By Ush Proudfoot
After our beloved Garden Gnome and budding comedian David Wheeler managed to piece together his pride following his comedy career’s picking apart by Quests very own Simon Cowell, Mr Randle, we packed up our bags and headed south for the Malilangwe Game Reserve. After a very eagerly anticipated stop in at the local Chicken Inn following a lengthy spine shattering trip along what seems to have been mutually agreed upon as the worst road we have encountered in our lives (bar our friends from Johannesburg who said it was one of the best roads they have ever seen) we made our way into the depths of the wild southern Zimbabwean Bush. A slight logistical error regarding our accommodation for the night resulted in us being afforded the opportunity to spend the night in one of the Reserves Chalets. Luxury! We had hot water, proper beds and even WIFI. The boys flocked to the router like moths to a flame! After a short yet enjoyable meal and a quick catchup with the parents and various Girlfriends (both real and imaginary) we set of to bed with slightly nervous hearts with no idea what to expect from the upcoming week.
We woke at our usual time for PT and made our way to the courtyard with half opened eyes only to stumble upon 4 very well built young black men with faces of steel and muscles that even put our dear Gym Rat Daniel Isemonger to shame. The Scouts had arrived. We were privileged enough to spend the following days training with Patrick and his crew while also learning lots about the local bush and survival skills. We also had the privilege of getting a talk from Mr. Mike Ball, the head of the Malilangwe anti-poaching scouts and their vital work towards the preservation of Southern Africa’s Rhino’s! We were lucky enough to also enjoy a few evening game drives around the reserve and even managed to see the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino and Buffalo) within the first two days, with some encounters being a bit closer than others. However, undoubtedly our best wildlife siting came in the form of a seasonal migrant from Europe in the form of a Wild Lesser Spotted flying Scotsman Calum Harris (Biceptus Majorus) which we were lucky enough to spot enjoying a very vibrant fox trot amongst the local Shangaan woman to the beat of drums. Priceless sighting and one that the Royal Museum of Natural Sciences is looking into with great excitement.
After a couple more days of blood sweat and tears we finally had to face the dreaded survival night! No Cellphones and even worse no Cigarettes! How on earth would Gareth Stubbs survive! We were to spend the next 24 hours out in the bush with Mr. Mpfou and the Scouts putting our newly found survival skills to work in order to survive the wild. Our efforts proving to be much more successful than expected and we were even lucky enough to chow down on some muddy carp we managed to catch with string and sticks as well as various roots. After a rather frostbitten night spent huddling around our several fires we awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the river before marching our way back to base camp for dismissal and a well-deserved ‘ciggie’ break for the boys who were very quick to forget the pain in their chests that they enjoyed just 1 hour before while doing our morning PT. We spent our final night around the fire back at our camp site where our resident chef Ivan had cooked up 4 meals for us to enjoy over the next 6 hours before bed. A camping mattress has never felt so good in all our lives! The following morning it was back on the overlander for the long trek back to Quest HQ for a week of projects and presentations as well as the long awaited arrival of the Mixed Core! An unforgettable past 2 weeks and a definite highlight of our time here at Quest.