As a wildlife student in Kenya , you have to undertake bushman-ship program as a survival technique development class. The whole concept of this course is to sensitize on the extremes in the conservation areas bushes as a person with the wildlife that you are to ensure they are well conserved and protected. It is to be undertaken within a conservation area and ours was done inside Hell’s Gate National Park.
To be sincere whatever awaited us is not what I was actually figuring out. FYI am not a sport person and the course was entirely sporty, and for the records, I lost roughly 10 kilograms within 2 weeks, which was a good thing .
Being the first group from our university to undertake this course, we had no one to give us clues on what to expect. We went clueless and ready for surprises.We undertook the course together with one of our brother university , who also had no clear picture of what awaited us. They arrived at the park one day earlier so they had already tested a night in the bush inside tents. They seemed happy and enjoying everything so far , and this made some of us less afraid .
The reality hit us when we were merged and divided into groups, given five minutes on our phones before they were confiscated, taken through the introduction and distributed with tents to pitch. Reality has never been any better but did we had no choice. So basically we had like an hour to make friends with our brothers and sister from the other university so as to work as a team since that was the yard stick. Make peace of not having your phone in the middle of no where and cook our food using firewood like our grandparents in the old days.
The morning had more surprises for us, we were made to wake up by 5:00 am for the morning run in the woods. Can you imagine running in the forest where you can see fresh footprints for animals like hyenas, wild dogs, buffaloes ; that’s right, that was us but the good thing was that we were required to undertake all activities as a team so whether you were the fastest or the slowest, we had to be on the same page. This was unfair to the sport gurus but people like me , it was our amazing grace.
By the way my sport handicap really affected my team at first and I almost consider quitting but my best friend encouraged me to stay . My team almost saw me as a burden until when an activity that i really shined at came up and i fully maximized to make up for them. Those small activities really improved my performance thus boosted my morale to push on an extra mile and we ended up being the best team. During the evenings, other teams could come to our fire place and join in our discussions since our team contained the strong and best debaters. That’s how princess got her voice back.
After morning runs, we had to make ourselves breakfast, clean tents and be ready for the talk sessions from our professors. Time was really limited so teamwork was mandatory. But for us team “Ndovu”, this was a bed of roses. We were a super team that agreed to disagreed and end up with picking the decision that best worked for the team.
The course was so interesting and allowed us revisit our childhood memories in amazing ways. We had to play those kid’s games, solving puzzles, doing crazy things like standing on tables and falling on our backs trusting that our team members will hold us from crushing on the ground, describing ourselves, showing our talents, learning first aid tricks that come handy while in the wilderness, it was so resourceful and fun at the same time.
We went on several expeditions to places such as the Suswa Hills and Mount Longonot , with only a compass and map. Each team had to come up with their own routes to the set destination points. Everyone had to contribute their geography knowledge they had to make it successful. During the expedition is when we realized that the whole assignment was actual on the ground, some rivers in the map were no longer there and some new stream had formed. The hills were more of mountains and we had to climb them as well look at each other backs to avoid being ambushed by the wild animals, we had no weapon so it was mandatory to be very carefully and alert .
We were rained on several times on our way to the destination point, that was the most happiest moments during the course. Making our way back to the camp site we could joke on how we argued when we thought we are lost, of some could point out that they think we are lost, imitate how our friends walked funnily while extremely tired, it was just full of fun and everyone seemed to have forgotten that we had another world outside this park.
Hiking Mount Longonot was the best expedition ever, we went around it and enjoyed the view of its center. It was very satisfactory and we almost forgot that we had along way back to our campsite since our means of transport was entirely our feet. I remember it started raining on our way back and unfortunately I had missed my sweater, luckily my best friend offered his , that was so sweet.
The most enjoyable moment was when we met a herd of buffalos unexpectedly, we were dead tired but the way people ran was so amazing.We ran to all directions even the buffalos got more confused than we were. Just after that encounter and we could even see lights from our campsite, shortly afterwards a group of hyenas surprised us too. You can imagine how that night was becoming more and more interesting, the hyenas laughed and howled at us gracefully. It was on a hilly place and darkness was so thick so running was somehow difficult, thankfully there was a warden’s patrol car passing by so they helped to scare the hyenas away for us. Some of us fell and bruised our body parts but successfully completed the expedition at the second place.
After doing all the assignments and challenges as a team, it was time to get tested individually and it was done via participating in solo nights . We were scattered all over the park and our movement restricted to a radius of 50 meters. You were to stay all alone in the wilderness.
The dropping exercise was done very late in the evening and no one had the opportunity to know where the others were dropped. They only offered us a couple of match sticks and basic food stuff.
I was among those who were dropped off last and collecting firewood was a challenge so I spent my first night without a fire, it was not fun at all. I entered my sleeping bag , zipped it up completely , said a prayer and hoped to see the following morning. I placed myself in a hole so as to hide from the animals. The hyenas and wild dogs made the annoying noises the whole night.
I gazed at the sky most of my night and that’s when I truly had a serious chat with myself. I will always be gratefully for this particular night in my whole life. Surprisingly I ended up dozing off despite the fear I had, I was woken up by some warthogs that were running down the valley, apparently I was too close to their path. I thanked God for helping me survive the night. Washed my face with the dew and created a new home structure to host me during the solo nights session.
I made a shelter, cleared some grass and was able to collect enough firewood. The second night was far much better and well spent exploring the skies. The atmosphere was fresh, skies were breath taking , it was fun watching animals and having the whole world by myself.
The course finally came to an end. We sadly parked our stuff, said our goodbyes and left. We left that place loaded with best experiences and more reasons to continue conserving the wildlife. We managed to make new friends, realize our potentials, tested our strength, strengthened our faith and most importantly modeled us to be the best wildlife managers.
This was my best subject while in campus.