bushBabes SPECIAL FORCES WEEKEND
It was time. Isuzu decided to put the Bush Babes to the test to find out if they were more babe than bush, or the other way round. The Core Bush Babes, plus a few recruits, were invited on a Special Forces Weekend at Thabazimbi with a couple of instructors from the Isuzu Off-Road Academy. The plan was to test their endurance, army style.
Text: Leilani Basson
Photography: Jannie Herbst
“Beweeg! Beweeg! Beweeg! Hierdie is nie ’n Sondagskool piekniek nie! As jy daaroor wil praat sal ek vir jou ’n sielkundige reel!”
To many of army veterans, these words may sound all too familiar. Together with orders like “Merker!” “Regs rig!” and “De-bus!”
To our garrison of girls, they were a rude awakening.
The MIR (Men in Red) from Isuzu had been talking for some time about doing something different with the Bush Babes. They wanted to see if we could really do “tough”. So they decided on a Special Forces Weekend. We would be taken out of our comfort zones and put through a few military training exercises, like leopard crawling through mud under barbed wire, climbing high buildings, jumping off dam walls, and learning a bit about guns, combat and shooting.
That didn’t sound so tough, especially since we would be staying in luxury tents on Dabchick Wildlife Reserve Conservancy. We would be served three meals a day and still have time to enjoy ourselves. That is exactly what Bush Babes is supposed to be about, right? Being able to do the hardcore stuff, without suffering unnecessarily – or for too long!
We left Gerotek, the Isuzu Off-road Academy — and now also Bush Babes’ headquarters – on a Friday afternoon in our beautiful Isuzu KBs. The convoy of no less than seven bakkies en route to the Waterberg attracted a lot of attention, especially the Bush Babes branded Babe Mobile at the back.
On arrival at Dabchick farm, we were made welcome and taken to our Top Billing-style tents. Then we had a game drive, a swim in the dam and sundowners at a breath-taking lookout point on the farm. We also had the opportunity to get close to white rhinos during a walk with our field guide, Les Brett.
At the lookout point, formalities were spelled out and the do’s and don’ts of the weekend made clear.
“Tomorrow won’t be fun and games, sisters, so make sure you get enough sleep,” barked one of the uniform-clad soldier types who would take charge of us for the weekend.
There were three of them: a bald one, one with a body to die for and one with lots of hair. For practical purposes, let’s call them Sergeant Baldie, Sergeant Body and Sergeant Bushy.
It was obvious that none of the babes took them seriously, until Sgt Baldie confirmed that we were all to be handed overalls for the following day’s activities. This sounded ominous.
Dinner was a scrumptious affair under the lapa. For a few hours, the men were not in military mode.
We were up with the birds, or actually with the coloured smoke grenades that were thrown close to our tents. “Driving out the enemy,” Delishia and I still laughed.
Our turquoise Bush Babes T-shirts looked surprisingly stunning with the royal blue overalls. “Tree aan!” we were commanded.
“Aren’t we supposed to have breakfast first?” one of the Babes asked.
The response from Sgt Baldie: “As jy daaroor wil praat sal ek vir jou ’n sielkundige reel! Tree aan, my magtag!”
Sgt Baldie explained and demonstrated the way troops should stand when called to order. This was quite unexpected, since we really were expecting to go straight to breakfast.
Next thing we were being trained to respond to the commands, “Aandag!”, “Regs rig!” (a feet shuffling manoeuvre to get everyone into line) and “Op die plek, rus!”
Everyone laughed and giggled, but Sgt Baldie meant business.
Next was a military movement called “bus and de-bus”. This meant jumping off the loading bays of the KB’s as fast as we could and run for cover, only to jump back onto the bakkies within seconds. We did this about four times. By now, we were already sweating in our blue overalls!
To our surprise, our next lesson was “vuur in beweging”. While we tried our best not to look like idiots, this was impossible. The few bystanders killed themselves with laughter.
On command, we had to kneel down and shoot our imaginary guns at the imaginary enemy, get up, run three paces past the front advance line and kneel down again – shooting our guns with sound effects! “Ek wil hoor hoe skiet julle, my magtag!”
The confusion that ensued was hysterical. In a real life situation, we would all have been shot repeatedly – by our comrades in arms!
We ran in front of each other, kept looking back to see who was doing what, and no one ever got the “run only three steps” part right. The worst thing was the sound that some of the guns made, while others never made a peep.
Nicely warmed up for the day, we had a wonderful breakfast. Baldy, Body and Bushy all urged us to eat properly. “Julle gaan nou-nou afchop, troepe!” So, we packed it away.
On command, we hopped into the KB’s and drove to another farm where the day would “properly start”.
For the next few hours, the Babes were shown the ropes in handling a firearm by qualified instructors at a shooting range somewhere in the bundu. The women loved this, and a few of them were adamant that they would take up shooting as a sport. Our instructors were very professional and went out of their way to make everyone feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
The next surprise was the run of quite a few kilometres – in army style – to the obstacle course. Lucky for Mobile Babe, she had a toenail hanging on a piece of skin after hurting it the day before, so there was no way she could do the jog in 42C heat. As for the rest of us, our chanting had to get us through:
“Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Hey! Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Hey!” we chanted as we ran along. Admittedly this did sound pretty damn cool!
At the obstacle course, there was no time for nonsense. While one of the recruits was hesitating about going into the mud in her brand new pink and silver Nike takkies, Sgt Baldie was there: “Nou’s daar kak, Nou’s daar groot kak! My magtag man, gaan voort, gaan met moed – waarvoor wag julle?” Lucky for me, my sponsored Hi-Tec smokey brown Saratoga multi-sport shoes were made for this kind of thing. (They also dried in no time. Soaked as they were, they were completely wearable again by that evening!)
The next moment we were all lying flat on our stomachs in red mud, being shooed into the bushes by Sgt Baldie. “Dis lekker ne? Dis baie lekker! En dis verniet! Kom, sak die boude, plat met die agterstewes, my magtag!”
Many of us had never leopard crawled before. I for one had to think very hard about all the war movies I’d watched with my husband, and mimic what I could remember.
Crawling through the maze of grass and mud – under a barbed wire fence, is not nice, but being stung by a swarm of wasps on the other side…eish! Iron Babe and Mobile Babe took the stings like real warriors (Thank heavens! By the time we made it through, the wasps, and the crying Babes were already taken care of).
Before even catching our breaths, we were on the obstacle course. Over and under, balancing, climbing. “Veldskool se gat,” I kept thinking as I was lifted into the air by two fellow Babes as we tried to climb over a wall of poles. Throughout, we were being watched and barked at by Baldie, Bushy and Body.
Amazingly, we made it through. If we could do this without leaving a fellow Babe behind, we could do anything! No one even got hurt!
Exhausted, with blood (not really), sweat and mascara running down our faces, we had to run all the way to a swimming pool, where we would have our first water since breakfast – and a finger lunch.
Then we drove to an empty building, where we had to climb the outside ladder. For anyone with a fear of heights, this is like suicide, but with Sgt Baldie’s encouragement and constant reinforcement, all 12 Babes, including Mobile with her loose toenail, made it up.
The day ended on an even higher note: swimming through a dam and jumping off a 6m-high dam wall! Man oh man!
Adrenaline depleted and exhausted at the end of the day, we felt like a legion that had fought alongside each other for many a battle! We were at a stage when we could wear each other’s bras, share socks, break wind in each other’s company and use each other’s lip-gloss.
On the way back to Dabchick, Sgts Baldy, Body and Bushy snapped out of military mode and became our confidants and friends once again. We really bonded with these guys, who at the beginning of the weekend thought we’d never make it.
“We have to admit we thought most of you were just poppies! But you are champs! Bullet proof! We are proud of you babes!”
And then we did our Bush Babes “hands-on-top-of-one-another-standing-in-a-circle-thingy-majig that Sgt Baldie had taught us that morning and, together with the sergeants, shouted: “Bush Babes!”
More babe or more bush? I think we have proved ourselves now. Bring on the next adventure!
* We are hosting this exclusive Special Forces Weekend, with professional instructors, soldiers, field guides and the MIR from the Isuzu Off-road Academy, again from 31 August to 2 September. Only 12 Babes will be lucky enough to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. To join the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club and book your place, e-mail Leisure Babe at [email protected]