Women brave the wild for Player

2015-03-14 00:00

LEAVES for toilet paper, voracious sand fleas and toe-nibbling river shrimp.

These are just some of the challenges faced by seven women on a three-day game trail.

All in the memory of the late Dr Ian Player, seven courageous women set out with 20 kg backpacks on a five-day Imfolozi Wilderness Trail.

Gwendolyn Isaacs (18) from Ballito, Jacomé Pretorius (16) from George and Kelly Dramos (16) from Maputo, said it was one of the best experiences of their lives.

All three participated in last year’s World Youth Rhino Summit and were chosen to join the “Women in the Wilderness” trail because of their ongoing youth ambassador efforts to raise awareness of the continuing rhino poaching crisis in South Africa.

They were joined by Sheelagh Antrobus, Micah van Schalkwyk, Bronwyn Laing and Penny Parker.

Giving up their home comforts, school and work duties, the team set out to personally experience life in the wild, surrounded by the Big Five.

With no communications or contact with the outside world, the group, led by Denis Zondi and Sipho Buthelezi, who are field guides from the Wilderness Leadership School, traversed the hills and valleys flanking the Black Imfolozi River, sleeping in the open and cooking evening meals using only two pots, one kettle and a large spoon.

Pasta dinners, oats for breakfast, cheese and tuna sandwiches for lunch and dried fruit were on the menu while purified water drawn from the river ­supplemented their thirst.

The girls became quite fond of “Mr Dug”, the yellow-and-green hand trowel that they used for digging a little hole after early morning coffee.

“We weren’t allowed toilet paper,” said Laing. “So we became very good at identifying non-poisonous leaves and grass to use instead!”

Lions, rhinos, hyenas, elephants and buffalos were always in close proximity on the third night and two elephants visited their campsite, causing the group to beat a hasty retreat in the darkness.

“We weren’t in any real danger,” said Micah, who spotted the looming pachyderms during her night watch.

The trail ended at the memorial iSivivane (stone cairn) at the Imfolozi Centenary Centre, built by the World Youth Rhino Summit participants last year, where each trail member laid a pebble from the Wilderness in memory of Dr Ian Player.

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