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Into the Wild

A Right of Passage in the African Bush

Three Aussie school leavers kicked off their six-month Southern African sojourn with a month’s hard labour on WildArk’s conservancy Pridelands.

Dan, Ted and Jack, 18, spent 12 hour days in the blistering 39-degree heat, clearing bush, repairing erosion sites and removing rubble from this former hunting property in the Greater Kruger region of South Africa. Immersed in the African wilds all day, every day, they learned to read the signs and signals of nature —  discovering the true meaning of freedom the old-fashioned way.

Hottest day: 40C
Average litres of water drunk each day:
6
Pairs of gloves destroyed:
9
Hours on Pridelands in one day:
15

Typical Day in Africa?

Dan: Clearing bush off the roads using machetes or filling in erosion sites with old bricks from small constructions around the property.
Ted: Up early and starting work on anything from road maintenance to bush clearing and erosion site packing. At around 5pm we’d arrive home, fill the ‘esky’ and head back onto the property for an evening game drive.
Jack: Wake up at 6 am, quick breakfast and then onto Pridelands to either begin picking up rocks and putting them into eroded roads, sledge-hammering the rocks to mould them into the roads or cutting branches that hung out over the roads.

Typical Day in Sydney?

Dan: I spend most of my days with friends or surfing.
Ted: I’ll get up and head down to the beach for a surf  with some friends. Then either work, read or catch up with friends in the evening.
Jack: Sleep until 8:30am, go to the beach with mates for a couple of hours, have lunch, go home and then go out in the city

Best Job?

Dan: Bush clearing. It was really satisfying driving along the roads we had cleared.
Ted: Using the machete to chop down Sickle bush and overhanging branches.
Jack: Bush packing, filling in Sickle bush along erosion sites around the property.

Worst Job?

Dan: Filling in erosion sites in the 35-degree heat.
Ted: Bush packing with Knob thorn branches. Their thorns are evil!
Jack: Picking up branches and bits of metal around the homestead area.

New Skill?

Dan: Tracking on foot.
Ted: Professional machete utilisation.
Jack: Driving manual cars and tracking wildlife.

Favourite Tool?

Dan: Machete
Ted: Machete
Jack: Machete

Worst Scar?

Dan: Knob thorn scratch across my right arm.
Ted: Aching neck from a high-speed game drive incident.
Jack: Couple of cuts on my legs but I came off lightly.

Couldn’t have done without?

Dan: Water
Ted: Machete
Jack: Ute

Tree that caused the most injuries?

Dan: Knob Thorn
Ted: Knob Thorn
Jack: Sickle Bush and Knob Thorn

Favourite Tree?

Dan: Marula
Ted: Marula
Jack: Baobab

Favourite Animal Spotted?

Dan: Elephant
Ted: Caracal
Jack: African fish eagle

Best New Word?

Dan: Hoot danke
Ted: Hut danke
Jack: Hoedunki
What they mean: *Afrikaans: Goed Dankie — English: Good Thank You

Best Wildlife Encounter?

Dan: Spotting the resident leopard from the back of the truck.
Ted: Tracking a female leopard from our worksite by way of an impala alarm calling 2 kms away. We followed her tracks up the road and into a thick drainage line before we found her.
Jack: Tracking leopard on foot with Anton, we didn’t find one but the possibility was scary

Favourite Memory?

Dan: Working with a mechanic for a week.
Ted: The people plus their overwhelming desire to change the world and their belief in their abilities to do so.
Jack: Tracking a leopard after hearing alarm calls from impala and following her tracks leading towards a drainage line before spotting her.