Written by: EcoTraining‘s lead instructor Ben Coley
The bush is a place to find peace and solace. The feeling of immersion in a pristine wilderness area is something that only a few of us are lucky enough to experience. It is a place where the complications of our world disappear. The sounds of never-ending traffic, police sirens and the constant hum of electricity are nowhere to be seen, and instead they are replaced by a myriad of tuneful birdcalls, an underlying cacophony of insect life, the whoop of a distant hyaena or the crack of a branch as a gentle creature feeds.
The holistic effect of the bush is often overlooked. People come to the wilderness to tick off their list of animals and get their certificate in seeing the Big 5, but many will miss the true meaning of being lost in one of the world’s most pristine wildernesses. It is a place to find ourselves, to revisit the primitive nature of our ancestors and experience what life used to be like before the advent of technology. Undoubtedly our advances as a species have opened up doors to new places and allowed us to enjoy a more stress free life… or have they?
Yes, television and a comfy sofa sound like a great way to relax, but I can assure you all that it is no substitute for sitting next to a serene waterhole, watching the setting sun’s rays dance across the water. The colours that seep through the skeletal winter trees cannot be put in words and I struggle to believe that even Dulux could recreate some of them.
Our current crop of budding new field guides was privy to such an evening recently. After a gentle walk from the camp, stopping to discuss an old hyena den and tasting the moisture-rich roots of the aptly named ‘Mother-in-Law’s Tongue,’ we stumbled across an oasis. Stretching out before us was a small body of water with no road access and thus protected from our own destructive influences. The golden light of an African evening filtered through the clouds, giving the whole scene a magical hue: the trees seemed to radiate the light and shine it back at us like something out of a fairy tale. Learning about the fascinating organisms that inhabit this area is one thing, but there is no substitute for just sitting quietly and contemplating life in such an idyllic place.
The students found their own quiet corner to just sit. We spend our whole life rushing from one thing to another, governed by time and the need to attribute meaning to everything. We have forgotten how to truly relax and find ourselves. This was the perfect opportunity and we all relished in the chance to be wrapped up in our thoughts about why we chose to come to such a place, just appreciating the beauty and wonder of nature in her purest form. We sipped drinks in the warm evening air and listened to the wind rustle the leaves and last of the birds said their farewell to another perfect day in Africa. The only movement came from little pond-skaters skimming across the glassy surface of the water and the occasional bumbles rising from its depths as the unseen aquatic world went around its business. It was a perfect moment where time was irrelevant.
This is what the bush is all about, and the reason that so many of us come to the bush. We are all looking for something. Some find it in a bustling city full of social interaction and technological advances. Others, like myself, and many of the students who pass through EcoTraining’s welcoming doors need only experience this solitude once and become addicted to this purity. The ‘real’ world can be fun, but only in small doses. The bush gets under your skin and for some, it will change their life, and their outlook on it, forever.