Expect the Unexpected
In a nutshell this is what I learnt spending 4 nights sleeping under the stars enveloped by bush and big 5. My Duty was camp kippie – a crucial part of our semi-primitive walking trails at Leopard Mountain. This unforgettable adventure captures the very essence of being in the wild. Day 1 is a strange introduction to our lives in the wild – welcomed by an array of birdlife, our walkers started off on foot. Weaving through acacia thickets their eyes scanned the surroundings – meeting white rhino and a herd of buffalo. Wind direction, vegetation, distance and behaviour are all taken into consideration instantly by our rifle weilding, sharp eyed Ranger, Ivor. Suddenly the guests realise- they have entered a different world.
While setting up our basic camp I notice the thin barrier of thorn shrub is all that lies between us and the outside world for the evening. The buffalo in the river watch on as I offload the esentials for the evening. A Jackal buzzard is perched in the river feeding and a goshawk makes an impressive twist throught the camp. I love being out here. The walkers arrive – in awe. Already the city lights have faded from thier minds. We spark up the fire and enjoy some tea boiled straight off the coals – this became a ritual over the next few days.
With only each other as company – we trade stories. Every now and then we pause to enjoy the array of noises surrounding us. Each night while sitting up on guard duty we would hear fruit bats, bushbabies, leopards, hyena and of, course lions as they drew nearer and then slowly faded into the distance. Its hard to find words to describe the feeling of being a part of nature. The walkers engage in another days journey – racking up the sightings. Four out the big five in one day – among countless interesting species of animals and trees on the way. We settle in for tea once again – by this time everyone has grown comfortable as we wonder around the camp settling into books – relaxing – nursing muscles and thorn bush scratches from the day. As I lay in my bed roll gazing at the constellations, I realise – this is exactly where I want to be.
One camp offered me more than I bargained for – the team set off for the day and I was left to pack up camp – as I ease towards the edge of the riverbed to relieve myself of countless cups of rooibos tea,I’im greeted by the last animal I expect to see. A furious grunt and a sharp movement leaves me adrenalin filled as I look straight into the eyes of a lioness – under 10m away. Luckily she decides to sneak into the forest instead of eating me alive. I return to camp to asses the best course of action. I can see the walkers – not far off – I begin one of the most dangerous walks I’ve ever taken. As I move through the long grass and acacia thicket to the road, I’m relieved as one of my whistles catches Ivor’s attention. They return with the only rifle in the area. We head back to the campsite – no sign of our unwanted visitor. As we are about to leave I enter the boma to fetch the bushknife – my weapon of choice to clear a road to the camp in order to pack up. As I reach the side of the camp my friend returns once again – furious. Before my eyes have focused she is out the grass with a snarl and a roar – staring into my soul as if to say -‘I’ve warned you already’. I stand – bush knife raised as if I have a chance – locked in a stare – slowly she sudbues and slinks off behind the brush. Ivor joins up with me again. We listen as she runs off through the bush releasing unhappy grunts as she goes. Escourted back to the vehicle I head off to find backup to help me pack. The walkers however head on foot with a fearless contentment. All in all the experience was incredible – calming and bonding each one of us in 5 days of solitude. Its amazing how you realise your purpose or what you want from life when you are out there. The pure enjoyment of witnessing countless situations and sightings of all animals big and small spins around in my head as I rest up for work the next day. If it was up to me, I would stay out there as long as possible – but even if you don’t want to get lost in the bush, you should definately add this experience to your bucket list. Truly a journey the 4 of us will never forget!