Walking with Rhinos In The Path of The Bushmen

Sat with Curt, our guide, as we drove a large open safari truck into Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park. He explained that there are only 10,000 white Rhinos remaining in Africa where there were once 14 million.

Somewhere in the middle of the jungle, we left the truck and continued into the bush on foot. With Curt in the lead, we tracked and found a mother rhino with a 2 month old calf. Very cool but mother was spooked a bit so we only followed for 5 minutes.

Mother and 2 month old calf

As we walked, Curt often stopped to show us medicinal plants and poisons. Always interesting to learn of medicinal uses of the actual plants in nature. He showed us plants for stopping bleeding, stomach ailments, etc..

Curt showing us one of the many medicinal plants in Matobo National Park.

We then unsuccessfully tracked a black rhino and 3 week old.

After lunch, we continued on with Ian Harmer,  whose family  has lived here since the 1890’s and it’s Rhodesia days.

The original Boy Scout Camp donated by Cecil Rhodes to Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of The Boy Scouts

Ian led us up through the bush into the hills and caves with bushmen drawings from 1,000 to over 38,000 years old.

A picture of a giraffe he told me is 26,000 years old. Just incredible.

26,000 year old Bushmen giraffe depiction

Their paints were made with animal bile and urine acids which etched into stone enabled them to last all these thousands of years. And these parts of the animals had no other use.

Further up the hills we reached the top offering a panoramic view of the jungle below. He explained that years ago the San People or Bushmen as we know them, would stand here viewing thousands of animals.

Only 3-5000 Bushmen are left in the world. They only kill what they can eat in one sitting. One can eat 45 lbs of meat in 36 hours or so. They store fat in their asses like a camel stores fat in their humps. They may wait 10 days to 2 weeks before they eat another big animal. Will not save anything as we do as they may die and the food would go to waste.

With tears in his eyes, Ian explained, “A Bushman would give half their water if they were in the desert dying to another as they feel connected to all beings in the universe.

He has observed them when hunting. The Bushman would suddenly pound his chest in a trance and then state where a specific Wildebeest would be in 7 hours. They took their time arriving a half hour early and hid in the bush.  Sure enough the Wildebeest arrived right on time for the kill.

Was a bit nervous taking this picture of the Alpha Male as he was close maybe 15-20 feet away.

Later in the afternoon with the sun nearing the horizon, a few of us followed Ian into the bush and walked with 4 rhinos for a good half hour. Had to be careful as the male was supposedly aggressive. We got as close as 10-15 feet to them and walked with them. Ian made sure we weren’t in between females and male. Need to leave them an out.

After sunset we returned to Burke’s Paradise  Hostel & Campground in Bulawayo. I talked with Ian over beers, enjoying his passionate tales of the Bushmen and Africa. One last interesting fact of the Bushmen he explained, “We think of the Bushmen as desert dwellers. But that was not always the case. A thousand years ago the Bushmen were here in modern day Zimbabwe living in the forests on land plentiful with game. Other more aggressive indigenous tribes and white men over time killed them off, pushing the survivors deeper and deeper into land that no one else wants.

rhinos at sunset

If you are anywhere close to this part of Africa, I highly recommend Ian and African Wanderer Tours.

What an end to a very special day. I love Africa.

A Dung Beetle who thrives in rhino excrement.
Mom with calf

March, 2017

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