Pauline from Paris, one of our long stay volunteers of 3 months here at Legodimo celebrated her birthday this week. As it happenes it turned into a two day celebration with her actual birthday involving a trip in her honour to see some amazing cave painting legended to be between 2,000 and 4000 years old and then watching the sun set from this view point from the most perfect vantage point up at our North camp base.
The second day started as usual and the 7.00am departure commencing a hard morning's work in the bush to be followed by an afternoon excursion into the nearby village of Mathatane. This is the home of a few of our local helpers here at camp, Jannie, Pinky, Jane and Sakeyo and it so happens that it was Sakeyo's birthday that day so in addition he had arranged a soccer game for the volunteers to play a friendly match with his local team and to end in a visit to his father Jannie's home afterwards.
The heat of the afternoon endured and the volunteers began their wam up, the pitch seemed of mammoth size and the sandy uneven surface suggested that this was going to be very much a challenge and hopes that the roaming donkeys wouldn't be too much of a obstacle The opposition rolled up seemingly one by one and the teams were soon up to the maximum capcity so the kick off began. Watching from the side line with a couple a volunteers who like my self were in flip flops and had of course conveniently forgotten their running shoes!! we cheered on our team and the game played on with great efforts on both sides. The final score of 3-2 to the Mathatane's was no mean defeat, our team had played extremly well despite unfamiliar turf and spirits were high all round.
Cooling down for everyone was another pleasure, visiting the local bar in the village everyone rewarded themselves with some well deserved beer. Then off to visit Jannie's house with a couple of more in hand, the party was well underway. Dancing with his grandkids, cousins, friends it was fantastic to get such a welcome. Sakeyo and Pauline were the guests of honour as it was their birthday celebration. Then back to the trucks for the journey home, fastening hoods and tightening scarfs we eventually made it back to camp welcomed by Andy who had prepared the Braai. Rob from the UK also announced he had a birthday in the upcomoing week so this was a celebation for him aswell. Happy Birthday to you all........in true Legodimo style of course.
Three weeks into my stay here, the yoga class emerged. Even though most had heard of it few had any idea beyond, "is that what you do when you put your leg around your neck whilst balancing on the other and staying there for 3 hours??" Well the answer is yes and no.....yoga can be a basic stretching class or a deep spiritual practice so after explaining a few facts and dispelling any myths of hippie trippy jargon all embraced it with curiosity and enthusiasm. Lining up on mats in the courtyard I guided them into postures such as mountain, tree and cobra to name a few and teaching a few ways of how they could stretch out their fatigued limbs from stiff backs to aching shoulders. Ending in a final relaxation in 'savasna' or 'corpse' pose which is the translation from the Sanskrit, the feedback was great and the start of yoga at Legodimo was underway.
Class two began a couple of days later and was perfect timing at the end of a busy day working in the bush. Sun salutations were in the swing of the warm up stage when sounds from yonder of 'elephant, elephant!' embraced our ears...........grabbing cameras and swiflty moving as quickly and quietly as could be, all stood in awe again as one of the herd had decided to grace us with its presence. Munching away on the vegetation just beyond our lookout deck was a bird's eye view of this magnificient creature.Sencing our presence it decided to move out of sight again so once again the volunteers returned to their mats and the class resumed. However tried as we did, and toppling out of yet another attempted round of sun salutations, here we go again.........walking casually past, closer than even before, the elephant! I am convinced that it was the positive energy we created in the yoga class that had attracted him back but of course as G explained, the elephant was probably around 60 years old and most likely on his last set of teeth and it was the soft vegetation around the camp that had made it so attractive for his visit that evening! However no matter for what reason it was a fantastic spectacle and the pleasure and excitment was brimming.
We did eventually finish the class and as the volunteers lay down on their mats happy. tired and relaxed and I'm sure with a deep sence of contentment, it was the completion of a perfect day.
Up at the crack of dawn and packed for a day in Kudu Land, an event everyone anticipated with great excitment. The drive through Legodimo to get to the border and into South Africa in the early morning again was a feast for the eyes, the quiet background of the land echoing the cry of the birds. 'Bertha' the trusted Landcruiser ferrying the group across familar terrain loaded with passengers equipped with binoculars and cameras. I rode in the car in front with G (Gerrit) whilst the voulnteers drvien by Chris followed behind. My eyes peeled in all directions for movement of wildlife whilst all the while listening to the tales of the Bush from the live encyclopeia sitting besides me.
The usual crossing at the border through customs becoming a familar site with the friendly patrol offiers welcoming us once again into South Africa. My passport is rapidly getting filled with departure and arrival stamps and I can fill in a customs form with my eyes closed!
On we go to 'Alldays', not the local corner shop as many of us know in Britain, but an actual town that is the nearest for us to Legodimo. Small though it may be, it seems to have it all.......well almost all!! I'm still in pursuit of a rug for our room back at camp, nothing fancy of course, but these things don't seem to exsit here unless you want a zebra or wilderbeast hide with or without the head!. These skins are beautiful I agree but I definately prefer them when they have a body to go with them and mechanism such as breathing and moving are still in tact so no rugs here for me unfortunately. However Alldays does have an internet cafe and a hotel and endless supplies of goodies to stock up on to take back to camp which we will do on our return journey.
It is also here that we met up with our guide Antony who is accompanied by his little girl Charlie and we transfer into his minivan.The luxury of a minivan is almost surreal for the volunteers who sit in the laps of luxury in aircon and comfy velvet seats. Chatting all the while Antony tells us of the surrounding farms and conservation areas and what animals are contained in which and the disticnt height of the fences tells the tale of a cattle farm or a game researve. Entering Kuduland we drive the dirt road lined by telegraph poles which are in randon states of vertical positions. This as Antony explains is due to the Rhinos who love to scratch themselves against these poles, a phenomomen that he is yet to work out and explain. The word of a Rhino however makes everyone sit up and glare out of the window as if expecting to see one by magic appearing from behind bush........no such luck this morning but there was always a chance. Arriving at the base and transferring into yet another vehicle, this one definate more appropriate for the journey of the cheetah pursuit, an opentop Landrover and once again back to familar mode of transportation as everyone geared up to feast their eyes on the unveiling landscapes as we drove into the park.
Wilderbeasts and buffalo were the first to be spotted with a scattering of little wild pigs who wiggled their behinds at us as they scarped though the grasses. The terrain is slightly different to Legodimo is that there are no mopani trees and it is termed a Savanah sandspar land. Water drainage in this area is a lot easier hence the lack of waterbars which are a familar site in Legodimo, it being a Savanah grassland.
Antony showed us where he located a cheetah earlier that day and drove in a rough direction that he thought they might be. By the time of the day he was pretty certain that they would have eaten so were probably at rest and headed over to one of the popular haunts. Continuing our journey on foot we headed off in the usual single file following our leader who was laden with a device not short of in similarity to a TV areial attached to a PDA! Uncertain houghts going through my head and we were little unsure, there we were on foot tracking a cheetah........don't they kill bigger animals that us...I really hope they had had their lunch and the extra nourishment of seven meagre humans was not on their pallet that morning. This thought aside I had full confidence in our guide and the excitement eroded any fears as the GPS showed that we were nearing our sighting.
A few more steps and there she was, basking under the shade of a tree, seemingly with not a care in the world, the most beautiful big cat I had ever had the privilage to get up so close and personal.
Only about 10 meters away we all stood in awe, the cameras got hard at work. She was so relaxed to have us there and was totally at ease which contagiously spread into all of us feeling totally at ease with her as we took up a sitting place on the grass and just watched and adored. Occasionaly she'd raise her head or flick her tail at an irritating fly but mostly she just basked and we just observed, totally at peace in the full blown experience of man meets wild beast in the bush. Again the beauty of nature in its full natural environment bathed us all in a wrap of bliss and harmony, the realisation of the African wild life so special, so elite As time went by she did get up and we thought it was time for us to leave as well. Marching back to the jeep in full satisfaction of our cheetah experince and we knew that anything else we'd see that day would just be a bonus. However a bonus we did have, for on our way back to base four young girafffes nonchalantly walked out in front of the truck, so elegant and seeminly so prim. The pretty heads floating on their magnificant necks, they stopped and as if standing on parade posed for their pictures before galloping on their way. The day was complete at Kuduland and what a wonderful experience it had been.
May 11, 2011 by botswana-social-manager
'Legodimo' translated 'Paradise' lies alongside the Limpopo river on the Botswana border. Although the word Legodimo has a catchy ring and stirs a certain curiosity and a certain romance is conjured up in the knowing of the meaning, this is almot secondary to the phrase of 'a picture paints a thousand words.'
I arrived in this remote distant land almost 3 weeks ago now from the UK with my partener Ian. We are the latest additions to the staff list at Legodimo Nature Reserve, myself being employed as the camp social manger and Ian as the newly appointed postion of business manager. Africa for each of us is a new land and with expectations to a minimum we landed with enthusiasm and wonder.
The journey from Johanesburg to Polokwane was a lead up to the adventure as the little propeller plane delivered us comfortably and swiftly. Met in the airport by Gerrit and Meike who run the camp at Legodimo we received a warm welcome and then immediately introduced into one of their weekly tasks of grocery shopping. Half asleep and jetlagged I vaguely remember a couple of huge supermarkets amist of bulk buy products and packets of morpani worms hanging on the walls. The drive back to camp of course is the experience in itself, agaspt at first, 'why dont they fix these roads', I nervously made sure my seat belt was doubly fastened whilst muttering silent prayers! Three weeks later of course realizations have sunk in and now all is well, the roads are 'as is' and the cars are built appropriately. The journeys now are in awe and wonder as everywhere out here there is a little gem waiting around every corner.
The beauty of this desert land, or should I correctly say Savanah grasslands, lurks in every direction you look. The dancing impala against a backdrop of vast natural wilderness and herds of elephant families stoically standing or roaming, watching and wondering. I think to my self, 'who is really watching who?' The aliveness of nature and this old, ancient land are the perfect compliment to eachother, they have existed together for thousands,if not millions of years, and the wholeness and harmony bring a peace and awe to the lucky few who have this opportunity to embark a visit to Legodimo.
The energy at the camp with the volunteers is vibrant. Gathered together from all four corners of the globe they embrace the conservation work dilegently and with enthusiasm.Up at the crack of dawn and fully equipped with spades and pick axes by 7 they are ready to board 'Bertha' the Landcrusier.
During our first week at camp Ian and I joined in all of the activities. The work on the land could be pretty tough in the heat of the day but the group energy and sence of accomplishment and contribution made it enjoyable and fun. Bonuses of the day were the animal finds and it was as if nature knew to send that elephant just at that moment when the realisation of fatigue was setting in and a daunting task was immediately transformed into a brightness of awe and wonder as the cameras were drawn and a slience of that special sighting once again arose as if it was the first.
The base camp itself is also a special place and a beautiful courtyard with a big open fire place which is not only the bread making oven but a place where many a volunteer shares a story and a laugh. Every corner of the yard has a different energy and sounds from darts to birds to chatter to pots and pans but there is always too a place for a quiet read and peace.
Legodimo its seems is not only home to the wild but its a home to its visitors too. Everyweek volunteers come and go but each one comments that almost immediately they feel a sence of welcome and it becomes their home on their passing journey for a experience of the wilderness.
Likewise myself have settled in very nicely, without the comforts of our homeland and back to basic living the sence of being so close to nature brings a certain closeness back to oneself. Distracting texts and junk mails, noises of traffic and distant motorways seem to fade in distant memories and there is no place like it to bring ourselves back to living in the now.
In the weeks to come I'll be updating my journey in this beautiful place as well as sharing other volunteer stories as my Afriacan encounter continues.
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