Did you know Duff Gifford? He came with me on a number of hunting trips. On this occasion he was assisting Alan Lowe and I on a hunting trip in the Nyakasanga area of the Zambezi Valley. We had three American hunters on that trip, Joe Colvin, George Bezeckny and Doug Parker. Believe me it was never dull when these guys were in Africa.
We hunted buffalo for bait as both George and Doug were hunting Lion. As the Lions were not being co-operative we had time to do some plains game hunting. One morning we were all sitting on a high bank overlooking the Zambezi floodplain just above an ox bow mud pool left by the annual flood of the Zambezi. We were about 200 yards from where we had set a Lion bait for George. We noticed that there appeared to be a dead Hippo in the pool which was covered in dense water lilies. The carcass was apparently being fed on by fish or something because it had some bobbing movement every now and then. The head was hidden by the lilies but for sure it was dead. What a find, with George’s Lion bait only 200 yards away, all we needed to do was get a rope on the carcass and drag it with a Land Rover to the bait tree and we would have what Duff referred to as a ‘Grenulch’ which is in effect a pile of meat in various stages of decomposition. Duff, being the junior member of the guide team was tasked with carcass retrieval. We left Duff with Mahlambe, my faithful right hand man, tracker, skinner, terrorist, mechanic, driver, part-time cook and the most amoral black man east of the Atlantic. The rest of us left to go hunting.
Duff, being one of those devil may care types, simply discarded his pants and waded out to the carcass with the plan being to cut a slit in the hide, attach the rope and he would have the carcass out in a jiffy. So with Mahlambe holding one end of the rope, Duff waded out into that murky stuff to the hippo carcass bobbing about obviously being fed on from below by fish or heaven forbid a crocodile. Reaching the rear end of the hippo carcass he took a good hold on his Puma knife and with all his weight behind it, gave it a full blow to penetrate the hippo hide which is very thick. The blade went in all the way and the Hippo erupted – full of life! It had only been sleeping!
Duff said later that as far as he knew there were only two people in history who walked on water and he was one of them! Mahlambe wisely abandoned the rope and took off and to add insult to injury when Duff arrived at the Land Rover, covered in mud and grime with his eyes out on stalks, Mahlambe laughed so hard that he wet himself. When I got back to camp I walked past Duff’s tent where I was told he was taking a nap and when I asked in passing how the carcass project had gone, he grunted from inside the tent some malevolent very explicit expletives that indicated to me that things had not gone exactly according to plan…