The Introduction to my Book… “Bulldogs Wild Adventures”

As I have had so many people say I should write about my experiences in the wild, I decided to continue with my book I started a few years ago. I am posting my opening to the book which I wrote nearly two years ago. Here goes, and don’t be shy to give honest critique…

It was an early morning and we had walked to below the Chilojo cliffs. Sitting on the river bank up above the Lundi River (now Runde River) we watched a herd of Elephant crossing to drink at the water, which was on our side of the river. Hoping the wind was right and not blowing from us towards them, we shifted to a huge Marula tree where we could sit with our backs against it. This should add to our camouflage and by sitting still we would experience these beasts from close proximity.

Elephants at Chilojo Cliffs

The river was almost dry and hardly flowing, but it was at least twenty metres wide where they were heading and that was not more than ten metres from where we sat. The bank being steep, we felt fairly safe, yet I still had a good look at the tree just in case a hasty retreat was necessary.

It was fascinating to watch how the Matriarch and her youngster were the first to approach, allowed by the others with due respect. As she neared the water she stopped, not a sound was heard and immediately the younger bulls and cows raised their trunks, spread their ears and looked more or less in our direction. I was ready to climb the tree, but as we had not made a sound and the breeze, although light, was from them to us, I could not believe that they had detected us.

There followed a bit of trumpeting by the younger elephant and even some mock charging towards the water. A closer look below we saw the crocodile slip off quickly into the water. Would this have frightened the Matriarch? I strongly doubted that fact, yet there seemed to still be a little consternation amid the herd. More noise and milling about and the elephants moved in to drink. I found it strange that the Matriarch held back, was she concerned for the safety of her young? There were too many elephant now drinking and some even moving into the deeper water to roll and play, for her to be concerned about the crocodile.

Chilojo-cliffs

DSC_0130_2

As some of the more senior cows stepped back from drinking and were now looking around, the Matriarch moved up and drank, she splashed water over her back and side also her underside as though she was washing the breasts that fed her young. It was such a privilege to be so close and witness these goings on, yet our excitement was controlled not wanting to disturb the herd.

It was interesting to watch the interaction between individuals within this herd, some that would just back away from a mere look from another and others that would quietly communicate. The communication taking the form of sniffing each other’s ears or just a gentle head rub with a trunk.

The herd stood around quietly having all slaked their thirst, then suddenly there was a general shuffle to get young back beside the mothers, or to within the herd. They had all again turned in our direction, trunks up and testing the air. We had heard nothing, in fact we hadn’t moved, yet there was something that was disturbing to them.

The Matriarch turned away from us and in some way communicated with the herd it was time to go. They almost took up a single file and trundled off towards the other side of the river, the younger bulls and cows being last to leave after making sure there was nothing to be afraid of. Trunks were raised and ears flapped listening for whatever it was that had disturbed them.

When they had moved far enough away for us to feel safe to move we stood, the adrenalin still pumping and now chatting away excitedly, we started to move back towards the Land Rover. We had hardly gone ten metres when we noticed an Impala carcass hanging in another tree. This is what the Elephant had smelt. This could only mean one thing, Leopard.

leopard.

Not known as the best cat to walk into, being so aggressive and fearless, our adrenalin now went up ten notches, standing still and looking around we hoped to see it before it saw us. Of course that was a stupid wish, ‘cause if it was nearby it would have known we were there long before we even got there.

You don’t run from a Leopard, most of the time you don’t have a clue where it is, and running into one would be a certain death. So we stood our ground not knowing which way to move off, all I was happy about, was the fact I knew I could out run my friend and hopefully the cat would be satisfied just taking him down. But, if I started to run in the wrong direction and he was behind me, then I would be the one to go.

It only took a couple of minutes to spot the leopard higher up the tree, legs apart as it lay along a thick branch, head resting on the one front paw and eyes wide open and looking directly at us. The bigger head told me it was a male, yet he seemed completely unconcerned about our presence. The carcass was still fresh and with the stomach opened and eaten as well as the one rear leg, the cat was obviously sated.

Now was the time to act nonchalant and saunter on down the animal path we had come along, with one eye still kept on him to make sure his interest had not been tweaked. We must have walked, at a fair pace I might add, for two hundred metres before we stopped and turn to check if he was still in the tree. Which damn tree was it? We could not see the carcass or the leopard, we couldn’t even decide which tree it was, for all we knew he was right behind us.

I decided it was now the time for exercise and said “let’s go”, it could just as well have been the starting gun for the Olympic 100 metre dash, my friend, that I could easily outrun, was gone, down that path like a flash, leaving me to eat his dust.

This happened in Gonarezhou National Park, before there were dirt roads to drive on. We had been sent down to do a Land Survey of the final Primary triangulation points the year before and had cut the roads ourselves. We had camped for four months on the banks of the Lundi River, and a further two and a half in the middle of the reserve, an experience I cover later in the book.

What do you think… please be honest with you comments….

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111 thoughts on “The Introduction to my Book… “Bulldogs Wild Adventures”

    • Have finished the first draft now and on to editing, not a pleasant job… have very few photos in the book it seems to distract from the stories… thanks for the comment…

  1. What a great intro. The pictures are beautiful, as always. Just write the stories. The edits will come later. You might throw in a bit of the conversation you talked about between you and the friend. I have a feeling some colorful exchanges happened there! 🙂

    • Thanks George, yes this was suggested to me as something I should do. I have included a lot of conversations now and know it was the right thing to do when I catch Linda laughing out loud when she reads my writings…

  2. Think you have your answer here Bulldog, reading so many positive comments about your writing and they way others have felt drawn to your story 🙂

    I had no idea anyone would be remotely interested in reading ‘my’ story but the support and encouragement that I’ve received from my blogging community has been truly phenomenal.

    Again, I’m very humbled and honoured that you read something that I wrote which in turn encouraged and inspired you. I can’t say enough what this means to me, wow! I always said that if I can make a difference to just one person ‘out there’ then I know I’m doing something right!

    I think you have an amazing story to tell and you don’t have to include too many photographs, save that for another book which is meant to be a photograph book!

    I wish you very success 🙂

  3. Great story telling abilities, I was in it. Have you heard of Farley Mowat? I believe he is/was your Canadian counterpart, wrote of the wild and creatures so well his following swelled by the herd 😉 That said, I wonder if you’d mind sending me your opening or cut paste it to a comment on my page where I can “tweak” it just a little if you wouldn’t mind. I can’t read long or much these days but I will try to show you what I would do rather than tell you as I think it could change your whole work without a word exchanged between us. Not only that, I don’t take offence if you don’t like what I do and toss it back at me because, after all, this is YOUR work and you know best your own unique voice in which to share with the world. Love the humor and thoughtfulness in your work! Not even sure my “tweaks” will do much, just things I thought as I read a second time. First time, just for gift of story and you do have it! For sure. Mega 😀

    • Thank you Aurora… I will cut and paste so that you can make you suggestions… I do appreciate the aid.. it might just give me direction for the rest of the book. English is not my strong point and I’m sure I will have to find an editor when finished, but don’t want to write such that they have to do a total rewrite… thank you again…

      • Just hope it helped in some small way, I think you are a gifted writer and shouldn’t stop writing… no matter what… I am but one voice among many and your English is really quite fine in my opinion. No expert here, just write and love words… they saved me, literally, they have… so far… 🙂

  4. I’m so glad that you’re back writing the book! Yes…I would buy it! Advice..??…I do agree with Lorna about dialog…you’ve got me interested in your mate who out ran you…what’s his first name? You could even change it “to protect the innocent” and also to make sure he doesn’t get angry that you revealed his running capabilities…seriously, just in case he doesn’t like being included in the book. This is a minor thought, the two images that are side by side….perhaps one landscape image instead of two? I think I would have omitted the first “landscape only” shot, simply because it is similar to the one that includes the Elephants.
    What I really liked and think you will probably do more of, simply because it’s who you are…the little bit of humor when you describe the “Olympics”…insert it as it feels natural, it’s part of what makes you such an engaging individual and that trait, along with the fascinating adventures, will endear you to your readers.

    • Oh wow thank you Suzanne this is the type of feed back i was hoping for… Linda is reading as I write, not as an editor but to merely get a feel if she enjoys it. She does not know all the stories and I’ve had her laughing out loud, which is what I wanted to impart. My jaunts and experiences were all good fun and many had good laughs attached.. after an elephant has chased you for two hundred odd metres and then stopped to destroy your shirt while you escape, one can only laugh.
      The photos are the thing that worries me, I don’t want it to be a pictorial book, but I want to add a photo or two to aid the reader who may have no idea about the area or type of landscape I’m talking about and I will heed your suggestion that maybe too little rather than too much.. I’m sure the humour should get across and I have now added names rather than not.. if these guys are still alive they can look me up and we’ll have a good reunion as most I haven’t seen for years… but thank you so much I appreciate your comments .. I really do… I’ve not continued with what I had written but have basically started a rewrite using portions of what I’ve written… I’ve managed to pump out 25 000 words of which I’m happy with and Linda is telling me to slow down she hasn’t time with her blog now and I’ve added her to FB… I think I’ve created a monster… thanks again Suzanne I do appreciate it…

      • LOL! I just visited the “monsters” blog 🙂 🙂 And now she’s on FB! woo-hoo!!
        I think your book will be wonderful and can’t wait to buy it I’m still on the fence about the landscape shots for your book….there will be lots of people who will be fascinated and want to see more, more…but…you could put more in your NEXT book!

  5. You have a wonderful and unique story to tell, bulldog. That leopard story is so excitingly told, and you had my heart in my mouth just thinking about it. I could just imagine you both haring off down that road, as fast as your legs could go. 🙂

  6. All the positive comments are absolutely on the mark, my friend! You have lived a life like no other, seen things only most of us dream of, and you need to share it all in both words and pictures.

    Your description of this scene with the elephants (though I noticed you never made the word plural) was captivating. Then the leopard–danger! All the makings of a first chapter that will hook a reader.

    I have a suggestion to bring the reader even more into the action: dialog. Don’t make story all description. There is a “we” you refer to but never reveal. Tell us who is with you via dialog and use the technique of dialog to give us the same information, but from the voices of your “characters”–you and whoever was with you.

    As for the professional “polish” one of your commenters suggested, there are many people via the internet or who you can find through referrals from the wide array of blogger friends who are also writers who have used professional editors. It’s great having your wife edit for you, but nothing substitutes for a professional book editor. They aren’t cheap, but they are worth it!

    I’m so happy for you that you are undertaking this project. I’m sure you’ll keep us posted. 🙂

    • Thank you Lorna… this is what I needed to hear… a good suggestion as to how i must progress… Linda is more making sure i don’t make big errors which i do too often, my fingers not being able to keep up with my brain, but your suggestions for the piece I’ve shared give me the direction I need for this I thank you… I’m no writer if I’m honest with myself and will definitely need an editor.. when I get nearer the time I will start asking for help, and yes I’ll definitely keep you all posted on progress.. I will have a good edit myself first…

      • You are very welcome! I often got frustrated when I asked bloggers to tell me what they thought of a piece I wrote for my memoir. Everything was so positive. While that feels great and is encouraging, a little constructive criticism is really what I needed. I’m glad you found my comments helpful. Anything I can do to help you along the process, just ask! 🙂

        • Lorna.. one thing i want to hear is just that critique that will make the read better, and please never hold back i’ve got broad shoulders and can take it… and I will definitely send you odd bits when I struggle for just such critique that I know you will give me… thank you I do appreciate it…

          • Absolutely! I will be happy to help. I spent several years doing extensive online critiquing of other people’s work. Another set of eyes is always helpful, even if you don’t take every suggestion, at least you have the chance to look at your work differently. 🙂

    • I have been pondering your comment on the plural of elephant being elephants… i have always verbally said the plural as elephant, a search of the internet says both are correct.. but this I just found interesting…

  7. A felt that I was there, joining you in an exciting adventure. I wish you all the best and success in your book. You are an inspiration my friend. You motivate us to pursue our passion for capturing life in images and words. Thanks

  8. I enjoyed reading this as it paints a captivating picture of day-to-day your life in the parks of Africa. Your respect and enjoyment of the animals in your country shines through in all your writings and photos. If you can keep your book interesting throughout, you could be on to a winner. Perhaps you could publish in ebook format.

    • Thanks Brian.. I have spent the weekend writing and managed 15 000 words in two days.. Linda is proof reading while I go on and she loves it, amusing and heart warming were her words… she will keep me on that track , which unfortunately means a total rewrite, but she is loving this theme and wants me to stay on it… Fortunately she has shared a lot of the later experiences and keeps reminding me to not forget that or this,,, so I think I’ve got it better this time round… maybe needed to step back and practice a bit more… I’m going to self publish in ebook form, as this seems the way every one is going and hope from that maybe a publisher will pick it up and want to publish… I would just like to get it done as the whole family is on my back about it… My son says he can’t remember all the stories so I must write them down for him… Thanks for the encouragement…

  9. Thanks so much for the link to this post. I almost missed it. You wanted my opinion and here it is: Yes! Keep writing. I felt like I was standing next to you when the elephants approached and then when you spied the carcass I knew we were in trouble–serious trouble. Oh man, that’s a great start. And the fact that you have photos and everything. Hemingway would be jealous.

    • Thank you TBM… i am screaming along at the moment, but I’m going to need some tips on the self publishing thing… not now I think I still got a way to go.. and although I’ve crashed out 15 000 in two days I’m not sure it will last as work will get in the way at some stage…

  10. I really think you’re a natural at storytelling Bulldog,it comes across in all your posts. You can even do your own illustrations! I think this has definite potential and will work well alongside your tourist picture idea. Best of luck, I do hope you continue… x

  11. I’m late chiming in, and having read all the wonderfully positive comments from your fans and family alike, I can add little that is not repetitive, so I’ll add just this…aside from your Oscar winning role (Best Supporting to Linda’s lead) as the adoring husband and father in your 40 year (and counting) Love Story…this could be the second greatest reason to get out of bed everyday. You definitely have a story to tell, adventures to share, goosebumps and hairs on the neck to raise, and I’m reminded of my youth spent glued to and tuned into Marlin Perkins as he took me along every week through the magical Wild Kingdom, Professional polish? Maybe, but the truth of it, the way you write is real and authentic and a good editor will be your best friend, but don’t polish too much. And as you have already learned, you are surrounded by wonderfully supportive and talented folks…no doubt they’ll always be willing to lend an ear and a pseudo red pencil until you do find one. When you find you’ve run into that wall you speak of? Try not to think your way out of it…rarely works. Try writing your way out of it…guaranteed to produce some really fascinating fodder you can give to Linda when she needs a good belly laugh. True…don’t think, just write…it’ll amaze how soon you can bust through the wall. Best of luck and add me to the list of ‘pre-sales’ will ya? I’m in!
    R

    • Such nice good advice and encouragement… thank you Rhonda… I was sure I would need someone to edit the book as my English is not of the best… afterall I’m actually a Land Surveyor so my Maths is my strong point… but my idea was to write the story and have someone buff and polish it… but thank you for a lovely comment…

      • You’re welcome. And nothing wrong with a good buff and polish…as long as the ‘original shine’ remains. Best of luck Rob…a worthwhile endeavor to be sure. 🙂

  12. I truly enjoyed reading your story Rob. It’s a gem. With just a little professional polishing up it’ll sparkle! Keep writing about your interesting life and you may end up with a movie $$$ Thanks for sharing this. Shelley

  13. I was only going to blog “surf” today, that is until I came across the opening to your book. Your writing pulled me into the story and took me along with you on your adventure. What a great story, and along with your other fans I think you should revive your book project so we can travel to places with you where most of us will never go. Bravo, Bulldog!!

    • Elisa it is now nearly midnight here and I have just decided that the bed is calling, I’ve written 5 500 words today and am enjoying it tremendously, with words of encouragement like these kind words of yours I can do nothing but keep my nose to the grindstone.. the 5 500 words added to what I have already written has just made the book 10 % longer having written 50 000 words before today… but from what Ive read it wont go along so easily everyday, so I must write when I’m up to it and not panic when I hit a wall… but thank you for such kind and encouraging words…

  14. Direi che il libro è molto interessante e tu riesci a rendere le tue esperienze molto bene, con una buona narrazione!!
    Ciao e buon proseguimento con la scrittura del libro 🙂
    Pat

  15. wow Rob – actually brought a tear to my eye. To have that experience up close with the herd of elephants and then the leopard experience – my gosh I hope you know how lucky you are. Telling the storey of the Leopard I forgot what I was reading and was totally engrossed. You definitely have to continue writing – epic, just epic! Can’t wait to read more.

    • Thank you.. I must admit it often takes my son to remind me how lucky I actually was… one can hardly do today what I did nearly everyday.. guides are needed for a bush walk, I did it alone, often just with my dogs as company.. I got to see places many will never get the chance to see, as for where that incident happened, we camped in that area for 4 months, we were the only ones in the area… very privileged I was and I often forget that.. that area was so uninhabited that one afternoon I sat in the path of grazing Impala, back to a tree and they grazed right up to me and passed without the least bit of fright.. at times I could have stuck my hand out and touched them… (now I’m writing the book here) I was very privileged and the family feels I need to share the stories, they think everyone will be as fascinated by them as they are… they are pleased I’m back at it, my son says then he can read the stories to his pals instead of having me repeat them when I’m in his pals company…

    • Thanks Spook .. started it about two years ago and lost the confidence that it would all be worth it. But now I’m encouraged and the family is sitting on me to finish it… my son tells me if I don’t get it all down in later years I’m going to forget half of it… and as I don’t suffer from alzheimer’s but rather “sometimers” (sometimes I remember and sometimes I don’t) he is probably closer to the truth than he thinks…

  16. I say go for it! It is so wonderful to find those who, through their photography and their words, allow others to experience a part of the world they may never see or touch. You do that so well Bulldog. You must write that book! 🙂

      • Just imagine those who do not have the ability to travel, whether due to lack of finances or physical health, and know what a gift you would be giving them. 🙂

  17. Well written Rob and you amaze me with all your beautiful talents. Well done my friend and keep going. This one is going to be a best-seller for sure. 😀 *hugs*

    • A long time ago, I even did a critique on the book.. in fact I’ve read it a second time as I went through it too fast the first time. Even though you lived to tell the story and write the book, I was sure with the first reading you weren’t gonna make it and die on me… it was a brilliant book, and if this can be only half as good I’ll be happy..

  18. I could not be more excited for you, Dear Friend!!! You are doing it!! I know it will be a success. You tell such wonderful stories, and your pictures speak for themselves. I am so very proud of you!! I will be praying for your endeavor, Bulldog!! 🙂 This beginning sounds wonderful to me, by the way. I would buy it based on this introduction! (Really glad the leopard did not eat you!)

    • Thank you Skye… had many close encounters in my time… survived them all as you can guess… been chased by elephant.. followed by hyena… looked in the eyes of many animals close up.. been attacked by Ostrich.. so many different amusing stories…

      • Well, I cannot wait to read them all!! I am a fan!! 🙂 You will, of course, have to do a book tour to the USA so I can get my copies signed!! 😀 Linda and I will go have coffee whilst you schmooooze with all the fans. (got it all figured out)

  19. A man of many talents… my interest in such books stems from learning from the narrative the nature of the animals (experiences) that the narrator comes into contact with, I would buy such a book.

  20. Fantastic Bulldog!! You had my heart pumping that’s for sure. I felt like I was right there with you wondering if I was going to be some animal’s dinner. It’s obvious that you have seen and done many things that most of us will never experience in our lifetimes, and I for one can’t wait to read more! You are a natural storyteller :).

  21. I loved it! Just enough humor and adrenalin pumping to keep me interested…like going on the trip myself, without having all the real danger to deal with…great to have the leopard be the last shot.!

    • Thank you Mrs.P. I have so many stories of growing up in the bush and living a lot of my life there… in the end one tends to take the experiences as though they happen every day and forget just how privileged I’ve been to witness the things I’ve seen..

  22. It is so interesting for me, to read about a place and experiences where I hadn’t been, I loved it. And also photographs are amazing. Thank you dear Rob, have you published this book? Good Luck, love, nia

    • Thank you Nia… I’m still writing it.. I started a couple of years ago and then stopped, thinking no one would be interested… but have recently started writing again…

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