Pakamani Nombila recently joined the WFA as a Junior Report Writer and joined our Umzi Wethu youth on a trail in the Tsitsikamma area as part of his induction. Below is a blog on Pakamani’s experience on trail.
For me, one of the most amazing things about being on trail and camping has to be the mornings. Being a villager almost all my life, waking up to the chanting and singing sounds of the birds in the morning reminded me of a place very close to my heart. It reminded me of home, where in the morning roosters would alert you that it was time to get up and get on with your day.
The trail walks, up the mountain and alongside the beach also had me visualize and think of home. Growing up, on weekends I’d go out into the open plains to herd cattle and sheep. I always enjoyed the peacefulness of the open plains, listening to water running down the stream. It gave me a peace of mind when I wanted to think and be by myself. This is also what I got from the trail, time to think and reflect in a soulful and peaceful environment.
On trail, I got to learn about things I never thought of recognizing in my daily life. It was my first time hearing of blue flagged beaches and that only 11 exist in South Africa. More than this, at night I had the opportunity to see, first-hand, the two galaxies – Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) and all the myriad types of stars. Nothing beats that!
Another special moment for me was when the students from Umzi Wethu, would eagerly engage with the natural environment they were in. They could identify species, plants and even different types of water on their own. They were truly taking everything they learnt in theory and putting it into practice. Having engaged with the students on a personal level and knowing that before Umzi Wethu, they were clueless about nature and wilderness; yet here they were now, able to identify things in the natural world outside of their classes. That’s really something special to witness.
On trail there’s something called Solitaire and the Talking-Stick. This was my first time experiencing Solitaire. The chance to go off alone for 15 minutes to 45 minutes, in the dark, without talking to anyone was an experience on its own. Solitaire gives you time to reflect and think about your life, your plans for the future and ways of getting there. It made me consider why we don’t really have these moments in our daily routines. We tend to just take things as they come.
With Solitaire, you are in an uninterrupted environment, with no buzzing noises and interruptions like we have in the city. So your thought process is at peace, and you are really able to focus and dig deep into what you are putting into your mind. From this, people then get to share their goals for the future and what they’d like to achieve. This is simply amazing because it is always nice to be in a safe environment where you can let other people know and still trust in your dream. Often in life, we are in spaces where we have to safe guard our dreams and desires, because we fear them being rejected by society or people telling us that they’re invalid. I loved the safe space this trip provided for people to share their plans for the future and even stories from their past with no fear of being judged or laughed at.
What also touched me from the trip were the different individuals that I got to spend time with and get to know better. These are young people who come from very disadvantaged backgrounds and each one with a story that somehow resonated with me. Home is from a very small village where not many people are educated and we’re constantly looked down upon by surrounding communities. Getting an education and being the first graduate in my immediate family saw me escape that cycle, it saw me working for the Wilderness Foundation Africa. I am doing causes very close to my heart as opposed to having to go to look for work in the mines and firms either in the Western Cape or Gauteng province; like most people my age do back home. On this trip, I was with people from similarly humble backgrounds, people with the desire to escape elements from their own unfavourable environments and make something out of themselves. People with a desire to get an education – that touched me.
Most of the people were first time campers like myself, so pitching a tent was a new experience to some of us, camping and sleeping out in the wilderness was also a new thing. We had all sorts of birds flying past us and resting amongst the trees around us, a bush pig that roamed around our camp and Cape bushbuck. All these animals I’m used to seeing only on shows like National Geographic. The beach was so full of uninterrupted aquatic life also. I saw dolphins – not in a pool, but in their natural habitat. Star fish, crabs and even clams.
Another wonder came from canoeing down the Salt River leading to the sea. Canoes are actually much more work than they seem from when you’re an outsider looking in. Finding the rhythm with my partner in the canoe was hard. But I enjoyed every moment of it. On our way back, we made a stop at the magnificent Bloukrans Bridge with the highest bungee jumping spot in the world. The view from up the bridge is indescribable. I enjoyed the camping trip and would go back for more any day.