My recent trip to South Africa was partly to do a couple hunts and partly to see what the long range precision rifle scene there was all about and how it could be well served. What products and services were available, what are needed and what just won’t play there. They have their own competitive rifle sports that are very like some of ours but different enough to have special needs. They also have a budding long range precision scene in the more common American influenced sports like F-Class.
Along the way I met a huge number of people: Gunsmiths, Knifemakers, Suppressor Makers, Farmers, Competitive Shooters, Guides, Importers, Exporters, Collectors, Legendary Hunters & Soldiers and 3 of the toughest, most well behaved polite & intelligent teenagers it’s possible to raise in this world.
I took some time to teach a few basic ballistics classes for some friends and we even got down to doing some long range live fire work complete with challenging drills and tests of both bravado and ability. Shots under 500m were there but we focused on shots over 500m and I have to tell you, these guys in South Africa are not fooling around. They’re motivated, well educated and not afraid to spend money if it’s going to return results.
I learned not only what biltong is but how to make it and why it throws jerky straight into a cocked hat. I saw fully 15 species of antelope, along with warthogs, ostrich, cape buffalo, and more. I got to experience what it’s like to be an ethnic super-minority and a chance to learn a little Afrikaans.
Afrikaans is a lot like Dutch but to the ear it sounds like there’s a lot of Hebrew or Arabic language influence with some of the sounds. I found it greatly difficult to understand spoken Afrikaans with my hearing loss eliminating vast wadges of the audio inputs and lip reading it is right out, much like Hebrew and Arabic. I did manage to toss a bit of surprise around when I picked up a book about wildlife which was written in Afrikaans and I started translating it to English on the fly, out loud.
For those that don’t know, modern English decends from Old English with tons of Norse, Latin and French tossed in. This is why English seems to lack a coherent set of rules… there’s nothing but exceptions to the rules it might otherwise have because all the languages it’s based on have different rules. Old English itself is largely descended from Dutch, or a Dutch relative and a surprising number of the words they use are pronounced identically (cheese, bread, meat, beer, blue, etc…) but are spelled in a way that would make Chaucer giggle. Once you figure out how they use vowels and some odd uses of the letter “g” though translating the language to English is almost unnecessary as it’s so much the same as English and the rest you can get from context pretty well. For someone that truly sucks at languages, this was a nice experience.
If you’re thinking of a trip remember that you don’t have to know a lick of Afrikaans to get along. Everyone there, EVERYONE, speaks English pretty fluently if with various accents and sets of commonly used phraseology. All the signs are in English. The retail infrastructure is quite a lot like a mix of European and American. It lacks the number of big box stores and has oodles of smaller more specialized shops (though big box stores are there).
It’s almost like visiting San Diego in a lot of ways, especially in the visual appearance of the landscape. Apart from the racial makeup (who is in the minority) you’d have trouble figuring out you’re not in a city in the American southwest somewhere, other than all the cars are diesel powered and they drive on the other side of the road.
Also, for your first time especially if you’re an American: DO NOT RENT A CAR TO DRIVE THERE. You really need a primer trip where you get driven around first so you can see how the locals actually drive or you most definitely will find yourself in a surprising situation or two and may piss someone right off by trying to be safe instead of polite. If you’ve driven in India you’re probably not going to be surprised as much but otherwise, take the first one with a local driving you around.
Knife made for me by Danie Joubert.
.308 150gn Sierra Game Kings working springbok innards.
Draining blood and guts from my eland.
One of the two toughest little girls I’ve ever met.
My eland on the ground.
Tracking my eland as it walks off to die.
Rough country doesn’t mean you can’t prone out properly.
Filling my guide in on where the eland went to die.
Getting our stalk on.
Africa is as austere a place as it is beautiful.
The tall thin trees are actually aloe’s. 3m tall aloe. Just wow. Never knew they grew into trees!
Authentic South African Boer recipes. In Afrikaans of course.
A braai of livers, hearts and sausages. OMG that was good.
My springboks getting their cool down on.
That’s a happy hunter.
With a poker face carved in stone.
My trophy springbok.
My first springbok.
A landscape that says, “You’re totally alone here. Don’t get injured.”
Outline for a little classroom ballistics session.
It wasn’t a formal class, actually greatly condensed. Still, we wanted everything to look nice.
Sakkie and his bride. A more amazing pair of honest, hard working, kind and generous people I have not met. Only James Yeager comes close (if you haven’t met James, you don’t know him).
It’s winter in Africa. And quite cold and windy.
Landowner warthog trophy.
Landowner bushbuck & caracal trophies.
A caracal trophy.
My impala ram.
My impala ewe.
The buckey (what South Africans call a pickup truck)
Jacques confirming zero.
Black giraffe not 100m from our accommodations.
Johannesburg, SA suburbs. They name restaurants very strangely there.
Teaching ballistics eventually leads to a range session.
Dubai looks cool from the air.
Russia looks greener than I ever imagined it.
Teaching a little ballistics to a few friends.
Cruising through acacia trees on dirt roads. Like being a kid again.
These guys are great people, great shots and great students.
A landscape you just can’t find anymore. Empty of apparent human activity.