Week 7 was a busy but amazing week! I am writing this blog in my sleeping bag while watching the sun rise out on Ulovane! This week we started with our Mock Practical Assessments, had the usual classes and our tracking assessment with a special surprise waiting for us over the weekend.
I had my mock practical drive! I was pretty nervous but in the end it was all good! I think the same could be said for all of my peers who had their mock assessments this week as well. It’s surprisingly nerve-wracking to go out there in a vehicle filled with “guests” (in the case of mock assessments it’s only other students) and need to remember all the things we have been taught over the last seven weeks as well as making sure your guests are happy and comfortable. While there were a few mistakes, that is to be expected from all of us for our first experience as guides, and the improvement is already evident in all of our skills and hospitality.
I’m not sure when last you had to cook for 30 people, but it’s no easy feat. We had to do this and host our guests on Tuesday evening, giving them an experience that we are very proud of. Our theme was International Night, so every course was from a different country. The food was delicious! The teamwork went really smooth and I think it helped us to bond more and grow as a team. It was an amazing night and guests and hosts alike had a lot of fun. We would like to thank all the guests for coming.
On Wednesday we a special visit from Michelle Du Plessis, managing director of FGASA, and her daughter, Alex. It was fantastic to see her point of few on Game Drives and everything we have learned in the last couple of weeks.
For field guides, tracking isn’t as important as for trails guides. As a vehicle-based guide it’s not nearly as detailed as for a backup trails guide because it doesn’t impact our movements or the safety of our guests. Regardless, it has still ended up being some of our favourite part of the course so far. We went out for a whole day while we were getting assessed by Shani and Koen. The weather was fantastic, sometimes a bit sweaty, but we made it work! In the end of the day we all did amazing. Everyone went up with almost 20% in comparison to the mock tracking assessment, we’re all so proud of ourselves and each other!
Friday we had a beautiful morning on God’s Window for Rhino Remembrance Day. Eight years ago 2 rhino on Amakhala were poached and suffered a horrible death. On the 16th of November we remember what happened by listening to speeches from Giles Gush (landowner), Mark Palmer (General Manager) and Justin Tyler Barlow (Head Ranger). They revealed a beautiful plaque to remember the rhinos. The APU did a demonstration and all the guests got the opportunity to talk to them about all the amazing work they do. After the dedication we attended the Trails Guides graduation. It was lovely and we are all overflowing with pride! They are off to Marines now and we wish them all the best.
Now the most exciting thing; ME-time. We spend the 24 hours by ourselves on Ulovane, where just two days prior a springbok was found, looking like it had been quite a filling dinner for a predator. We were all a bit scared but I think that added to the excitement of the evening. The weather really worked in our favour and the night skies were beautiful to fall asleep under and then to wake up to the sunrise. It was really nice to be alone for some time and enjoy the view and the silence. It was about as comfortable as one can get sleeping out in the bush with nothing but a sleeping bag, but we had so much fun and enjoyed every minute of it!
It is so strange that we only have three more weeks left, I do not want to leave…
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. Omar Khayyam
We’re not sure about you, but all of us here at Ulovane are shocked that the seven-week backup trails course is already over. Historically, it has been one of the favourite courses among Ulovane students staying beyond Field Guides and this time has proven to be no different. The five students on the course provided all of us with endless knowledge and comfort (and snacks when necessary) while out on walks and we are sure they will go far in their guiding careers. Thank you Karrie and Martijn for this final update, and the last update we’ll get from Martijn for a while.How did 7 weeks pass so quickly? It seems that we just finished writing the blog for the final week of the Field Guide course.
Back up Trails… That’s a wrap!
Time is warped at Ulovane. It simultaneously stands still while it zooms past. You are absorbing so much information that you believe you must have been here for a significantly longer period of time than you have, yet in that same moment, the weeks scream by with the passing of each barely being noticed.
Speaking of screaming – that is one of the skills we learned. Well not exactly screaming, more accurately, yelling loudly at a very fast charging paper lion. On second thought, we did do a fair bit of screaming during Jungle Lane (but we can’t talk about Jungle Lane).
We also learned a lot about habitat, animal behavior, diseases, alertness, sounds, smells, wind direction, geography, plants, dung, tracks, trailing, signs, terrain, preparedness, safety, the law, firearms, non-verbal communication, silence, comfort levels, group dynamics, compassion, empathy, limitations, and the list goes on.
I can safely say if we could extend the course we would. Over the time walking together we developed cohesiveness, rhythm, and trust with one another. It is with great sadness that we are concluding the Trails portion of our training at Ulovane. There is nothing quite like walking on the reserve. It necessitated the development of a whole new set of skills that heightened our level of awareness. Perhaps most importantly, we learned how much more experience we need before we will be prepared to walk with guests.
Unlike the Field Guide training which involved endless presentations, lectures, and hours with our noses in books, the Trails course was hands-on practical training in the bush. We were faced with physical, mental and/or emotional challenges that we had never encountered before. At times it was humbling. Others inspired confidence. The positive is that with every perceived set-back there was growth, learning and the refining of one’s self-awareness. We not only grew as individuals but we grew as a unit. Showing up fully to support one another.
The time spent walking and camping on the reserve with Shani and Koen will forever remain among my favorite memories of time at Ulovane. I am grateful for the days of tracking with Schalk and Shani (and the trip into the Grand Canyon will also be a highlight). Special thanks go to Adriaan Louw for our CyberTracker assessment.
And then there is Pieter Dunn…
Pieter, you are a remarkable instructor. The level of dedication you have to the growth and success of your students is a rarity. In academia, students do not typically encounter instructors that are as fully committed to their student’s growth and achievement as you are. The patience, mentorship, access, and guidance showed to our group were above and beyond anything we could have expected or asked for. Thank you.
“We may not have passed but we ultimately succeeded.”
First, we were 12, then we were only 5, next we will be 4. We will miss you Martijn. On to Marines we go.
Another course comes to a close, the final back-up trails course for 2018 has come and gone. It has been an interesting journey the last 7 weeks with a lot of wonderful experiences but also a lot of challenges faced. The biggest of all being the advanced rifle handling component. A huge congratulations to Maya for achieving this very advanced component of the trails qualification and the style that she actually achieved it, from never handling any firearm before to passing all exercises on the first attempt, a performance not to take lightly. After the struggles with ARH all the students did very well to pick themselves up and focussed on the Cyber Tracker component offered on the course by Adriaan Louw. They all applied themselves extremely well and 4 out of the 5 achieved a Level 2 Track and Sign qualification, with Richard achieving a Level 3, this making them the first course ever where nobody achieved less than 80% in what is a very difficult assessment, very well done on that to all of you.
Already making their way through the 10 week field guide course and now reaching the end of the 7 week back-up trails, the 5 of them has become a new family to each other and it is always amazing to see the dynamics at play and the connections made. The team of 5 is sadly losing one of their members as they move on to the next step of the 4 week marine guiding course, Martijn you will definitely be missed by your new family and we all wish you the best with your future endeavours, but I am also positive it is not the last we will hear from you or you from us.
As for the other 4, it has been a great privilege to be able to share the last few weeks with you all, getting to know all of you and see how you grew, in experience and personally. I want to wish you all the best of luck for the marine course lying ahead and hope that the amazing experiences you have had and that is still to come will stay with you for a very long time.
Thank you all for sharing your time with us and giving it everything you had while on the course, if there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty it is that even when things got tough you all were able to pick yourselves up, dust yourself and take on the next challenge that lied ahead. Well done to everyone for having the drive and the determination to never give up.
- Pieter Dunn (Backup trails trainer)
Your positive action combined with positive thinking results in success. Shiv Khera