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 new recruits were invited on a Special Forces Weekend with a couple of hard core instructors from the Isuzu Off-Road Academy near Thabazimbi 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 our previous regime’s army-going gentlemen, these words may sound all too familiar. Together with orders like: “Merker!”; “Regs rig!” and “De-bus!” To our garrison of girls, this was a rude awakening.
The MIR (Men in Red) from Isuzu had been talking about doing something really different with the Bush Babes for quite some time. They wanted to see if we can really do “tough”. So they decided on a Special Forces Weekend, where we would be taken out of our comfort zones and do a few military training exercises, like leopard crawling through mud underneath barbed wire, survive an obstacle course, climb high buildings, jump off dam walls, and learn a bit about guns, combat and shooting.
That didn’t sound so tough, especially since we were staying in luxury tents on Dabchick Wildlife Reserve Conservancy. We would be served three meals a day and still have time to enjoy ourselves. This is exactly what Bush Babes is supposed to be about, right? Being able to do the hardcore stuff, without suffering unnecessarily, or be at it for a pro-longed period of time. After the day’s craziness, it is nice to retire to a certain degree of civilisation.
We left Gerotek, the Isuzu Off-road Academy (and now also Bush Babes’) headquarters, the Friday afternoon in a bevy of beautiful Isuzu KB’s. The convoy of no less than seven Isuzu KB bakkies enroute to the Waterberg attracted a lot of attention. The Bush Babes branded Babe Mobile was travelling at the back.
Arriving at Dabchick farm, we were welcomed and showed to our Top Billing-styled tents. From there, we departed for a game drive, a swim in a dam and sun-downers at a breath-taking look-out point on the farm. We also had the opportunity to come very close to white rhinos during a walk with our formidable field guide, Les Brett. At the look-out point formalities were spelled out and the do’s and don’ts of the weekend made clear.
“More gaan nie speletjies wees nie, Susters, so maak seker julle kry genoeg slaap,” one of the army uniform clad captains – who were to take charge of us for the weekend – barked at us. 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 Sargent Bushy. It was obvious that none of the babes took them seriously, until Sergeant Baldie confirmed that we were all to be handed overalls for the following day’s activities. This sounded serious.
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 bombs that were thrown close to our tents. “Driving out the enemy,” Delishia and I still laughed.
Our turquois 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 Sergeant Baldie: “As jy daaroor wil praat sal ek vir jou ‘n sielkundige reel! Tree aan, my magtag!”
Sergeant Baldie explained and demonstrated the way troops should stand when called upon. This was quite unexpected – since we really were expecting to go straight to breakfast. Next thing we were trained to do “Aandag!”, Regs rig! (a feet shuffling manoeuvre to get everyone in a neat line) and “Op die plek, rus!”
Everyone laughed and giggled, but Baldie meant business. Next was a military movement called “bus and de-bus”. For us this meant jumping off the loading bays of the KB’s as fast as we can 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 for the day was “vuur en beweging”. While we tried our best to not look like idiots while doing this, it was literally 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 steps further and kneel down again – shooting our airguns with sound effects! “Ek wil hoor hoe skiet julle, my magtag!”
The confusion that ensued in order to correctly execute this rather simple task was hysterical. In a real life situation, we would have all been shot repeatedly – by our own. We ran in front of each other, kept looking back to see who’s doing what and no one ever got the “run only three steps” part right. The worst was the sound that some of the guns made while other air guns 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 blazonry of babes were shown the ropes of handling a firearm by qualified firearm instructors on a shooting range…somewhere in the bundu. The women loved this and a few of them are adamant to take up shooting as a sport. Our instructors were very professional and went out of their way to make every babe feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
The next surprise for the day was running quite a few kilometers – in army style – to the obstacle course – also somewhere in the bundu. Lucky for Mobile Babe, her toe-nail was hanging on a piece of skin after hurting it the day before, so there was no way that she could do the joggedy jog in 42 degrees Celsius. As for the rest of us, our chanting had to get us through when we started doubting if we would ever get there.
“Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Hey! Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Bush Babes, Hey!”, we recited 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 new recruits was still hesitating to go into the mud with her brand new Nike takkies, Sergeant Baldie was there: “Nou’s daar kak, Nou’s daar groot kak! My magtag man, gaan voort, gaan met moed – waarvoor wag julle?”
The next moment we were all lying flat on our stomachs in red mud, being shoed into the bushes by Sergeant Baldie. “Dis lekker ne? Dis baie lekker! En dis verniet! Kom, sak die boude, plat met die agterstewes, my magtag!”
Many of us have never leopard crawled in our lives before. I for one had to think very hard about all the war movies I watch with my husband and mimic what I can remember.
Crawling through the maze of grass and mud – underneath a doringdraad, 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 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. Teamwork my ass! If we could do this without leaving a fellow babe behind, we can 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…somewhere in the bundu… where we would have our first water after breakfast – and a finger lunch.
After lunch we drove to an empty building and had to climb the outside ladder. To anyone with a fear of heights, this is like suicide, but with Baldie’s encouragement and constant reinforcement, “Kom nou, jy’s ‘n champ! Jy kan dit doen! Jy’s die beste van hulle almal,” all 12 babes, including Mobile with her loose toe nail, made it up! Heee-haaa!
The day ended on an even higher note: swimming through a dam and jumping off a six meter high dam wall! Man oh man!
Adrenaline depleted and completely exhausted at the end of the day – we felt like a legion that has fought alongside each other for many a battle! We were at that stage where 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, Baldy, Body and Bushy snapped out of military mode becoming our confidants and friends once again. We really bonded with these guys, who at the beginning of the weekend thought we would never make it.
“We have to admit that 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 Baldie taught us that morning and, together with the Seargants shouted: “Bush Babes!”
More babe or more bush? I think we are done proving ourselves now. Bring on the next adventure! Heeee-haaa!
*We are hosting this very 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.