Tuesday, 22 December 2009

16th December - I Lived a Dream; Thanks and Farewell

They say that all good things must come to an end, and sadly this is true for what has become an absolutely unforgettable chapter of my life.

I arrived at Motswari in April 2007, although my adventures in the bush had already begun in January of that year, and I have since spent the last three years of my life living a childhood dream; that of being in the wilds of Africa on a daily basis, watching the comings and goings of nature in one of the few remaining wilderness areas left in the world, the Great Kruger Park, of which the Timbavati and Motswari are a part of.

I don’t suppose I can complain about my time spent in the bush, especially as my original intention was to spend just one year in the bush before returning to my studies, but that one year turned into two, and that then turned into three! With the advents of the last couple of weeks (the northern dams filling up, Rockfig Jnr leopardess having cubs and white lions moving into the area) I was sitting wishing that the three years would turn into four! While I would have loved to have stayed longer in this paradise, the demands of the real world also need to be met, and I had always promised myself I would complete my Masters Degree in Environmental Management, and if I were to leave it any longer, it would not get done, so I have bitten the bullet and decided to spend 2010 studying (and watching the Football World Cup!) back in Johannesburg. Now you don’t really get much more of a change in lifestyle than switching from the chilled life in the African bush to the hustle and bustle of city life and the joys of studying!

Despite this, it is a step that I am taking, and it is going to a hard adjustment to make, especially considering how much the Timbavati and Motswari have come to mean to me over the last three years; they have taken up a special place in my heart, and will never be forgotten. The memories they gave to me, some captured on film, others just in the pages of my mind will live with me forever, and will be cherished everyday for the rest of my life, and replayed in my mind and on my computer screen whenever I am feeling home sick!

I would just like to take this opportunity to say a big and heart-felt thank-you to everyone that has made this chapter of my life as special as it has been, and at the risk of sounding like an Academy Awards Speech, I would just like to thank….

Firstly, The Geiger Family, Mr and Mrs Geiger for their original vision and determination to make the lodge what it has become, and a legacy that is now carried on by their daughter Marion and her husband Fabrice. It was a pleasure working for all of you, and I really enjoyed your company and involvement over the last few years; you helped create a wonderful working environment and one that most certainly contributed to my enjoyable time with you.

Secondly, to Steve and Kathy, the managers of Motswari, a huge thank you to both of you for everything you have done for me over the last three years; firstly for taking me on as a ‘student’ without lodge experience, to helping me grow as a guide and a person. You two are also very responsible for making Motswari the warm and welcoming place it is, and I don’t think I would have had as good time as I did had it not been for your help! Your doors were always open and nothing was too much for you to do, and for that I am very grateful!

I then also have to say a big thank-you to all of the rangers/guides and trackers that I have worked with over my time here, and to wish my replacement, Grant all the best for the future. Firstly to Godfrey, our head guide, it has been a pleasure working under you for the last two years, and we shared many laughs and debates that made my job a pleasurable one. Your patience with guests and guides is admirable, as is your knowledge of all things large and small, and if there is one thing I regret, it is that I didn’t spend more time learning from you. Our ‘discussions’ were always entertaining, even if they did carry on for months before you changed your story to agree with mine (think of the Jacaranda pride, LOL!). As for the other guides, Frankie, Wayne, Tabie, Ralf, and John that have all come and gone, and then Herald, Palence, Giyani, Elliot, Johannes and Andrew that I spent the most time with; thanks for making a great team and sharing in all that is magic about Motswari. Also, as mentioned, Grant is going to be replacing me, and I am sorry that you didn’t join sooner, it would have been great to have worked with you, and all the best for your future at Motswari.

I can’t forget about our talented trackers that help spot and find so many of the animals that the guests see; Morris, Difference, Jacky, Marka and then ‘my very own’ Petros. I don’t know how many thousands of hours I spent working with you over my time at Motswari, but I just want to offer one of the biggest thanks to you for all your help, laughs and friendship you have given me. It couldn’t have been easy having me drive you into countless thorn trees, meters (sometimes centimetres!) from all sorts of potentially dangerous animals, but such is your understanding of the bush that you just sat there and enjoyed it. It always brought a smile to my face to see you smiling at the animals when they did something funny (even it you had a particular eye for mating baboons!!!), and I could see that this wasn’t just a job for you; you enjoyed what you did and never moaned if we were back at camp late because we were watching something exciting, you knew it was for the guests, and I am extremely grateful for that, and I wish you all the best for the future. And just be careful of those lions, I expect a few more close encounter stories when I return!

I also have to extend my appreciation to all of the staff that work at the lodge, too many to mention by name, but you all know how you have helped me over the last few years, be it helping fix my land rover, cooking my favourite boerewors casserole for breakfast, keeping my clothes and house clean, or serving me mampoer (a horrible, locally brewed liqueur) at the bar! You always had smiles on your faces, and would offer a friendly greeting when I walked past, and that contributed towards making me feel that this was my home! Also, we can’t forget the staff back in Johannesburg, Evelyn, Carla, Caroline and Tanya. Thanks to you guys for keeping the lodge busy with bookings, for your friendly voices on the other end of the line when I needed a favour, and on a personal note for supporting me and my photography by using my images on the website and for advertising.

One special aspect of the job was also the relationship I forged with the guides from our neighbouring lodges. Yes, in a way we are in ‘competition’ for tourists, but it never appeared that way, and we all realised that without one another we would not be successful, and the way that we cooperated so well, for so many hours a day was commendable, and I hope that the spirit in which you conduct your drives never changes. To the guides and trackers from Simbavati River Lodge, Kings Camp, Tanda Tula and Umlani in the south (I appreciated the invites to come see lions when ours didn’t play along) that all worked together to ensure that the guests visiting the Timbavati had as good a stay as they could possibly have, and for helping me to see some of the most amazing things that I could only have dreamt about, I salute you!

In a similar vein, I would also like to extend my gratitude to all the land owners and lodge managers of the Timbavati and say thanks for the use of your precious land; I know how much this land means to you, and I just want to say that I really appreciate you letting the lodges use this valuable resource to experience Africa at its best!

And last, but by no means least, I have got to say the biggest thanks to all of the guests that I have guided and met over the last three years. It is you guys that allow the lodge to operate and in turn provided me with the opportunity to be out in the bush every day and to live my dream. I hope that all of you look back on your stay at Motswari with as fond a memories as I do, and I hope that one day you return to what is undoubtedly a very special place. To all the guests that have stayed in touch with me, I thank you for the effort, and apologise if I have not been as good in keeping in touch with you! I still have your names and email address kept to one side, so you have not been forgotten about!

So what next? Well life at Motswari goes on, things have not changed, and everyone is looking forward to an exciting 2010 next year! It promised to be as full of surprises as 2009 was, and it saddens me to be missing out on it. Fortunately through the blog the guides will be able to keep us all up to date with what has been happening, and I will be on their tails if they don’t, because I want to know exactly what is happening to all of my animals while I am away!

Grant is still finding his feet, but together he and Andrew will keep the blog going; Andrew has just bought himself a nice new camera and once he is familiar with it, some images are sure to be posted on the blog with all the exciting happens at Motswari. This will probably be the last blog update before the New Year, but with some luck, the blog will be up and running from the beginning of January again.

And so, with that, I bid each and every one of you a fond farewell; its not goodbye, I will hopefully be popping in to Motswari frequently if time permits, and will be sure to update you with any photos and stories when I do.

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed viewing and reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed sharing my stories and photos with!

May you all have a Blessed festive season, a prosperous New Year and healthy and happy 2010!

Until we meet again…


Chad Cocking
Motswari Guide

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back to Joburg and the mayhem and excitement that will be 2010 World Cup and all the best with your studies!

    I look forward to "meeting" Andrew and Grant at this blog and the continued trials, tribulations and sagas of the Timbavati wildlife

    Thanks again Chad