Day 1 continued – May 26, 2017
I got off the plane in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and immediately remembered my backpacking years. The airport had the foreign smells of Africa and Asia, the air tinged with curry and other spices. I walked past a prayer area where Muslims were kneeling. All very different. and it reminded me why I love traveling: different is good.
But I’m not gonna lie to you, the flights are long on this adventure. The flight from Toronto to Addis Ababa was over 10 hours and now the flight to Windhoek, Namibia was also longish, about five hours, but who’s counting? Funny thing is, I found it easier than going to Hawaii. I left early in the morning at home, and you get to Addis Ababa about the time you should be sleeping, so I slept well going to Windhoek. I didn’t feel lagged at all. Much easier than I expected actually.
The flight to Windhoek was with a bright blue sky and I got an incredible view of Africa below. It was easy to see from 35,000 feet the stark reality of this continent for wildlife. You could tell the Parks and private hunting concessions as being places where there was habitat. But mostly you fly for hours looking down at an endless patchwork of small farmers fields.
Africa’s economy is driven by susbsistence farming. The incredible population pressure on the land is seen in the need for people to scratch out a living with their hands, leaving little room for wildlife.
I landed in Windhoek and was greeted by one of my hosts for the hunt, Immo (E-mo) Wilckens and an African worker named Joseph. We hopped in his van and headed north to their ranch, Ongangasemba. The drive would be about 2 hours, but it felt like minutes. I was in good company.
I immediately liked Immo. Conversation flowed freely. We spoke of Donald Trump, colonialism in Africa, the history of Namibia, the state of relations between the indigenous and Europeans in Africa, the price of beef and so on and so on. Immo had a worldly, practical and thoughtful view of things. Let’s just say Immo and I see the world through similar eyes.
We went through a construction zone and there were African police officers waving people through. Immo stopped and rolled down his window. “How’s It?” and “Yebo” (Zulua for Yes!) as we left. And this is how it went. We stopped at a Spar Store (Sobey’s, Safeway, etc) for supplies and Immo was holding court in the parking lot and the store. If your’re older than 40, you’ll remember actor Al Waxman in the King of Kensington on CBC, well, that’s Immo. It feels like he knows everybody in Namibia. I thought to myself, “this is gonna be an awesome experience”.
Prosperity had found Windhoek. It was not as I remembered from the 90s. Tons of new buildings and more on the way judging by the cranes on the skyline. But as we left Windhoek, the landscape was so familiar, it felt great to be back.
We rolled north and watched rocky hills and beautiful savannah grasslands and thornbush flow by. Along the way there were Kudu crossing signs. That was encouraging!
We got to know each other more – kids, our lives, our common experiences with cancer and other stuff – and it felt like I was home. Then we pulled off the main road and headed down a gravel road towards a mountain range in the distance, Mount Etjo. I knew from reading the Die Keiler website that Ongangasemba was in the foothills of Mount Etjo so I knew we were close.
We immediately started seeing game, including a herd of Kudu, cows with a small bull. They were beautiful, and huge, elk-sized if not a bit bigger. They had gorgeous chocolate colored hides with striking white stripes down the side. And when they ran they waved white tails like our deer. We saw many warthogs and some oryx as well. The land was full of game. I had the brief thought, “what are we dong wrong at home that the land isn’t full of game like this”.
We got to the ranch and I met Immo’s wife, Almut (Al-moot), a lovely woman. Immo and Almut were raised in Namibia. Their family is now in the third generation of farmers and ranchers of German descent. But they will tell you with pride, they aren’t German, they are Namibian.
Their ranch house and yardsite is lovely. They have beautiful gardens and sitting areas, even a pool. It overlooks a huge watering hole and when we got there, there was a group of warthogs at its edge. Guniea fowl and francolin (cool grouse-like game birds) are running around the edge of the yard. It’s a great place to be.
We sat down to dinner at a long, outside table lit by lanterns. You could hear so many sounds in the fading light, bird calls I didn’t know and other wildlife. Almut brought out supper – oh my gawd – it was to die for. Kudu Roulades on pasta with fresh zucchini and salad. The Kudu was sliced, wrapped around ham and browned, then slow cooked and was melt-in-your-mouth-tender and had zero gamey taste like our deer can at times. The sauce was over the top. I was in heaven.
The plan for the morning was to get up, shoot the rifles and pursue oryx. After traveling for 24 hours, I didn’t go to sleep, I passed out.
For more information on the Die Keiler Hunting Consortium please visit: