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Walking on the wild side

Lifestyle Section - Environment

 

Tupac Shakur

"This is after all Big 5 territory!"

We went into a part of the Pilanesberg National Park that is not open to tourists, the general public and other itinerants. It is thousands of hectares of pristine bushveld into which the Park authorities allow a limited number of small groups, under the auspices of the Wilderness Leadership School, the organisation started decades ago by Ian Player.

I am often asked what is so magic about sleeping in the bush with no running water, no electricity and cellphone connection! This is more difficult question to answer than may appear on the surface.  I will attempt to do so though.  There is a great deal of magic in these wilderness excursions. Most city dwellers never have the opportunity to experience real nature.

There are so few real wilderness areas left and there are so many of us living in our cities and towns to make this option virtually an impossibility for most people.  Almost the first thing that one realises when deprived of all the comforts that we all take so for granted every day is how unnecessarily complicated we make our daily living.

The simple pleasure of lighting a small fire in a clearing in the bush upon which to boil a kettle tomake tea and to cook the first evening meal, is also the start of beginning to feel the pressures of modern living begin to slip away. The gentle slide from late afternoon and glow of the dying sun into the embrace of bushveld night happens quite quickly.

Each person finds a secluded spot where all that is visible and audible is evidence of the wilderness. No humans. It is during this time that real reflection takes place that lives are re-planned and deep resolutions with oneself are concluded.

It is also a time when everything quietens down for the night; at least for awhile. I notice that people grow noticeably gentler and more reflective at this time of the day.  Sharing cooking and washing up duties without favour is a great leveller.  There are no hierarchies when it comes to these activities. Nor is there any hierarchy when evening watch duties are doled out. Usually this is done by discussion and very collegially. For some this first evening watch is somewhat daunting, but by the second night almost everybody looks forward to this special time on their own but with real responsibilities.

This is after all Big Five territory!  Early morning, just before the sun makes it creeping appearance, before it sends its gentle tentacles of light and warmth over the mountains, is a time to be alive. It is in these moments that one hears the world come alive. The birds start early – the rattling cackle of guineafowl, the screaming shout of the francolin and reveille of the dikkop herald the start of a day filled with new opportunities.  A new era of aliveness.

I love lying in my sleeping bag and allowing wakefulness to come slowly with these and many other sounds. Quite often this includes the snoring noises of my human companions  who frequently, on the previous evening, confidently announced that they definitely would not be able to sleep on the ground with all the wild animals around them! It is most often the time that these colleagues spend entirely on their own, out of sight of any other human, and out earshot of any sound that may remind us of our normal lives, that has greatest impact on individuals. Leadership trails such as the one I was on always include alone time.

Each person finds a secluded spot where all that is visible and audible is evidence of the wilderness. No humans. It is during this time that real reflection takes place that lives are re-planned and deep resolutions with oneself are concluded.  It is truly a cleansing and renewing experience. Indeed it is something that we should all do quite regularly.

Of course, most enjoy the walk that we undertake every day. We do see game. The whole spectrum. We hear and see more than one would typically see from the back of game drive vehicle. But we never promise our trailists that we will see anything.  That is not the primary purpose of these visits to the wilderness. So what is it that makes such animpact?   It is none of the things mentioned above and all of them. Simply put, Nature speaks to you if you allow your mind to open up and allow it in.  And when Nature speaks it is often so loud as to drown out all other thoughts and one is left with the most vivid thoughts and memories.  Comments from the last group, a group aged between 22 and 36 included: “Life changing”; “Unique”; When can I come again”; “I learnt so much about myself ”; “This trail really opened my eyes, I rediscovered myself”.

Having done scores of trails similar to this last one these comments are pretty typical. What makes the magic? You do. You and a natural environment that

you have all but forgotten but which  is still buried deep and powerfully in your psyche. It just needs space to find its way out into the open again!

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