Elephantoms in the Wilderness
2019 began with a nice quiet meal with dear friends. My life partner being away for an extended period somehow left me feeling a little underwhelmed. The first week of 2019 was fairly quiet, the classes started slowly with a lot of our clients still being on holiday. Sunday morning 6th Jan was Carl and my 23 year anniversary. I woke up feeling a little off balance. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but after my morning meditation this is how I would explain the feeling. …. as if I was an arrow, pulled taut and ready to fly, but unsure of which direction the target was.
After sharing this feeling the following week, I realised I was not the only one experiencing this. However, after breakfast that same Sunday, I turned on my laptop to do some work and there was an invite to participate in a Walking Wilderness trail through our infamous Big 5 Reserve here in Kwazulu Natal. This has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. When I moved to this area I had the privilege to meet two of the rangers that were instrumental to bringing this trail to fruition. Inspired, excited and just a tad nervous I immediately accepted the offer and managed to find another two willing and available friends to jump in too. For safety purposes it is necessary to have a group of 8 or 9. You are after all, walking amongst wild elephants, rhinos, lions and buffaloes to name a few of the predators we came across. The trail was taking place in 4 days and so time was of the essence in order to prepare mentally as well as pack etc. After much deliberation about the neutral colours to wear, the camera bag, the obligatory snacks, journal and a warm outfit to fit into my small, manageable backpack, myself and friends were ready. Well that’s what we thought……..
The Wilderness Leadership School offers these trail walks to schools as a form of growth and education and is an amazing project. This one we were doing was to be the same however we were a group of 9 adults, two of which were the armed rangers. The vehicle arrived at my home to collect the three of us, we met the other trailblazers and set out on the road. After a few stops along the way we arrived around 1pm at Imfolozi game reserve, by which time the heat of the day was taking its toll on us all. After enjoying a delicious picnic lunch in the shade, last proper bathroom and taps, use of dustbins and a vehicle we drove to our drop off point. Here the trailer was opened and our gear was handed out. We divided all the food, the sleeping bags, pots, kettle and other basic utensils for 6 days in the bush, between all of us. Once my backpack was fully loaded, I realised the camera had to stay behind, hard decision but was impossible to carry another single thing. I was unable to lift my own pack and get it on my back, it was that heavy. By now I was overheating from wearing a hat and my head couldn’t breathe to cool me down, I was already feeling dangerously challenged. We set off at a snail pace, all I could focus on was one foot in front of the other. The temperature was in the high 30deg regions ! Happily the hike was not too long and we came to our first camp. Collapsed in a melted heap on the hard rock, I was happy to be “home”. The camp was a rocky outcrop, with a cliff face into the Imfolozi river below. We could see the crocodiles in the muddy waters, the river was fairly full and running nicely. This was to be our source of drinking and cooking water for the duration of the trail. We had to pull it up, drop tablets in, then once cleared, use and enjoy. After helping to gather wood for the evening meal, setting up certain rules for ablutions and helping to organise the chopping of the vegetables, we enjoyed a really heavenly meal under the rising starts. Due to the warm weather, no-one bothered with tents and we set our mats out, lay a sarong over us and waited for sleep to come. Using my one and only jersey as a improvised pillow, I lay awake for hours enjoying the sky. Not a cloud in sight, just the milky way in all its splendour! We had divided the night up into 1 1/2hour night shifts to ensure no predators creapt too close, nor elephants quietly moving upon our camp. This was very daunting the first night, but we seemed to all participate readily thereafter. Until we heard the lions around us on 2nd night !.........to be continued
Anyone wishing to participate in these awesome trails follow this link below :
my only suggestion is to avoid this trail from Mid December to mid February. This way the heat will have subsided.