To walk and just be in the wilderness

“I needn’t go on about the hidden beauty of the Kruger Park that our instructor-guide, Bruce showed us and which the average Kruger National Park visitor cannot imagine exists; or about the days when sometimes being a hot foot-slog was rewarded with a cold wash and a hard bed. What matters is what we took away with us at the end: the memories of places and animals that are fascinating as well as beautiful beyond words; and the complex shifting of ‘stuff’ under the surface of one’s consciousness.” Bev Tucker, Lowveld Living Magazine.

You might wonder what a Wilderness Trails Skills course entails.  We can start by assuring you that it is absolutely 100% impact free on the environment, with the underlying principle being “natural” in every form.  The aim of this course is to connect you with the wilderness that is inside you because not many of us know it is there.

We only have one rule – what we carry in is what we carry out. We leave nothing behind but footprints and we take nothing but photos.  Internationally they call that the ‘pack in, pack out’ method.    We also work on the grain of rice theory which means that if you are choosing a campsite in a wilderness area and you come across a grain of rice where you want to camp, this tells you that:

·         people have been there

·         they have eaten rice

·         they made a fire to cook that rice

·         they slept there

·         they went to the toilet there

·         they littered there

Essentially this spoils your true wilderness experience.

Our campsites are chosen to have a minimal impression of the wildlife in the area.  We do not set up our camp next to water sources as that would interfere with animals coming to drink, yet we set up close enough for us to collect water. Fires are kept as small as possible, with only one 10cm flame so that there is no unusual visual disturbance for the wildlife.

“We also don’t want to waste wood as it doesn’t grow on trees” quips Bruce Lawson, a seasoned wilderness trails specialist with a dry sense of humour. Only hardwood is collected as this has less impact on the environment and we will use far less. It will also have insects in it using the rotting wood for food and shelter.

Ash is distributed into flowing rivers after the night’s camp for dispersal, spread out in the bush or buried deep below ground. The fire area is cleaned and left as we found it. No ash, no burnt stumps, no scars. People’s sleeping areas are rehabilitated and camouflaged to be left as we found them.

All litter is removed and footprints are wiped away.

We have used some campsites on the Makuleke concession 20 times and when our course participants are told this, they cannot believe it. They think they are the first to use them.

Negative impacts on the environment are not the only impacts we think about during this six-day trail.  On this course, you realise that you are part of the environment and the long silent walks through the bush give you time to think about some of the undesirable impacts we impose on ourselves.

What impacts us negatively the most in our everyday lives?  “TIME,” says Bruce “and the race against time stops us truly living!”

(Photo by Amanda Hattingh)

We are made aware of our habit of living by our watches so we need to leave time behind us on this trail.  No watches or electronic devices are allowed. We live for our primary needs only.  We don’t have to look at a watch to know when it is time to eat, we will get hungry and that will be the correct time to eat. A watch does not tell us it’s time to sit and rest, our body will and when it does that will be the correct time to do so.  A watch does not tell us when it is the correct time to sleep.  Our bodies will.

We are as much a part of nature as any other living animal.  Once we understand and accept this notion, we will start preserving nature to ensure our own survival, as well as that of our wild animals need nature to survive. Once we understand that the human soul needs the wilderness and nature as much as the body needs food, we will learn to conserve and preserve and this will lead to a calmer and brighter future.

“Man without wilderness is like a body without food,” says Bruce Lawson, and so we invite you to come on a course in which you will feel instantly lighter and enlightened by nature’s rhythm and wisdom.

About the Author:
Annemi Zaaiman

Annemi Zaaiman

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