I arrived at Gorah in the middle of the winter of 2001. I must be honest I arrived with great reservation…in the sense that up until now I was finding it very hard to fit into a male dominated arena (mostly shovenist..or camelman mentality) and I admit, although loving the subject, I was seriously wondering if I had chosen the right career to tuck into.
And Eastern Cape?? What was in the Eastern Cape anyway?
But despite arriving in torrential rain, and my first recollection one of having to assist getting guests out of the reserve due to muddy roads flooding, only to be followed by a closed camp for another week, when the sun did eventually come out and my eyes could see further than the first hillocks, I began to realise, very quickly… that indeed… EVERYTHING was in the Eastern Cape.
The months and even later the years, would show me this EVERYTHING. But it all started at the Gorah Camp itself. And I admit, it was the people there that rekindled my faith in the career first. The team, of yes… guys, were the most incredible, gentleman like people, solid gold men, that in all essence, somewhat instantly restored my faith in the male creature. Colin, my Head Ranger, recognized my passion and encouraged me, all while diligently teaching me how to repair tyres, troubleshoot gas geysers, repair high pressure water pipes, and to start the lister water pump. (that took time, but thanks to his patience and guidance, I soon achieved all of the above). And then there was Richard. Dear sweet ever patient Richard, who no matter how pressured, would walk and move as though he had all the time in the world, and yet was never late. Richard taught me how to walk in the bush. Literally and figuratively. He spent hours teaching and guiding me in weapons training until I could shoot a pea off a blind branch, but he also taught me to see, to question, to connect. He was amazing.
There were other great men here that gave me my wings. Back then, and even today, seventeen years later, the CEO of Hunter Hotels believed in me, and wasnt scared to invest in me. To this day I am grateful for his time and faith in me. But he was like that with all his people. Hunter Hotels I found really cared about their people. This flowed down, and resulted in me not only finding my team, my home…but a family.
Through this environment I grew from a Baby Ranger, into a confident Snr Ranger, and later still into my dream position as Head Ranger. I qualified in my SKS, and in Wilderness Trails, and many other “greats” and “bests” in the industry. I hold all that gratitude to the people and the company, for I would not have achieved this without all those amazing …yes…men!!! My favourite was when I qualified as a Ranger Trainer, and the wheel had turned full circle, and I found myself leading and teaching and grooming my own Baby rangers…boys and girls alike. What fun we had!
And around this group of many amazing faces that I encountered in my Gorah years, were the elephants! I found myself working in a wild environment where elephants didn’t hate man, in a weird sense, they actually welcomed you into their “wild” space. Make no error we still had to operate with caution and respect, but at large, I found here, an intrinsic peace with the elephants. They didn’t seem as hostile, were more forgiving of our errors, and more than anything, over the years, they welcomed me into a powerful new enigmatic world of what I called Elephant Spirituality. I will share with you some of my amazing stories with them, of them and from them over the blogs to follow.
And with the elephants, surrounding us all in a great green ball of comfort, was the Addo Ecosystem. I realised quickly that this was a place you either totally fell in love with, or just never “kinda got”. Of course mine was the former.
Added to this immense diversity, was a fascinating history. A history of the Gorah itself, the oldest farm in the Eastern Cape, and their story of trying to settle and create this farm with “maurading savages” in the form of traditional people and really unsettled wildlife. And then there was the history of Addo, this massive reserve, its becoming, from a tiny pocket of preserved forest home to 16 elephants and 30 odd buffalo, to a massive, multi-biodiverse, eco-reserve which can home over 2000 elephants and a myriad of other creatures today, and is still growing.