By Ricardo Leone


Do you remember the 1970’s American sitcom, “The Odd Couple”? The comedy’s two lead characters were Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Felix was the uptight, neurotic, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) photographer whose wife threw him out of the house. Felix then moved in with his old friend, Oscar Madison, a sportswriter who, in a word, can only be described as a slob. Can you imagine hunting with an Odd Couple? Well, I can – in fact, I did!


On my first Zambian safari my hunting partner brought a third hunter who I had never met – an Austrian named Werner (aka Felix). Our outfitter, who loves a good laugh, paired Werner with his PH, Jody (aka Oscar).  Jody was a colorful character – a boisterous young South African who grew up on a crocodile farm. The first time I saw Jody he was on his cellphone arguing with his fiancée. Jody was in flipflops, short shorts with an untucked shirt exposing more of his belly than I really wanted to see. Juxtaposed was Werner, who was physically fit, well groomed, and impeccably dressed, although I am not sure who his cologne was meant to impress in the bush. Werner brought all the right kit, and be it cutting edge or traditional, it was all in impeccable condition. Jody had an old CZ rifle whose stock broke in two on their first game drive without even being shot. As the old saying goes, “opposites attract” and in little time, Werner and Jody became thick as thieves.

As a PH, Jody initially stayed in our outfitters hut. Sadly, for all of us, our outfitter’s snoring could be heard above the usual night noises of laughing hyenas, two lions roaring at each other from across the Luangwa River, and the mumbling and rumbling hippos in the river. Thus, you cannot blame Jody for seeking a bit of quiet in Werner’s hut where there was the only spare bed in the camp. Jody soon moved into Werner’s hut full time, which provided the rest of us with great amusement.  Before long the two of them seemed to coordinate their clothing – Werner with his blaze-orange shirt and Jody with blaze-orange short shorts – they were running around like two giddy schoolgirls.      


If the two of them were not amusing enough, soon Werner claimed he wished to hunt a hippo and provide the camp with the culinary delight of hippo ribs. His planned motive and perhaps primary mission was to bring back the tale of his rib creation and present the recipe and pictures to his local Austrian Gentleman’s Cooking Society. Seriously, you cannot make this up.

On the same morning that I shot my very first Cape buffalo not far from camp as the herd was leaving the Luangwa River after a night’s rest and watering, Werner took his hippo in the river on the other side of the camp. He had shot the hippo while half the camp was helping me celebrate my buff. When we returned to camp for a full English breakfast and the celebratory cigar, Werner and Jody were waiting for the hippo to come afloat so it could be rolled to shore. Watching the camp’s crew maneuver the hippo in the river while avoiding crocodiles was great entertainment. Most of the crew rolled the enormous hippo while a couple of sentries took long poles and kept slapping the water to ward off the crocs. As the crew approached the sandbar, Werner and Jody met them as did our outfitter. At one point they signaled to my buddy Pete and me asking us to join. We chose to stay put in camp and enjoy our cigars – besides, there was no way I was voluntarily going into any body of water with crocs.  

Before I shot my buff, our outfitter had taken me near Mfuwe to chase off a few menacing buffaloes that were tormenting the village, with the potential to take a trophy if one was worthy. Werner had given us the task of finding some brown sugar while we were in the village, presumably for 

the rib’s glaze. Werner and his sous-chef Jody had their day’s work cut out for them as they commandeered the cook hut and went to work. The first order of business was to select the ribs to keep for the camp, while the rest of the animal went to the village for some welcome meat. I kept my distance except for a quick peak at the ribs cooking in the wood-fired oven. I must confess, they looked spectacular. Werner and Jody’s sole focus that day was the ribs. They even sacrificed their afternoon game drive. At sunset we gathered by the campfire and had our obligatory sundowners on the riverbank – always a great time of day to exchange tales of our respective adventures. Most conversation was either focused on my first buffalo or the hippo ribs. Of course, we had to keep from cackling too loud about the Gentlemen’s Cooking Society. Drinks were cut short by the much-anticipated dinner in the communal hut.

Instead of our usual buffet, we were treated to a show – the unveiling of the hippo ribs followed by the carving. As good as the ribs looked in the oven, they looked even better before carving. We had our first hint that things were amiss when Werner started to carve the ribs – either the knife was dull, or the ribs were tougher than one would hope. Jody volunteered to taste the ribs. The image looked like Fred Flintstone eating a brontosaurus rib. We all watched as Jody bit down and pulled as hard as humanly possible. When Jody eventually gnawed off a piece of meat, he was less successful chewing – the meat clearly had the same properties as his Land Cruiser’s tire. Nobody could tell you how the ribs tasted as the mission was immediately aborted – even Jody was uncharacteristically speechless as he carefully checked his teeth.


The one person who predicted this outcome was our outfitter, who had instructed the camp’s chef to prepare dinner as usual. Once the hippo rib show was mercifully terminated, our outfitter had a proper meal served. 

While the hippo ribs were a complete failure, the entertainment value was not to be denied – perhaps the end of the perfect day for most of us. As for Werner – the outcome was a real disappointment. He had meticulously documented every step for his cooking club. I will bet you a box of ammo of your choosing that The Gentlemen’s Cooking Society never heard a breath about the hippo ribs extravaganza. If I lose that bet, it’s because Werner had his accomplice, Jody, flown to Austria and lie through his teeth which, luckily, had survived the ordeal.