Friday, May 21, 2010

Guide training with the Map's Edge guides

By Richard Knocker
Guide Training – as ever, a double-edged sword. On the one hand, with so much to do, finding the time to take two weeks out of everyone’s schedule is always a problem. But then again, once out there I am caught up once more in the camaraderie of it all; the one time in the year when we all get together out in the bush, sharing ideas and learning lots of new stuff. Guide training is really fun.

This year, we headed out to Ndarakwai, a lovely private game ranch at the foot of Kilimanjaro, a couple of hours from Arusha.

My particular task was to head up the firearms training. Quite a hefty responsibility, given the need to make sure that the guides and scouts who are carrying a rifle, can actually do so safely and responsibly and that they are comfortable and good enough to take control in the bush. But we usually manage to have some fun along the way.

So off we tramped into the bush one day, with our rifles – and an old truck tyre. I wasn’t quite sure whether this was going to work but I needed a decent hill to find out. We found the perfect place in a remote corner of the ranch. I explained what we were trying to achieve, and then we rolled the tyre up the slope and… let it roll back down again towards where we stood in a small clearing at the bottom. There were some disbelieving glances and a lot of nervous laughter, for this was about as close as we could get to facing up to a charging buffalo without actually, err… facing up to a charging buffalo.

We had two hectic days of this: a couple of our number would toil up the slope, dragging the cursed thing into position, where it would be held in place by a Heath Robinson stick-and-a-piece-of-string trigger mechanism. Tug the string, and our ‘buffalo’ would come bounding down the hill. The trick was to try and get 2 good shots off – and then dodge it. Please trust me, this last bit is important: you would not want to be in the way of a 30kg tyre doing 40kph!

Like I say, we managed to test our abilities and have some serious fun while we were about it.

With the shooting bit out of the way, we devoted the rest of our time to practicing approaches on big game. There are usually some ellies to be found on Ndarakwai and luckily there were two or three herds around most of the time, this year. Things were spiced up a bit by the presence of an oestrous cow with some big musth bulls vying for her attentions. I’m glad to report that nobody was trying to get too close to them on foot, as things were just too unpredictable.

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