Vanuatu's largest Island Espiritu Santo is an Adventure minefield and a relatively untouched Pacific jewel. As a Consequence so are its Roads. John's Ute shook and shuddered as its Shocks worked overtime as we slammed into one Pothole after another in the crushed Coral road. Peta, Paul and John's nine year old son Roh hooted and yelped from the Toyota back, when we slammed into a Speed bump, the Villagers had in an attempt to prevent passing Vehicles to kick up choking dust Clouds crudely across the road, to slow them down, built. The Impact nearly let me bite my Tongue off, while John swore in his native Language. "That was there not a few days ago!" he said, as we looked at each other and burst out laughing. John's Ute doubles as a local Taxi. When he gave me a ride from the Airport into Luganville we befriended each other. He offered me to stay with his family.
We headed to a Jungle piece in the Hog Harbour area to bunt Wild Bullocks. During World War Two, as over one hundred thousand US and allied troops built a Base at Luganville, Espirito Santo's Population swelled. During R and R Soldiers hunted for Wild Pigs to supplement the Army diet and, due to the large number of pigs it held, christened the area Hog harbour. Hunt pressure over the years drastically reduced their Numbers, whereas wild Bullocks, though not plentiful, still roam the Jungle.
An hour after leaving Luganville, we bounced off the Main road into a Copra plantation and drove up a bone jarring track that left my kidneys floating somewhere up around my ears several Kilometres inland. In Pidgin English, which aside from John everyone else spoke, any Gun is called a Musket. That immediately conjures up Images of some Museum piece.
Although John's Rifle is only several Years old, that Place it probably belongs to. His Five shot bolt action Anschütz .22" is already well past its Prime, despite him buying it brand new. High Humidiry grew a Fungus mushroom farm across the Lenses, left only a small Light peep hole to try and sight Dame, the tropical Climate took its toll off the Scope. A Rubber band and String hold the Foresight in Place. The Work parts rest defy Description. How it manages to go bang, when you pull the Trigger, still got me to scratch my Head.
As we followed John in his footsteps and picked our Way along a well worn Trail, the Sun stood at its Zenith. When it comes to hunt Hulls and to point out fresh Signs in the hard packed Track earth, where Animals recently grazed, nine years old Roh is a veteran. As we wound our Way through the Jungle, its Canopy offered little Respite from the tropical Heat. Beautifully iridescent coloured Lizards scurried to Safety, as they heard our approaching Footsteps. Peta normally wears a Loincloth and lives with his Tribes rest in the Islands rugged Interior. The deeper we ventured into the Jungle, the more he seemed to be with his Surroundings at Ease. After for about half an hour quietly stalking through the Jungle, John's raised Hand screeched us to halt. Flies buzzed and swarmed around fresh dropped Shit on the Ground. An Animal as large as a Bullock drinks a lot Water. The sign we followed lead us to a Water hole, the animals in the thirty degrees plus heat use to quench their Thirst.
When John pointed to Dung splatter that to the touch still was warm, the Atmosphere became charged. About thirty Meters separated us from the Water hole, when pandemonium erupted, as Roh tripped and swore as he Face planted into the Ground. A Cattle herd, that drank their Fill, crashed through the jungle off, as I dragged Roh on his feet and took with the others in hot Pursuit off. The Speed and Agility with that the Bullocks moved through the Vegetation was astounding. As Man and beast escaped, a healthy Gap quickly widened. Sweat stang my Eyes. When we eventually slowed and stopped, as John realised, the animals got the drop on us, we all drew deep Breaths. Roh climbed a nearby Coconut palm, then rained Coconuts to us down. The sweet Juice quenched our thirst. We dined the Nut flesh as we gave the Bullocks Time to settle down.
John and Peta have a Blood hounds Track skills. Carefully following the Animals marks we walked in single File. Lady luck shined our Way: The cattle chose to follow an overgrown disused Four wheel drive track. Persistence pays off. Several hours later, John once again lifted his Hand into the Air. As he cupped his Hand to his Ear as a sign for us to listen, we instantly froze. Breaking vegetation faint sound drifted through the sticky Air to us. We walked Miles. The light rapidly faded. While we towards the Bullocks stalked, John closed his Musket bolt. The track opened up into a small Clear, that stretched about thirty Metres across at its widest point. Four Cattle, Heads down, quietly grazed away, totally oblivious to our dangerous Presence.
A little .22’s well placed Shot slumped a black Bull to its Knees.
A tiny Lead pill slammed into a tan Bullock neck, the biggest, echoed another Shot through the Trees. The Beast bellowed with Rage, swung its Head in Anger Side to Side, lowered its Horns and charged. The agitated Bull scattered us four in different Directions. "Run!" screamed John. I felt as lucky as a Missionary at a Cannibal feast, when I quickly glanced over my Shoulder to see a Beef mountain bearing down on me. I know not, if John's rifle bark, he let strip a Bullets hail towards me and the bull, which in itself is enough to pour the Shits up you, or the sonic Boom, when I kicked it into Overdrive and broke the Sound barrier, that rang in my Ears, as I sprinted towards and swung up the nearest Tree.
John fumbled more Bullets into the Magazine, he'd emptied into the Bull and roared with Laughter at my Predicament. The irate Bullock turned its Attention to him and charged, quickly changed his Smile to a Grimace. Like spider man, he seemed to literally run from the Ground up the Tree trunk, let me believe Adrenaline is an amazing chemical. From the Bough he was perched on, he drew a Bead on the Bull. A well placed Shot behind its Ear sent the shuddering Animal to its knees. Meanwhile the merely stunned black Bullock staggered to its Feet and tree'd young Rah. Peta bravely rushed in, hamstrung the Animal, leaving John to put a Buller into the Animals Forehead to close the Adrenaline bottling Hunt.
Darkness shadow enveloped the jungle. I swung down from my Trees Safety . Roh was danced Victory. Peta wasted no time, hacked the tan Bullock's head off. Wild Dogs roam the Area. As we butchered the Animals the Blood smell drew ssuch Canine Pack uncomfortably close. Unlike Wild Dogs in New Zealand, those fear or respect Humans not. If you hunt in this area they often fight with your Pig dog team. Carving up the Carcasses their prolonged Howls had us look over our Shoulders. Fire flies flittered and dived in our Front Thousand insects chorus sound pierced our Ear drums. We struggled to carry the Meat loads strung between our Shoulders on sturdy Saplings. Roh led the way with my mini Light till the rising Moon illuminated our Way.
Four hours after the Bullocks first dressed out, we lowered our Beef load last off our aching and bruised Shoulders alongside the Ute. We were all hammered, took a small Breather before we threw the last Meat onto the Toyota back. While Peta and John lifted from below, Paul and I jumped up onto the Ute back to pull from above. I stretched my Leg to climb up. My pants crotch wasn't as flexible as I and tore apart. Roh shined the Torch to see what I ripped up. I love Mushrooms, but not in my Crutch. In the tropics I never wear Underpants to avoid to catch crippling fungal Infections in my Nether regions. The Torch beam picked my wrinkled Spuds swinging in the warm tropical Air out, to erupt everyone into Hysteric. "In case those wild Dogs catch up to us and are still hungry, you better put those away", said John as them three literally rolled ground around an the with laughter.
Not long after we turned onto the Main road one of the Ute’s bolts came undone an the Axle. As everything parted company, the Handbrake cable stretched to its limit. The Brake locked up. We slew sideways across the Road, halted in a Dust cloud, losing Paul off the Ute back, as we did so. Apart from losing a bit Skin off his Elbow, he was unscathed. With the Ute parked in the road middle the Land cruiser that approached us several Hours later, had no Option but to stop. The Driver was a Mechanic and one of John's many friends. He released the Handbrake cable. He nudged the meat laden Vehicle with his Bumper off the Road. From the nearby Copra plantation we cut Coconut fronds, laid them on the Landcruiser tray out before we trasferred all the blood drenched Meat to head into Town. About three in the Morning we turned fresh Steak and onions over the Fire in the Pan. After a well earned Meal we all wearily crawled into Bed. So ended an unforgettable Hunt and a memorable Day.
By Rick Williamson, New Zealand Outdoor July 1999
Lies auch 5,6 mm !