With finals finished and assessments passed – what’s a student to do?
The chance to go on foot in a Big Five reserve has been a long-awaited treat, for there is a hypnotic quality to bushwalks that you don’t get from a vehicle-based experience. Your senses expand, your mind calms, your ego shrinks, and just for a while you are part of the natural way of things. You get to walk in the footsteps of the animals; following the game paths they tread, stopping at the waterholes they relish, listening for the alarm calls they are attuned to. Once you remove the (protective and comfortable) barrier of a vehicle, the separate components we have enjoyed learning: following tracks, interpreting signs, understanding the interplay of behaviours, all stitch themselves together into one expansive, ever-changing tapestry wherein things start gloriously to become relevant and make sense. From the arresting scent of a bull elephant just out of musth, to the reverberating groan of a hippo not 50 yards away: everything is immediate and meaningful.
Bushwalks are an opportunity to enhance our knowledge and prepare for the upcoming Back Up Trails Guide course – but they are also a chance to pay homage to our greatest teachers here: the animals themselves. The dewy-eyed impala who have peaceably let their secrets be told a hundred times, the charmingly awkward giraffe who still grace us with their curious, long-lashed glances no matter how many times we’ve stopped and stared at them, the stitched-together wildebeest who have helped us talk about 10 different subjects when other creatures deigned not take the stage: they saw us on our first drive; over-awed and nervous with anticipation, and they see us now: still perhaps a little nervous but infinitely more prepared!
As well as being fantastically enjoyable, bushwalks are humbling, and provoke contemplation as to our impact upon this beleaguered and beloved planet. Yet once you have seen how far-reaching the actions of some of the savanna’s tiniest inhabitants are: the termites responsible for the health and homes of seemingly everything in the bush – you feel more hopeful about the value of the smallest human action, and feel inspired to make one more change to your own behaviour – and one more after that…
But first, come with us. Imagine you are on foot and glimpse your favourite animal. Time seems to slow. You freeze so as not to break the gossamer spell that has woven this possibility: this reality that you are against all odds sharing space together. Instead of feeling your breath catch in fear, you find your whole body breathes out and learns to be still, so that these moments, however fleeting, become enough, stretched as they are by the fullness of experience they contain. The fly buzzing at your ear, the dull ache of the sun on your neck – everything is both heightened and eclipsed in the presence of such an animal. You hear her breath, you catch her scent, feel her path through the vegetation shudder the air – and then she is gone, with a suddenness that only belongs to wild things, and you exchange grins with your companions to seal the memory in somewhere safe, to carry it with you as you walk away.
Want to follow in our footsteps? Contact Bushwise.
Blog by Laura Power