Week 5 – TRACKING🐾
This week was all about the tracking assessment for the Trails guide course. It started with a mock tracking assessment on Monday. The field guides joined this assessment as well so we had a big group for the day. It was very enjoyable to see the interpretations of everybody, but it also helped a lot for the real assessment we had on Saturday and Sunday.
The next day we decided to drive around on the game reserve and visit locations we hadn’t seen before and we looked for more tracks to identify in the meanwhile. One of the locations is called the grand canyon, due to the erosion that took place there. It looks like a miniature version of the real grand canyon and it is one of the most stunning places on the whole reserve. On Wednesday we had a bushwalk and our first encounter with lions. We weren’t able to get closer than 300 meters to them, because they were busy hunting on impala and due to wind direction. Despite the distance, we had a beautiful sighting of two lionesses hunting on impala from an elevated position.
Four students of the field guide course joined us on Thursday for the walk, having a group of 10 students was a different experience but for me just as enjoyable. Later on, during the walk, we came across 2 elephant bulls walking in the thicket. It was nice to see so much positive and excited reactions from the field guide students as they had never been on a bushwalk before.
Friday we headed to the beach for a bit of a break away from campus and enjoyed some sun, sea, and PIZZA. This was a nice and relaxing break, especially just before the big tracking assessment. During the weekend we had the tracking assessment, which for me was one of the most educational moments. I had never learned this much about animals and animal behavior in two days. It was definitely a highlight of the course for me.
“Everything that moves on the earth leaves a story.” Tom Brown Jr.
6 weeks, 87hours, 18 Big 5 encounters, and 98 kilometers, I walked away a different person. Lighter, physically and emotionally yet stronger spiritually!
Just like that, all good things come to an end! But with it, the beginning of new chapters for the 3 of us who finished the Apprentice Trails Course this past week.
How can one even begin to describe the sea of emotions that have been washing over me for the last 2 weeks? Sadness as I knew the time has come that I would have to leave this place I have called home for the most part of 5 months, excitement as the exams were on the horizon, and a little bit of anxiety and nervousness for the new life phase I was to embark on once this course was done.
This course was so much more than just going on a bushwalk every day with a little rifle handling thrown our way. Yes, we learned bucket loads about arthropods and animal behavior alike (which is super interesting and a necessity for survival out in the bush) but at the end of the day, when I kicked off my walking shoes, I kicked off so much more than just shoes. Somehow spending 4 to 8 hours a day on foot, has the tendency to let you realize that there is more to life than stressing about things that are beyond your control in any case, and you let those issues go and get some air with your hiking boots till the next day! And when you set out on a new morning and another new trail on unfamiliar territory, your problems of the previous day are forgotten and become a thing of the past!
After 6 weeks, 87hours, 18 Big 5 encounters, and 98 kilometers, I walked away a different person.
Lighter, physically and emotionally yet stronger spiritually!
Personal growth comes in all shapes and sizes and sometimes growth is not loud and visible. It is in the moments that you choose to stay quiet, to allow others the opportunity to speak, even though you know the answer to the question. It’s getting up, dressing up, and showing up when you really just wanted to stay in bed! It’s biting your lip when you are frustrated beyond measure but decide to not react and let it go. It is in taking the criticism and learning from it. It is in pushing through the physical pain when all you want to do is just give up! It is the quiet moments of introspection at the top of the Grand Canyon and in the loud explosive bang of a .375 bullet leaving your rifle muzzle at 700m/s and hitting the bull’s eye on your Hippo Target! It’s in happily tracking and trailing the very animal you feared with all of your being for years. Growth happens to you when you least expect it to, and for me, it was in all these moments and more!
These past 6 weeks have been such an amazing adventure, and although, sadly, none of us passed the ARH practical component of the course (it’s MUCH harder than it seems) we are still walking away with pockets full of information, newly acquired skills and have learned so much more about ourselves in 6 weeks than we would have done in 6 months of city life!
Every positive change in your life begins with a clear, unequivocal decision that you are going to either do something or stop doing something. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so put on those hiking shoes, get out of your comfy bubble, tackle those fears “trunk on” and get busy living!
Thank you Pieter Dunn and Ulovane for the moments of laughter, anger, happy tears, sad tears but mostly for the moments of growth and allowing me to be a part of your journey while I was on mine!
Hakuna Matata !
‘Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.’ -Harriet Tubman