City girl goes ‘wild’

A self-proclaimed ‘high maintenance’ girl from Johannesburg, currently on an FGASA Field Guide course at Selati, enrolled on this course to learn as much about wildlife as she can. She has one mission in life: “pursue your passion, and go do great things in life.”

Payal Ramjee, the self-proclaimed “high-maintenance Joburg Girl,” is currently with EcoTraining on the 55-Day FGASA Level 1 Course at Karongwe and Selati. Taking a gap year upon her recent graduation from The University of Pretoria, Payal seeks to live, learn and get into the bush. Armed with a BSC in Zoology, Payal hopes to attend Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria and become a Wildlife Vet, specialising in her beloved mammals. Payal wanted to get into the bush to see the animals first-hand and was referred to EcoTraining by a family friend who was also a field guide. During this year of self-discovery in the African wilderness, Payal is focusing on learning as much about wildlife as she can.

She is giving herself the space to explore which facets of animal care that resonates with her the most. After she completes the course with EcoTraining, she looks forward to volunteering at various animal welfare organisations that focus on rescue and rehabilitation.

Upon being a Joburg Girl in the Bush, Payal has a few thoughts:

   “It’s the first time I’ve ever had to stir my coffee with a stick, I’d never do this back home. I was worried about how I would cope without all my usual luxuries, like video series on my laptop. All my friends said I would only last a week, as I’m such high-maintenance, but I’ve really surprised myself with how well I’ve adapted to living in the bush. It’s strange to not go out for drinks on a Friday night but instead, I’m playing the box game and ‘who am I?’ It’s crazy to come home and religiously check for ticks- then take a hot shower and leave my clothes in the sun. I’ve freaked out, mistaking my shoe laces under the bed, in the dark, for baboon spider legs! And then blowing a kudu horn- that’s something I never thought I’d do!”

In her own words, Payal shares one of the most profound moments of her EcoTraining experience to date:

  “A life-changing experience was a bush walk I guided. We walked about 5 km that day. It was physically taxing because I hurt my foot a few days before by tripping over some rocks and then re-hit the same foot on two other rocks. Nonetheless, we walked along and deep into the bush we found this massive rock structure and decided to climb it. It was high, and as I am vertically challenged…I had to crawl up part of it to not fall off. Getting to the top, I almost fell face first, but luckily our backup, Dwayne, caught my backpack and steadied me. I climbed further on and was blown away by the most spectacular ocean of green below me, and it was at that stage, I realised just how insignificant I am in the world; I felt like a speck of dust in a sea of green. As it was a silent walk, we all just sat down and revelled in the beauty below us, just knowing that just below us, totally camouflaged, are some of the most terrifying apex predators.

It was breath-taking.

When it was time to leave, I had to slide down some of the rocks, as my very short legs could not reach the foot ledges, and I had to be caught by a teammate so I did not fall totally off the rock. This tiny Joburg girl had an experience of a lifetime and came out with just a few scrapes.”

Payal on Field Guide course

To finish up, one thing that makes Payal so fun, are her special “–isms” and funny sayings that lighten every mood and have become catch phrases for the entire group. Here are a few of her daily quotes in the bush:

    “I need to sit, like, in the fire,” she said nightly, as she turns and squats *almost*, in the fire with her backside warming up before bed.

            “Hello, friends!” one of her most popular and widespread sayings here at camp.

            “Ahh, crisis!” This pretty much applies to anything and everything at any time.

            “I need to pull my sh*t together.” Payal is definitely a woman who has all of her sh*t together and works extremely hard. Perhaps it’s because of this daily motivational saying?

And finally, “Let’s go do great things with life!” which is often followed by, “for ten minutes.”

So, in Payal’s own words, let’s pursue our passions and “go do great things with life!”