Last January we were pleased to be back in Namibia again. One part of this tour is a stay at the Bushmen village called //Xa/oba in the north east of Namibia. The area is called the Nya Nya conservancy, where Bushmen are still allowed to hunt traditionally (i.e. bow and poison arrows, snares, springhare hook).
The morning after our arrival we met !Ui, one of the hunters from this village and a skilled tracker. We have plans to go out with him, so asked him about options for the coming days. “I can’t come, as I need to be with Louis, we are attending a cybertraker evaluation with him”
What? Louis? Is he here?
To our big surprise Louis Liebenberg is right at that same village where we are! In a country almost as big as France and Germany together!
The next day we went looking for him. Just a few hundred metres from where we have our camp, Louis is based together with a group of Bushmen and their families. They have build a small village of about 8 huts and a small tent. Louis’ car is parked at the side, with his tent beside it. And there he is.
It’s so great to meet him, right there in the African bush! We talk about his coming cybertracker plans with the Bushmen, the cybertracker in general, etc. He is evaluating 8 hunters from the area, not only this village. There are only 2 of them that I know and !Ui is one of them.
The last 2 weeks have been with a lot of rain, Louis is hoping for the weather to improve, to find enough new and undisturbed tracks. As far as I understood he just takes a few hunters at a time out every day. I am very curious how Louis runs his evals. Which tracks does he pick and why? What questions will he ask? How does he evaluate them? Sadly he doesn’t want any other people to come along, even no simple observants.
Louis is working hard to establish a good understanding with each hunter and every outsider might be of influence. Especially me he said, having joined a series of ct evals already in Europe…
During one of the next days I hear Louis’ car coming, as he has to pass our campsite to return to his own. I stop him and ask what the day was like. In the back of his truck is a steenbok (a small antelope), it’s feet bound together with a piece of bark. They have shot a steenbok! Three proud hunters sit in the back of the pick up, with a huge smile on their faces.
Later !Ui tells the story of how they went out for a trailing excercise. Soon they started trailing a few kudus, when they found their fresh tracks. After a while they spotted a steenbok, and one of the hunters shot it. They checked the tracks to see whether it was hit and then they left, to return hours later (to let the poison do it’s work) and trail the animal. This is the original way bushmen have always hunted.
When they picked up the tracks, they could read the story; where the antelope had fallen and stood up again. And fell once more; the poison was working. After a while they spotted the wounded animal and managed to hit it again. This time in the heart area, so it died quickly.
What a story!
This is what tracking is all about. Stalking an animal without being seen, heared or smelled. Shoot it with a poison arrow and reading the tracks to be sure it was hit, return later and trail the animal until you find it.
It is so great that these men still hunt the traditional way! And it was great to witness this from a distance.
Sadly we missed the last day when the hunters received their cybertracker certificates, I am very curious what their final score will be. Maybe !Ui is one of the hunters on his way to become a specialist and in the end receiving a status as traditional master tracker!
In the evenings Louis is interviewing some of the trackers. One thing he noticed is that with some questions he asked during the eval, some trackers gave an incorrect answer. When Louis asked them about this and let them discuss among themselves, they made no mistakes. They all discussed any tracks that needed to be discussed, until they all agreed with the outcome.
Very interesting, as this is probably how it has worked for ages: trackers come across a ‘spoor’ and start to talk about what it is and why. Every hunter has a saying in this. It is not the older (most experienced tracker) who is right from the beginning. This is a very interesting part of their hunting- and tracking culture.
In fact the same thing happened when 3 trackers went out to read human tracks in prehistoric caves in Europe. They too, were discussing until they agreed all together. You can read about this in another blog (in Dutch, sorry for some of you): not yet ready, but soon on this blog as well.