While in Plett, Lance received an email from a lodge asking if we were able to come up for a job interview. Despite being over 1600 km’s away, we decide to fly up to Johannesburg, rent a car and drive up.
We fly from a place called George, about an hours drive from Plett and after an hour and 45 minutes we arrive in J’Burg. We take the Gautrain to Sandton and get picked up by family friends who we stay with that night.
The next morning at 8AM we pick up the rental car and head off to the game reserve. With a few toilet breaks and roadworks it takes us 7 hours to get there. It’s a nice drive with lots to see: bush fires, townships, animals etc. I think to myself how crazy it is that I’m on my way to a job interview in the bush, in South Africa, and staying in one of the guest rooms for 3 nights. Not quite your average job interview. At 3.30PM we finally arrive at Toro Yaka Bush Lodge (http://www.toroyaka.co.za/). It’s gorgeous! We meet Nicole, the owner, and Stacey, the current guide whose job Lance is applying for and they show us to our room. There’s a double bed with mosquito net, an indoor AND outdoor shower, biscuits on the counter, bathrobes and basically everything you need. In other words…it’s pure luxury!
We arrive just in time, because there is a game drive at 4, so we quickly change clothes and get ready. There are 6 other guests when we are there and all of us head out for a 3 hour drive. We see giraffe, kudu, impala, wildebeest, buffalo and even an elephant with a broken leg. As it turns out it’s been like that for 2 years, but because it’s not caused my humans they let nature take its course and don’t interfere.
As you can see, its left back leg is bent forward and it limps quite badly. It’s amazing that it has survived for so long with such a horrible injury.
When the sun goes down we stop for a drink and some snacks. With the mountains in the background, standing in the middle of the African bush, with a drink in my hand, it’s difficult to imagine that I’m here for a job interview and not just a fancy holiday.
At 7.30PM we arrive back at the lodge and within half an hour the most amazing dinner is served. We all eat together: the guests, the owners and guides and it’s such a nice way to get to know each other. After dinner we head to our room to find our bed made, the mosquito net down and a chocolate and bedtime story on our pillow. That night we sleep like a rock and get woken up early (6AM) by Stacey for our morning drive.
We have some coffee and rusks (a South African breakfast food) and head off. During the next three hours we see lots more animals and learn about the bush, its trees, plants, birds and other animals. It’s really amazing!
These two mongooses (and no it’s not mongeese, I googled it 😉 were so funny to watch. They get frightened very easily, but if you’re quiet and sit still they come out and are so cute. Apparently their territory is so incredibly large that if you were to stay in one spot for a couple weeks, the chances of seeing the exact same mongoose are very slim.
Red-billed oxpeckers are little birds who spent most of their time living on large animals, like buffalo. They are very useful as they eat the ticks and clean wounds.
One of the most amazing moments was seeing this gigantic animal. At the rate they are being poached I might not get to see it much more often, which is so incredibly sad.
Day 3 was mainly spent relaxing and meeting with Steve, the other owner of the lodge. He’s been working in the bush for over 17 years and has an amazing amount of knowledge. When you talk to him you can almost feel the passion he has for what he does, which is so great. Our interview went really well and he seemed to be impressed.
Later that night we had dinner in the boma, around the campfire with oil lamps on each table. I didn’t take any photos unfortunately, so to give you an idea of what it looked like I googled a similar image. Just click the link http://trialx.com/curetalk/wp-content/blogs.dir/7/files/2011/05/cities/Boma-1.jpg). Once again, the food was great and I felt so lucky to be experiencing something new (again!). We met some great new guests and went to sleep with the sound of lions roaring probably 500 meters away from us.
Our last day at Toro Yaka was one I will never forget. At 6AM, we were woken, once again, by a knock on the door for our walk through the bush. Yes that’s right….walking!! After a hot drink and some rusks we headed off….and it was AMAZING!! If you’re not a fan of walking, don’t be put off by the term “bush walk”, because it’s nothing like going for an ordinary walk. This was an experience of a lifetime! Having Steve guide us, with all his knowledge was incredible and I learned so much. We saw dozens of tracks (giraffe, civet, leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, impala) and and a huge amount of bones scattered all around us, making it all the more exciting, but the the very best part was when we came across a herd of 5 bull elephants. Breaking off branches, we could hear them from a distance. Slowly and quietly we made our way closer to the group and after a few minutes we were standing only 10 meters away from these incredible animals. My hands were sweaty and my heart was beating fast when one of the adult bulls started flapping his ears and trumpeting, but as soon as it realized we were no danger to him he resumed eating and were were able to sit down in the grass and observe them. It was a moment I will never forget.
After 3,5 hours of walking (which more seemed like half an hour) it was time to head back for breakfast. Another vehicle had spotted the elephants and so Steve managed for us to get a ride back to the lodge. The looks on their faces when they saw us walking out of the bush was absolutely priceless! Not sure if they thought we were in great danger, lost or just plain crazy.
We had a huge breakfast and went to our room to pack our stuff for the drive back to Joburg. Before leaving, Steve and Nicole sat down with us to discuss a couple more things and pretty much offered us the job as Field Guide and Assistant Manager!!! We were over the moon and were given two days to think about it, but it was pretty clear what our decision was going to be….