Veld Stories

Stories from the Veld

Several years ago, after working for some decades mainly as a producer of coffee table books, David turned his hand to the long-held dream of being a paperback writer.

Not fiction, but what is known in the industry as “narrative non-fiction” – specifically, stories about the African veld, the people and animals to be found there, along with other tales informed mainly by the wilds of Africa. The resulting “stories from the veld” series consists of five titles.

The books range from the true story about a horse that became a zebra; the profiles of 20 “curious characters” from Southern Africa present and past; 20 “amazing places”; a collection of “green” or environmental stories; and the latest (2021) featuring a selection of bush tales, game ranger legends and tall animal stories.

Running Wild: The Story of Zulu, an African Stallion

In February of 2000 Cyclone Leon-Eline pulverized the Limpopo River valley. The safari horses at Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris had to be turned loose to escape the rising floodwaters. Among them was a black Boereperd stallion named Zulu, up till then an average workaday mount.

Some of the horses returned, some never did: Zulu was assumed to be among the latter. But several years later he was found, running wild as the alpha stallion of a wild zebra herd.

That in itself is pretty exciting, but when he returned to the LVHS fold, it was as a horse of a completely different colour. The legend of Zulu lives on in the Limpopo valley: there never was another quite like him – before or since. But behind the obvious horse story, is one about survival in the unforgiving African bushveld.

The Game Ranger, the Lion, the Knife and the Sheep: 20 Curious Characters from Southern Africa

History is full of remarkable characters, some of whom we know a lot (or think we do) and others who might have been truly amazing but the writers of history have ignored or expunged them. People like Khoi maiden Kratoa who was just 10 or 11 when she was dragged (probably kicking and screaming), to work for the Van Riebeecks at the Castle of Good Hope. There she was baptized, and married a Danish surgeon, became a lady of the Dutch settlement. But then …. it did not end well.

Or the Trekboer giant, Coenraad de Buys, who stood seven foot something in his sockless veldskoens and who explorer Henry Lichtenstein called “an African Hercules”. Both the Dutch and the English authorities put a price on his head, so he threw in his lot with Chief Nqika – and Nqika’s corpulent mother. Then he trekked off to the Soutpansberg – the first white person to reach the Transvaal.

And then, what of David Livingstone, who more famously did not want to, and indeed was not the first European to, reach the falls he named Victoria. Or the early Kruger Park game rangers who spent the first 10 years of the park’s existence shooting every lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and wild dog they saw. There are 16 others, each as fascinating as the one before and after.

Of Hominins, Hunter-Gatherers and Heroes: 20 Amazing Places in South Africa

After some three decades as a travel writer, 13 of them as editor of Getaway travel magazine, surely the Eardstapper had something to say about the places he had seen. Of course he did, and he shares with his readers his South African favourites.

Some of them are not what you might expect, such as the Johannesburg War Museum, of the fish traps of Kosi Bay, or the controversial installation known as Adam’s Calendar. Others that you might expect to be there, such as Golden Gate, or the Blyde Canyon, or Augrabies Falls perhaps, are not among them.

The author chose places whose backstories were most appealing, like important San rock art sites, one in the Drakensberg and one in the Karoo, to delve deeply into what they are all about. Turns out it’s a very deep story. And what Cape Town’s noonday gun has to do with modern astronomy. That kind of thing; turns out “Of Hominins” is a long, strange road trip. And WTF is a hominin anyway?!

Big Pharma, Dirty Lies, Busy Bees and Eco-Activists: 20 Environmental Stories from South Africa

In among all his “stapping”, the author took time out to cram in a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences. This gives his writing a perception deeper than many, and also a strong green bias. Let’s face it, the world is going to the dogs and it’s we who are feeding them.

How, for example, did our rivers get so terribly polluted? Our air so rancid and our seas so overfished and stuffed with plastic waste? How did we allow the cigarette companies, and the oil companies, and the pesticide and herbicide companies and the PR and advertising agencies to fool us for so long all the while they were killing us?

There is a lot of doom and gloom in there, to be sure, but there are little rays of sunny hope, such as the brave soldiers on the frontlines of the rhino and elephant poaching wars. The children who are mobilising their peers to help clean up their hoods. And then the Gift of the Givers, that saintly group of people who bring relief in times of environmental crisis. There are also chapters on how to shop better in order to eat better, how to live more greenly and even how to die more responsibly. Who would have thought?

The Lion, the Dung Beetle and the Veld Tool Box: 20 Bush Tales from Southern Africa

From elephants to termites, rap-singing whales to loony birds, most bases are covered.

But the story of the hot and lazy day a nice couple on safari walked into the bar in Maun will be one you, and they, will never forget.

These are the stories the writer has collected over the course of more than four decades as an adventurer, game guide and travel photojournalist in Africa. But just tell him that hippos kill more people in African than does any other animal species and he’s likely to have a paroxysm on the spot.