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One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 2: Hospitality

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Photo by Joe Riekers

Here is Part 2 of a one-month odyssey accompanying Game Rangers in Africa. Read what these colorful characters are up to as they find out about a problem elephant.

Read Part 1 of the series here:

One Month With African Game Rangers, Part 1: Meet the Rangers

Sleeping arrangements

After all day and night (and no sleep from the flight over) we arrive at a very nice house about 3:00 a.m.

“Wait,” Johannes says as he holds his hand up.

I realize this is his house and I am pretty impressed; it is quite nice. He goes in and closes the door. I figured he was announcing my presence to his family.

After three or four minutes he opens the door and throws a dusty horse blanket and pillow at me and closes the door. I stand there thinking it is a joke but he does not return and the lights go out.

Joe Riekers
Joe Riekers

 

I laid down right there and fell asleep. Suddenly I have an eerie, awkward feeling. Something brushes my hair. Holy wow there is a snake on my head!

I am scared to breathe and figure I am going to die right here! The snake climbs on my head; did I mention I am scared of snakes? I am in a panic.

It seems to last forever, but then I hear the sound of Johannes starting the truck. It is still dark. I pause for a moment listening and feeling for the snake but I don’t sense it. I spring to my feet and look around. Nothing.

To this moment I have no idea if there ever was a snake or if it was a dream.

On the road

Johannes is starting to drive away so I grab my backpack and run to jump in the truck. He does not say one word. I tell him I think a snake was on my head. He cracked a little smile but didn’t say anything.

About 15 kilometers later a ruckous is coming from the left as Klaase’s Jeep burst into the road right in front of us. We follow him along a bumpy, dusty road.

I tell Johannes I want to recover the bullet I shoot, if possible. He says “$20.” I ask What? and he says the locals will dig out every bullet I shoot if I pay them $20 per bullet. I agree.

He doesn’t say anything else for over two hours of driving. We are all over the country, from Lochinvar National Park to Luangwa Valley to Chipengali to Mosi-oa-Tunya. I ask where we are but get no answer, however every once in a while there is a road sign that Johannes points to.

I write down these places on my hand since I don’t have any paper with me.

“Elephant,” Johannes says.

“Where?” I wonder out loud.

He doesn’t say anything else and doesn’t acknowledge me. We cross into Botswana with little fanfare.

We meet Mr. Mtsobek at the Cheetah Conservation Botswana office. He provides some type of map and we are back on the road for two more hours.

We pull into a small village and the locals run up and start pointing and giving directions. I am trying to decipher what they are saying but it isn’t easy.

The Game Rangers have been called because there is a problem elephant that has stepped on a railroad spike. It has been limping and hanging around near the tracks. Two cars crashed at night when they swerved to miss the elephant standing in the road.

It is a small bull. I have no idea what else is said.

The elder villager is clearly asking who I am, and Johannes replies, “Moeite.”

Trouble.

In Part 3 shots are fired and elephants are down. Don’t miss it!

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One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 2: Hospitality