Make yourself a good cuppa (or glass) of something and get comfortable, I have a great deal to share with you.
As the first good rains fall in the Lowveld and I watch the bush transform to lush green, I can’t help but think of our journey and how we have transformed, blossomed as the trees now blossom and filled up with knowledge as the dams now fill up with water – with life.
October & November were crunch time as we had to complete all our final FGASA practical & theory tests. It was the ultimate tests of what we had learnt at Bushwise over the past six months. Our trainers’ hours and hours of pouring out knowledge, willing us to remember it all for these final tests had finally arrived.
We were tested on our 4x4 skills, Track & Sign, FGASA ARH (Advanced Rifle Handling), FGASA Viewing Potentially Dangerous Animals, FGASA Final Theory Field Guide exams, as well as our Final FGASA practical drives, proving that we are worth the badge and that we have the knowledge and know-how to be Qualified Field Guides!
During our off week before all the above kicked off, I chose to do a Trailing Course with Colin Patrick, where I learnt the skills to be able to trail animals & humans in the bush.
We stayed in tents in the Big 5 Game Reserve, Balule, in an unfenced camp – what an experience!
By day three I could hardly walk, I had blisters on just about each toe of both feet and thus had to walk with them for the next four days, but, as they say: The show must go on!
I could lick my wounds and stay at camp but chose to walk with the blisters and was determined to not have it affect anyone in the group or keep the group back in any way. We walked & tracked about five hours every morning and about three to four hours in the afternoons.
I thoroughly enjoyed being able to walk in a Big 5 Game Reserve and learn all about tracking, trailing & viewing of potentially dangerous animals.
We had many unbelievable encounters on foot with some of the Big 5.
Colin and his team (Jacques, Tristan & Samantha) are extremely qualified in this field and was an absolute honor to be mentored by each one of them and absolutely mind-blowing to watch them in action.
I cannot wait to go back and do it again and hopefully progress to the next level.
For me, this was the highlight of the semester.
It probably was not the best timing to have done my Trailing Course that week as I got back late Sunday night and had to do my Practical FGASA drive Monday afternoon, without being able to read a few books or prepare properly (according to Sanette), but all things considered, I Will Do It All Over Again!
You could feel the tension in camp, just like the pressure before a thunderstorm and then the relief, the rays of light after the storm has passed.
Students were frantically deciding on routes, washing vehicles late in the evening and early mornings, preparing snacks for puza stops, hot boxes and off-course ensuring we remember everything we have been taught over the past six months.
The first thing we must consider and need to be aware of when we in the bush is Safety & Respect. Safety & Respect for ourselves, our piers / colleagues, guests and most of all mother nature.
We all love nature, that is why we chose to do this, but there is so much more to it than just driving a vehicle and finding animals. There is so much to consider, and you have to remember, that every small little thing you do has a consequence (Erosion, Litter, Animal Behaviour, Pollution etc)
We started with a session of Advanced Rifle Handling & Viewing Potential Dangerous Animals during the previous semester and continued the practical side during this semester.
Learning more about Potentially Dangerous Animals, how to avoid getting yourself into an unfavorable situation and what to do if you do happen to find yourself in such a situation.
We also had to do various exercises (Weapon Handling Drills) and then a formal assessment to qualify for ARH. Goodness, quite a process! So it should be!
It is a great privilage, honour and responsibility to be able to guide walks in a Big 5 area.
Finally, it was graduation day, and it was suddenly all over. I graduated with flying colours and also achieved a Bushwise Bird Specialist Certificate.
Two days after graduation I joined Lowveld Trails for ten days, where we did three days of Primitive Trails and seven days Trails in the Balule- and Timbivati- Game Reserves- The overall highlight of my entire time here, but more on this in my next blog.
I've got more to learn, more to heal, more to unlearn, more to accept. But I am taking this moment to remember that I have grown significantly. There are places within me that no longer ache. There are triggers that I no longer trip over. There are situations that no longer plague me, memories that no longer gut me, and people that I never even think about anymore. I have come so far!
I remember where I was and where I am now.
I trust myself a little more, I hold myself a little closer. There are storms within me that used to rattle everything, but they are now quieter. There are emotions that I am no longer afraid of expressing, words I can say clearly, stories I can tell without shaking. I have grown!
I am proud of myself!
Honestly, it has been a ride and a half! I truly believe that this is where I belong, where I have always belonged, this place, the bushveld.
My heart is home.
Is home a place? In my mind It Is A Feeling!
Always grow, always challenge yourself, be honest with yourself, love yourself
Until next time,