Tracking and double tots at Samara

Rangers are like the cowboys of a game reserve with their game viewing vehicle as their steed, a cap rather than a cowboy hat and bino’s at their side in the place of a revolver. But what about the dude sitting on the bonnet jump seat? Is he the Tonto to our Lone Ranger? Who is the guy with the thing in his hand that looks like a tv aerial? What is he supposed to do? Why does he get a prime viewing seat and I’m sitting in the back?

Setting off on our afternoon game drive at Samara Private Game Reserve outside Graaff Reinet, the guy on the mentioned seat was Elroy “Klippers” Pietersen. Eyes like a hawk, memory of an elephant, patience of a hunting leopard, intensity of a lion, endurance of a buffalo and ears of a rhi … Let’s not insult the man, his ears were covered by his beanie on this chilly winters afternoon. But I’m sure they were scanning like two satellite dishes.   
  
Elroy is a Samara man, born and bred. He was born on one of the farms that now make up Samara, and has been part of the team for 18 years. He started off in the maintenance department and in 2019 he graduated from the Tracker Academy and now works full time at Samara as a tracker.

As I was saying. We set off on our afternoon game drive with Klippers swinging around his tv aerial and giving our Lone Ranger instructions on where to go. It wasn’t long before he pointed at the female cheetah having a dos under a bush with her springbuck kill nearby.

As the ranger gave us instructions on how we were to conduct ourselves while approaching her on foot, Klippers said something to him and disappeared down the road. Wait what? On foot in a big 5 game reserve. Did he take a gun? Maybe he did, or not. Suddenly I moved him into the Chuck Norris category in my mind as well.

While Klippers went off to who knows where, we enjoyed the cheetah sighting from about 20 meters away. What an unique experience and not something one gets to do every day. After we had our fill of cheetah, we went off in search of more animals… and probably Klippers.

We found him literally kilometers away. This guy must be like a tank. He keeps going and going and going and he didn’t even look out of breath. I heard him mention the word Ndlovu and knew what we were in store for. It’s ellie time.

It wasn’t long before one of the reserve’s bulls came swaggering up the road and past us to the waterhole. What a sight!

We watched him drink his fill and its here where we were reminded again that elephants actually throw the water into their mouths and don’t blow it in with their trunk like you see them do in cartoons. The reason? Have you tried blowing through your nose and swallowing at the same time? I rest my case.

Mister Elephant finished up at the waterhole and moved off. Not sure if he was going to meet up with his buddies or going out to find some girls. I did get another pic of Klippers on his jump seat showing that it doesn’t sit in anybody’s pants to be so exposed out on the front of the vehicle’s nose.

With the elephant gone it was time to dismountdisembark… get off the vehicle to stretch our legs and enjoy sundowners. You know, watch the sun go down and wash the dust from out throats.

This was where we learn another of Klippers’ special talents. Pouring gin and tonics. Those who asked for single gins just got a sideward glance and this was when we found out that in his book there is no such thing as a single gin. That side of the measuring tool doesn’t work. Double tots all around!  Now there’s a man who knows how to satisfy his guests.

How could I not grab a picture with Klippers after all that? Oh and chatting to him I became a distraction and he nearly missed the other elephant bull trying to sneak up to us. In the little time we got on board in a flash he had the whole sundowner setup packed and was jogging next to the vehicle with two cooler boxes as the ranger pulled away in a hurry.

Elroy “Klippers” Pietersen truly is one of those Karoo Heartland personalities that one won’t forget in a hurry. How about another G&T?

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