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D69……The Hunt

Blog — By on November 30, 2012 7:58 am

It was difficult to know what to expect. A day hunting with the Kalahari Bushmen. We left at 6 am and crossed over to their village, a 5 minute walk away. The womenfolk were sitting around a fire chatting, with a couple of youngsters. They wore animal skins, were bare from the waist up and sported a red ochre dye on their skin. None were overweight. They had a much lighter colour than we were used to in Africa and almost Asian facial features. The hunters arrived in ones and twos. They were very lean and narrow waisted but quite tall. They carried a mixture of spears, bow and arrows, and knobkerries. They shook hands and welcomed us to their village. They were easy going and friendly. The small band of hunters ranged from 16 to 88 years old, the eldest being in astonishingly good shape.

And off we went. The target for the day was porcupine. We headed South. A motley bunch. The 8 bushmen lead out in a fan formation in leather loincloths, red ochre and shoes made of skins. They foraged and snacked as they proceeded. They would eat nuts on the ground, chew on certain green leaves and pick gummy sap off trees. We followed, with me in a ski boot and Kane leading a donkey in case my foot failed me. George was actually the only one to ride the donkey over the 10km we covered. We travelled for 2 hours checking always for footprints and checking burrows when we came across them. Porcupines live underground during the day. We had a few false alarms until eventually in thick bush we came across a large burrow system with recent activity. And the hunt began.

The eldest and leanest of the group, known as the doctor, crawled head first into the hole where we anticipated that a porcupine may be holed up. All we could see were the soles of his feet as his entire body wriggled into the tunnel. He re-emerged with good news. He was sure it was down there in its den. He repeated the process with a long stick this time, so he could poke around in the chambers. His fellow hunters sat around on their haunches. Suddenly there was a flash of movement as a large porcupine exploded from a different hole and then vanished down yet another entrance back into its lair. It was much larger than we had anticipated. The ‘Doctor’ emerged clearly disgusted with his lazy colleagues and gave them a dressing down for not having been more diligent and guarded the other exits. He looked quite fierce.

The process started again, the Doctor leading. This time all were focussed. He disappeared completely down the hole. He had no protection. He is 88. Suddenly there was shouting and yelling everywhere. The porcupine had charged out of the hole again. Straight at the hunters and some of us. We leapt backwards. They didn’t. They charged in spears lunging. Twice they speared it, then the man with the knobkerrie took over. The animal made a rasping noise, it was partially disembowled by one of the spear thrusts and the thudding sound of the knobkerrie on its body was harsh. It was brutal but quick. The porcupine is a big animal with its quills raised and very quick. But no match for the bushmen. They plucked it, skinned it, gutted it and then split the carcass into two sides of clean meat. They lit a fire using traditional methods and cooked and ate the offal, the skin and the head. We all tried the skin which was, I must say, very edible. It tasted somewhere between pork and tuna, with a little grit from the fire!

And the hunting party returned to the village. They were very upbeat.

These guys are hunters, the womenfolk gatherers. They have lived here for 35,000 years and are still practising the same art. Their life has purpose. They have a real skill and get real satisfaction from a successful hunt. There is little stress in their life. They operate as a team. I do hope that we do not interfere. It is not clear to me that their life is any less rewarding and fulfilling than ours. Just different. J

1 Comment

  1. jean-daniel says:

    Many thanks for the new photos.. The hunt seems pretty amazing..! ..and very interesting the last comment on their life..purpose and less stress! Have a safe trip..