On Trail: Playing in the Bush

The second time I was in the Timbavati I was very lucky. The Timbavati River was flowing clear in parts, and submerged in other sections. It was April, with warm days and cool nights. Unlike my first trail which was with fellow school friends, this was a mixed group with adults. I was in my last or second last year at school, well over thirty years ago as I write.

It was great to have access to so much water. Washing up was easy: we just scooped pots and bowls through the wet river sand and rinsed off in clean water. It was also good to be able to sit in the water and have a bath, girls first, then guys.

One day we were having lunch on some rocks in the bend of the river. The water had been channelled into a narrow fast flow for some length and as we were relaxing after lunch, someone threw a leaf into the water and we watched it bob and tack as it flowed down the river. I looked around and broke off a frond from a reed and lowered this into a fast flowing section. “Mine’s faster” I said. “Let’s have a race.”

So we did. All of us including Alan Shore, the field guide, chose their “boats” of leaves and we started the regatta just as the river entered the channel. We were oblivious to everything around us as we ran barefoot along the river sand and over rocks to follow our leaves to the finish. We did this over and over again. It was just so much fun. At the end, when we had finished racing and splashing in the water, Alan said “so, you see how important it is to play?” We all nodded. Some of the adults even mentioned things like stress and big city pressure.

But it was an important lesson: remember to have fun in what you do. It was easy to have fun on foot in the bush. It was easy to be enticed and excited by the wonders of nature. But how difficult is it to have fun in your daily life? Being at university and studying had some fun aspects, but it was hard work. Working itself has some fun aspects, but that’s even harder work than studying. So how do we recapture that lunchtime game chasing leaf boats in a clear river oblivious to the big five that wandered around us?

I am not sure. I still do not have the answers. Perhaps one of the ways to recapture that fun is to tell stories. Our ancient forefathers would have sat around the fire at night telling stories, recounting hunts or seasons or people they had met.

Now we sit around glowing screens at all times of the day or night reading words that sometimes do not even tell a story.

Early morning mist at a dam in Timbavati