Monday rolls around and we are all looking at each other with disbelief. How is it possible that the third semester is already here? We are gradually realising that within a mere couple of weeks we will be halfway through the course and from there it seems to be the matter of a blink and a whistle until we will be sent on our separate ways, be it onto our work placements or back home. A traumatic realisation to be sure.
Luckily this week, as with every week spent in the bush, there is more than enough to distract us from the ever looming end of the course. We are going to be spending our time getting to grips with the eagerly awaited 4 by 4 training. Now, before our week off, we had been presented with a fairly unassuming manual and given strict instructions to read it through, at least twice, before Monday. Being a keen bunch we had all done just that. Unfortunately there seemed to have been a slight mix up. There was no way my manual was written in English – I am very confident in my ability to read and understand English, have been so for a number of years thank-you kindly, but I just could not wrap my head around the suspiciously wizardy topics in the manual. Luckily, that seemed to be a pretty common theme amongst the group and we had been told that Bushwise had an external guru coming in to demystify the world of 4 by 4. Enter stage left: Mark, founder of Nostophobic Adventures and general off-roading warlock.
Mark had obviously done something terrible that he needed to atone for as he was trapped with us for the entire week. Monday was a day of battering the brain cells and jam-packing them with the answers to all of our 4 by 4 related questions. Looking back none of us are quite sure how he did it but he either switched all of our manuals to English versions or he taught us hierogylphics in record time. Either way it was an impressive manoeuvre. With the theory out of the way, and a concerning number of exams to pass, we were onto the practical!
Group by group we ventured into the wilds of Makalali, bridles; bow shackles; and kinetic ropes in hand! With a bit of application we began to see what the mean, cream land cruising machines can really do. Reverse hill starts on a near vertical death ledge with a twisting track to follow? PAH give us a real challenge! We should have been a tad careful what we wished for as Mark responded by getting us to do the whole thing backwards, a serious test of both our confidence and reversing skills. Luckily under the watchful eyes of Mark and our expert Bushwise trainers we were blooming into veritable 4 by 4 butterflies. A tyre change in a deep sandy riverbed where the High-lift Jack doesn’t want to play ball? Childs play!
A land cruiser buried up to its drive train in deep sand? No Sweat!
Oh and by the way when you know how to work them the cruisers can even drive themselves.
In the meantime, when we aren’t with Mark, we have started our solo drives. It’s time to see if we can make the transition from student to guide. And it seems like there might be hope for us after all. Sure, there are a few rough edges to be polished up but the hard work from the trainers is starting to shine through. What is clear though is that everyday the bush reveals a different wonder to hook us deeper in. Before this week I had never even heard of nostophobia, the fear of going home, but it is becoming clearer with each passing moment that we have a nostophobia epidemic on our hands. We have the bush bug and we have it bad.
By Sophie Barrett