Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

A corpse, a lot of blood, and a Chelsea smile

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Back down the river in the bush north of Ruarwe, we found a new splotch of blood on a large rock by the river. This time, it wasn’t from the floods that came spurting out of my finger. Apart from my unfortunate digit, I haven’t called for the medic for many weeks now! On the path we loosely made, more blood makes tracking relatively easy. It’s being spilt in all the places where we might have leant with a left hand when making our way along the river bank. It is relatively fresh (in the last 5-6 hours) and for a few minutes we have all been slightly concerned that we are either being followed by an injured person or that one of us is unaware we are injured. However, the blood is now accompanied by an outrageous stink. There must be a decaying carcass (or corpse) nearby.
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A little further along, in clear sight above our path is a body of a jennet with its throat ripped out. With claw marks down its rib cage, there’s aren’t too many predators that would kill and more importantly, store its prey in this way; a leopard being the main culprit. It has likely been dead (or near death) for more than a day, but it has been hung here very recently.

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The spur nearby seems a bit small for a leopard and the only two other possible candidates would be a serval or the rare caracal – neither of which are famous for putting their kills up trees. It’s fairly conclusive evidence, and along with the scrapings on the base of the trees we saw a couple of days ago (distinctive claw-sharpening methods), there are leopard in this valley. Sherlocking around, we’ve seen plenty of reasons to suspect bush pig and other small mammals are enjoying their surroundings. Leopard, it seems, are hunting successfully and are the king in this part of the jungle. I recently mentioned a silencing purr which occurred in the middle of night, making all wildlife quiet during some interrupted sleep, but due to the hallucinogenic dreamscape I was encountering with some troubling atmospheric temperatures and my ears plugged up, I’m not wholeheartedly reliant on the midnight growl. My mind could have been confused with a nearby serval, a heavily-breathing ape, or it could have even been the Frenchman’s stomach. Now though, a roughed-up, disembowelled jennet with a Chelsea smile in it’s ribcage, hung with a deathly stare across it’s lifeless face, is undeniably the work of a lethal and agile predator. Stalking these forests, it’s comforting news. With numerous cave dwellings that we found where it’s impossible to imagine anything but a big cat relaxing with it’s young, this wild isn’t lacking.

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Camp was made by us a few days ago, so we are familiar with our sleeping arrangements and where to light a fire. It’s a quick set up. The first thing that happens when you light a fire under a canopy is all the bugs drop out of it. Understandably, anything living doesn’t like smoke, and heat is normally a good indication to start evacuating the area. If you want to find out just how much the forest floor crawls with creatures from the Miniature and Beautiful World of Exoskeletons, light a fire.

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I won’t go into the bushcraft of such a fire, but lighting one isn’t always an easy task. I have been around the world where it’s cold and wet, where the material can be damp and soggy and often not even exist. Here though, in this rather dry environment, hatching a few flames isn’t a chore; it’s a hazard. Obviously don’t go lighting any old twig when you’re in the bush. It an important process to make sure both you and your surroundings are safe. Catch the wrong leaf and you could find yourself in the middle of an overwhelming bush fire. Our rather smokeless flames will soon be our stove. If we were cold, we would have our lifeline through the night. However in this environment, we burn as little as possible, and back ourselves away from the kitchen. It’s hotter than the inside of a chicken kiev straight from the oven!

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Thankfully, our basecamp is far enough away from the stinking carcass. We’re all glad of not being able to smell the thing, but also happy that we won’t be disturbing a possibly disgruntled leopard who may want to enjoy her snack alone or with her cubs. There should be no reason for a leopard to bother us in the night. We relax after our day up and down the gorge. I find out more about my jungle chums and although we enjoy some more sugar cane mixes, we take it in turns to check on Matt’s damaged arm. When I say “check”, I mean poke and prod; assessing the pain he is in. It is substantial. Whatever attacked him wasn’t messing around. It was a curious little bastard with some serious skills!
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Where am I now?

After extensive work and tours through Southern Africa, I’m now mainly in Malawi.
Go Untamed Safaris is now up and running.
Between work days and in the rainy season (December to April); I am planning some expeditions and seek out some experienced individuals keen to be involved.
I will be in the U.K. January to March 2018.

For safari and expedition details, please send me a message.

email: info@gountamed.com

http://www.gountamed.com

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