September 10, 2012

GETTING TRACKERS KNEE: THE ART OF TRACKING



ECOTRAINING STUDENT DIARY BY CANDICE WAGENER (SOUTH AFRICA, ONE YEAR PROFESSIONAL FIELD GUIDE STUDENT) ON A WEEK'S TRACKS AND TRACKING COURSE - SELATI GAME RESERVE


Let's talk about tracking! No, I don't mean the kind of tracking when your vehicle gets stolen. I mean the traditional art of tracking - the way the hunter tracks for his food and the way how many people today still do. 

A week with some of the best people in this field really teaches you a lot of things. Lessons you never thought you'd learn - tracking is an art that takes years to perfect. You glance down at the ground, a big circle has been made and you notice the disturbances and 'marks' in this circle. 




Tracking masters Adriaan (Louw), Collin (Patrick) and Doctor, our trainers, immediately start pointing out all the things they see and you're just standing there quietly and thinking about how you're still trying to see the first thing they've pointed out, let alone all the others! As they start explaining track by track, outlining the unique characteristics for each one does it start to become clear - the light bulb flickers on, someone's home after all!

Each day you'd wake up early in the morning, have tea and coffee and then you hit the road. Although, with so many tracks all around from just about everything, you don't even make it pas the bathrooms on the first day. The rest of the week plays out in the same way - heading out on the vehicle to a new destination, stopping and looking at tracks and then moving on again. Then coming back to camp to refuel - vehicle and humans alike! Then a few minutes of relaxation with a lecture thrown in before lunch. The afternoon arrives all too quickly and we hit the tracks again...




Everything starts to become clear as you start to realise what's what and how to easily identify a track. The week continues and evaluation day arrives and the camp is in a frenzy, few minutes spent on studying and rushing around to be on time.

The fun and games come when the assessor makes his circle around the track. Everyone takes a look and give their answers, anything from a squirrel's tale to a jackal sitting down. Actually the correct answer turns out to be simply a bunch of grass that has brushed across the ground when the vehicle went past! The day progressed with tracks that stumped all of us, and tracks that boosted the confidence and laughter between everyone.  

Which brings me to the question, what is Trackers Knee? It's getting up close and personal with the ground to see the tracks more clearly: if you don't have it, then you weren't really putting all that extra effort in!



The sun starts to set, the last letter of the last question is formed and it's over. Everyone is happy, because we've done our very first tracking exam! Everyone's smiling, the trainers are proud and you walk away feeling like you've done your best. 



Back at camp, you wait in anticipation for your results, congratulating people as you go along. It's all over, the results are out! You are happy with your achieved tracking level, a camp full of happy people, and the chatter in amongst the clattering of knives and forks at dinner as the day draws to an end. 

The tracking course week is over, each day leaves us enriched with even more knowledge of the bush and tracking, great respect for our trainers and traditional trackers all around was earned. It was indeed an amazing experience to have gone through and to have shared. So go on, sign up for a course in tracking, take a look at what the bush has to offer and get Trackers Knee!

For more information visit www.ecotraining.co.za or send an email to enquiries@ecotraining.co.za.

(Thank you Candice for your thoughts and the photos!)


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