relate directly to the international headlines of today.
In this first person adventure, Capstick spins riveting tales from his travels and reports on the Bushmen's culture, their political persecution, and the Stone Age life of Africa's original hunter-gatherers. In addition, the author explains the economic benefits of the sportsman's presence, and how ethical hunting is a tool for game protection and management on the continent.
Not since Peter Capstick's Africa has the author taken the reader along on safari. In this superbly illustrated book, Capstick returns to the veld with an ace video cameraman and leading African wildlife photographer Dr. M. Philip Kahl. one hundred of Dr. Kahl's striking color photos capture perfectly life and death in the "land of thirst."
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After giving up a career on Wall Street, Peter Hathaway Capstick moved to South Africa, where he became a professional game hunter and acclaimed writer. He lived there with his wife Fiona, until his death in 1996.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Sands Of Silence
The dead dog hung transfixed by a moonbeam. Below it, the knuckles of an elephant loomed in the same yellow light as a full moon eased to its zenith, bathing the scene in golden rays almost as bright as daylight. I tapped Volker lightly for the owl-eye, and pointed it over the top of the black .375 Magnum rifle. It rasped slightly against the dry salt on my cheeks as I focused the device and looked through the lenses. Edged in green, the light it drew was astonishing, each blade of the Kalahari-withered grass as sharp as a sword and each jagged stick of bush plated with the same winter-weary edging. In a silent click, I turned off the battery element and quietly handed it back to Volker. He took it with exaggerated slowness and carefully placed it on his lap without turning his head in the least. Far, far away, I could hear a bushbaby crying on the hot, dry night air, and once there was the closer yap of a black-backed jackal, slicing the cooler wind like a serrated bread knife. From almost a mile away came a quiet cough from the Bushman encampment at Naneh, where perhaps fifty souls lay sleeping by the fires in a swelter of sweat and heat. Certainly they were no hotter than we were, I thought as I eased my bum slightly on the canvas seat of a camp chair inside the blind and collected a black glance from Volker. Above, a satellite drifted as silently as the stars across the gem-filled sky, coming from our left and dying out of sight to our right. I wondered whose it was. Could it really see a golf ball at two hundred miles? Who would want to see a golf ball so far away, anyway? My brain scrambled and I furtively fished out my watch from the little pocket I had always questioned the use of. Ten past one. Good. Another fifty minutes before it was my turn to stare at that fool tree thatmight sprout a monster dog-and-cow-killing leopard. I closed my eyes after a glance at Volker, who was hunkered like a huge heap on the edge of his chair, and was figuring out how to spend all that money from the Pulitzer Prize when I felt it ... . It spoke for itself, a thick, strong grip that actually hurt my upper arm. I knew better than to react, just sliding my eyes open an almond sliver and staring straight ahead. I started to shift forward, but the grip increased along with several damned painful tightenings from the huge hand that had grabbed me. Slowly I went over our signals. One nudge or grip meant that the watcher had seen the leopard on the ground, but there was no change in the sere, sandy northern Kalahari that separated us from the tree. Two squeezes or pulses mean that the leopard was in the tree. No, again. But what in hell did a very solid and sustained grip mean? Oh, my! Maybe snake? We had seen several mambas and caught two puff adders already, but as far as I could see there were none on the floor of the blind, which vastly decreased my sense of immediate foreboding. But what the hell was it? I eased my eyes to Volker's furry face, the moon catching in the silver whiskers of his full beard. He sensed my movement, slight though it was, and tightened with the definite message that I was not to move again. Kee-rist, maybe it was a snake! Oh, unspeakables! What do I do now? I looked again out the small gun port where the custom .375 H&H by Musgrave was supported by twin V-sticks, but saw nothing. The moon streamed down as if it were melting, but I could see nothing. The dog was intact. The elephant meat had not been touched. There was nothing between us and the tree. So what? Quietly, I eased my glance toward Volker. He was staring straight out of my porthole of the tent and bush blind. But at what? I looked again. Dammit, when they built this mother they should have left a clear view instead of letting that blob of branches or whatsis partially obscure my seeing hole! Damn! But then it hit me. The blob had not been there before. What the hell was it? Without looking again, I knew ... . I sat in frozen shock for perhaps a second, at which pointit was time to consider my options. I could see the home papers now: IDIOT HUNTER KILLED IN LEOPARD BLIND! Or maybe BUNGLING BWANA BASHED? Perhaps an upper-class, more niggardly headline would shout, NITWIT AUTHOR INGESTED. Yet, as I stared at the blob about three feet from my nose, I started to get the idea that perhaps Volker and I could bring a weapon to bear before what was obviously a lioness could tear apart the outer tent and kill us. For once I was beginning to agree with Volker that the idea of using tents as blind foundation wasn't so crazy after all. She was no more than a yard away, now that I focused on her. Motionless, she stared in as hard as we stared out. As I am sure Grellmann's brain had done, I went over our arsenal mentally. Let's see ... . There was the .375, but we could never get it off the V-posts in time to get a shot from inside a zipped tent. There was the .470 Nitro Express elephant gun, a side-by-side double out of Famars by Champlin, which was loaded with solid bullets and which would sure do the trick, but it would make too much noise to ease it from its propped-up position in my corner of the canvas. There was always the shotgun, stoked with No. 1 buck, but it was behind me, and the lioness was looking at me from a yard away. Volker had his old .458 Winchester as well as a shotgun, but what he didn't tell me at the time--perhaps he himself had forgotten--was that he had a .44 Magnum revolver that I had never seen, possibly kept in case I didn't pay my bill. I didn't know about the revolver, and all of the other arms were too noisy to move, so I figured we could do little else but look back at what I was sure was an astonished lioness. On second thought, perhaps she had not been able to make out what we were. I certainly hoped so. She was far too close for comfort. But she was close enough to study. She had a strange head, less linear and more blocky than that of the usual lioness, and she had some odd markings on what I could see of her neck, sort of darker splotches in the moonlight. I wondered if she had brought along the family to the festivities, and hoped that she was a lone Jezebel out for an evening on her own. Actually, measuring the predicament, I figured that we could get one oranother of the guns free before she ripped off the tent face. But, then, maybe we couldn't. If she attacked the front of the tent, maybe all the weapons would end up under folds of canvas and we would be left to show and tell. A brace of eternities drifted by without a move from either party when, in an instant, she doubled like a horizontal, greased Indian Rope Trick and faded away to the rear of the tent/blind. Unfortunately, a soft sound of a heavy body in dry leaves whispered like a cobra, and if you strained, you could hear her harsh breathing on the hot night air. Volker took his hand away, and the blood started to circulate in my arm again. There were things over the next two hours I did think of, but sleep wasn't one of them. When we were sure--or at least when I was sure--that the lioness wouldn't come back, I leaned over to Volker and whispered that there was sure no hope of the village-raiding leopard coming that night, what with that lioness around. He looked at me kind of queerly, but obviously had decided to pack it in anyway. After all, we had been hunting elephant all day in what were at least 115-degree temperatures, and to have lasted until 4:00 A.M. was a pretty good showing. That was twenty-three hours of various hunting, after all. He picked up his shotgun, and I heard the nasty metal sound as the safety was disengaged under his finger, and he eased out the side of the tent flap. He had a broad look around while I gathered up more weapons than the D-Day invasion toted and squeezed out beside him. He loomed over me like a strange, golden ostrich over a plover. "Now," he said in his kindliest tone, the one he used with imbeciles, "What's this about lionesses?" "But surely you saw her?" I asked incredulously. "Christ, she was practically a boarder! You mean you didn't see her?" "I saw the biggest leopard I ever saw in my life, but I didn't see any lionesses. Did you think ..." "Naw," I said, mentally scrambling for some arguing space. "I was just asking what you saw. Big one, wasn't she? Uh, I mean him?" "By the spoor alone, he's got to go over eight feet, maybecloser to nine. Ach! The biggest goddam leopard I ever saw ... ." He took the checkered black five-cell torch from my hand and swept it around the perimeter of the opening and then to the ground near the front of the blind. For a couple of seconds it stayed on the dead dog and flickered down to the elephant foot. Then he swept the sandy earth with the beam and gave a low whistle. "Never saw prints like these. He's as big as a lioness, I'll give you that. But look here. No question it was a male leopard." I looked. And blinked. They were leopard pugs, okay. Imagine that the sonofabitch had been too close to shoot! "Maybe from my angle I had a better look at him than you did out of your corner," said Volker, striding off in his usual giant-killing steps to the bush track that led back to the car. "But I'll tell you this--he won't be back again. He's had a good whiff of us. No way he'll come back." It was a long ride home, perhaps an hour, as false dawn gave an odd, ethereal edge to the outlines of the fluttering nightjars, sooty wraiths that flushed from just ahead of the tires. Owls flickered alongside the hunting car, picking up startled mice. We saw the tiny, bloodshot eyes of the main camp at Klein Dobe just as dawn really started trying. Already the camp staff were up in the growing light, starting cooking fires and brewing coffee for them that takes it. Personally, an icy beer would have fulfilled my wildest dreams. And so it did. I creaked from the freezer--which doesn't really freeze anything in the Eastern Bushmanland heat--to our tent, where I gave a rousing Fiona a somewhat-less-than-Hollywood kiss. "Did you get him?" she asked. A single look told her that her boy needed a little bit of head-patting. "Not exactly," I said mysteriously. "I could have taken one hell of a lioness, but she was too close." When the shower water had turned from roan to semi-clear and I had blown the roosting detritus out of my mustache, I wandered down to a nauseatingly jolly breakfast. Even Volker was there, placing a flanking movement on enough eggs and sausage to keep a Bushman clan solvent. Guinea fowl were churring down by the water point, anda lovesick shrike was competing with the weaver birds for notice in an unnoticing world. I felt like something you kick sand over and quietly walk away from. "Let's saddle up," said Phil, obstreperous as ever. "Want to catch these few minutes of proper light." "Yeah," agreed Robert Olkowski. "Let's push off." "Look, why don't you guys go to the game reserve or someplace today? I don't feel photogenic. Run along and play with your lenses, humm?" An egg I had chosen from the fried pile was looking at me quite unkindly. "Hey," said Phil, bright-eyed from a decent night's sleep without my snoring to keep the lions away, "I thought we were here to take pictures of you, Bwana." "Yeah," Roger chimed in. "Do you wanna make this video or not?" I considered the blissful alternative, then thought of Ken Wilson and all his hungry brood. "You mean you want to keep after that elephant we tracked yesterday? Talk some sense into these neophytes, Volker." I put the egg's eye out with a single slash of my fork. It flowed down the white perimeter, orange and injured. "Not for me to decide if you shirk your duty or not," said Volker helpfully. "If you don't want to go out, despite the bucks you are paying, I would be happier in my bed." Nice guy, Volker. What I need is another Volker. "Of course," he said around several bushels of bacon, "maybe this is a hundred-pounder. Who knows until we have caught up with him?" Well, that settled it. I strapped on the ammo belt, snugged down my hat, and went for my rifles. I beat everybody to the hunting vehicle, but it was not discovered until I was a couple of miles out of camp that I was still barefoot.
It was a great year for safari, 1989, considering that I was not a professional hunter anymore. In June, I had gone with old pal Mick Arsenault of Dallas--at the time--and frozen my nevermindoff for two weeks in a steel rondaval on a Namibian ranch while Mick collected two excellent gemsbuck, the giant southern oryx, as well as taking a left and a right on bull kudu. Now, what do you say to a guy who has doubled on two excellent kudu? Right. Nothing. Not hunting big game, I was loath to climb the junior Himalayas on the Gobabis ranch, but had a wonderful time with a tame Bushman named Fritz hunting dassies, rock rabbits, or hyrax, whatever you want to call the woodchuck-sized critters that seethe through the most inhospitable cliffs of south-central Namibia. I also had some of the finest birdshooting of my life in company with Mick and Gary Haselau, another old friend, shooting (at) the very fast and very thirsty Namaqua sand grouse that are in the millions in the area. I developed a recoil scar on my right shoulder that will follow me to the crematorium, and I will show it to anyone who asks how the birdshooting is in Namibia. We shot at a couple of the few water holes where the sand grouse drink, and there were so many birds that we didn't beat them up very badly at all. Of course, there are bag limits, but they are generous. After a while, we only shot at birds that would fall into a specific circle of twenty-five yards, if that gives you some idea of the shooting quality. After my trip with Mick--garnished with the beauty of Cape Town and its seafood--I had a twenty-one-day trip called the Dunn's Celebrity Safari, which took place in Botswana with Gordon Cundill's firm, Hunters Africa. The idea was that I would host the clients from their arrival in Johannesburg until their departure, which worked out very well. Among the hunters were Dr. Bruce Melrose, who mostly hunted with my old buddy George Hoffman, John and Mary Dicken of Tennessee, who have become old pals, and Frank Stallone, brother of Sylvester. John Northcote, who arguably holds the greatest tenure of all practicing professional hunters in Africa, hunted John and Mary Dicken to a terrific collection of trophies, whereas Gordon Cundill Hisself floated through the safari going out, as I did, with Frank Stallone, Bruce Melrose, and the Dickens. Actually, it was a bang-up trip, and everybodytook lion--or could have--Frank Stallone deciding that he really shouldn't kill his birth sign despite long tracking of three superb, platinum-maned males, which were finally caught up with. Peter Hepburn, one of the best professional hunters I have ever seen, took Frank under his wing with Tony Colagreco, a Californian restaurant entrepreneur who was along to observe. The problem was that the Celebrity Safari finished up on September 23, and I was to go to Windhoek and Bushmanland in the very early hours of the twenty-fifth of the same month. Yet, thanks to Fifi, all clients--now friends--were properly accommodated in the Sandton Sun Hotel and seen off. Incidentally, if you ever come to South Africa, I recommend you choose a "fringe" hotel, as the downtown area of Johannesburg has become positively dangerous with street crime. Dr. Phil Kahl had arrived,...
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