Stereotypical mother, wife and working woman, Lee Wright took a bold step to become a Bush Babe last year. New to camping, overlanding, travelling and being away from home, Lee, affectionately known as Ener Babe, has since accumulated quite a few stamps in her first ever passport, experienced many other firsts, conquered fears and made life-long friends.
Text: Lee Wright, aka Ener Babe
I am a mother, wife and working woman. I have not felt like a “babe” in years and never thought I would find myself behind the wheel of a powerful 4x4.
I am the stereotypical woman whose life revolves around my family and their interests. Their interests become mine and their needs are my responsibility to fulfil. At times I’ve felt as though I’d lost my own identity. The only challenges I faced on a daily basis were difficult clients, exams and bills. Life was spent mainly at home, where the heart is….
My invitation to become a Bush Babe came from my longtime friend, Leilani (Leisure Babe), whom I had not seen in years. Friends since grade 2 and all through high school and thereafter, we always managed to pick up where we left off.
“You will do 4x4 training and go on adventures and excursions with like-minded women… real women…and do some outdoorsy stuff.” I was hooked at “4x4 training”.
The buildup to my first 4x4 weekend led to excitement, anxiety and stress, since all the women were afraid of not being able to succeed, being judged and, of course, looking like fools. But I’m not one to stand back from a challenge, so I put on a brave face and decided to “fake it till I make it”!
The first “babe” I met was Jacky Hefez, better known as Ginger Babe. We were teamed up to travel together from Leisure Wheels headquarters to Thaba Moya in the Waterberg.
At Thaba Moya, we met up with Patricia (Delisha Babe) and Celeste (Mobile Babe). Andre de Villiers from Safari Centre, and of Safari 4x4 Roetes fame on KykNet, gave us a rundown of the programme for the weekend over a glass or two of OBS, and then showed us to our rustic chalets.
Theoretical training with Andre was most interesting. Never in my life had I so much as heard the Afrikaans terms for diff-lock or traction control, and never had I thought I would end up understanding the basic inner workings of a 4x4!
With this done and dusted, we progressed to practical training. The smallest pothole or slightest incline was intimidating, and when Andre manoeuvered his vehicle into a seesaw position, we realised that he meant business.
Kudos to Andre, though, as he stayed calm through all the shrieks of excitement and fear, and cheers of success once all of us had made it through the obstacle course.
“Don’t overdo it, do it over,” he said calmly, standing right next to us all the way. “Allow the vehicle to do the hard work.”
Drained from a hard day’s concentration, we all went to bed that night with triumph in our hearts and a sense of accomplishment, and we were all up at dawn to attempt the obstacle course again before leaving for home.
Bring on the potholes, the dongas and the axle twisters! Nothing was too deep, too high or too big for us to overcome. The spark was there – “we can, and we will”!
We all left as friends, comrades.
Our next trip took us to Kubu Island, Botswana. We joined up with Andre van Vuuren (Pa Babe) from Explore Africa Adventures, Mariana (Mu Babe) and Corne (Explore Babe) at Kubu Island where their convoy had already set up camp for the night.
Andre supplied us with our camping gear and we had to set up our own tents and camp area. No problem! This, of course, took much longer than it would for anyone else to do, but hell, we were there to learn!
Explore Africa catered to our every desire and we sat down to a beautiful supper with freshly baked pot bread.
Our amenities were limited to a bush toilet with the best view and a home-made outdoor shower with…wait for it… HOT WATER! This is the last thing you would expect in the middle of nowhere.
We ventured around the island to explore our surroundings and I was flabbergasted by the vast open spaces and being able to witness the curvature of the earth. I realised that I wanted to experience this more often, and that I wanted everyone else to experience it with me. Not only the beauty of nature, but the beauty of trust and friendship between like-minded women who are just being themselves.
Our trips were soon becoming more than just a trip or destination. They were about one another -- being together, exploring and overcoming our fears while being motivated by our fellow “Babes”.
Kosi Bay was our next big excursion. Once again it was somewhere I had never been. With the prospect of meeting up with our Explore Africa family, we set off on the eight-hour trip.
We stayed over at the Kosi Bay nature reserve. On arrival we went for a two-hour cruise on which we came within 7m of hippos cooling down before nightfall.
The next day, in between the jam-packed programme, we had an opportunity to go snorkeling at Black Rock, a stone’s throw away from Mozambique. I’d never been snorkeling before because I’m terrified of dark water, and breathing under water just doesn’t make sense to me. Although the water was clear enough to see your feet, I still didn’t manage to snorkel. However, I had immense support from the Babes and I promised myself that this would be something I would conquer -- come hell or high water.
The Ponta Ambush was the next adventure, which would give me yet another stamp in my passport. All the Babes joined in and it was like a family reunion. Isuzu was now our official sponsor and it was our first excursion with the newly branded Babe Mobile!
This was going to be the trip where I overcame my fear of snorkeling, diving and dark water, I told myself. I had to. With my Babes next to me, I committed to doing a resort diving course. Not long after the introduction to air canisters and underwater lingo, we were anchored above the reef, ready for a 15m dive!
Before I realised what was happening, I was in the water! I was scared out of my wits! Feverishly I clasped Leisure Babe’s hand and she calmly guided me down to the bottom of the reef, where I was astounded to find a sea turtle, sting ray, Dory’s…… Unfortunately we could not find Nemo.
I did it! I did the unimaginable. I went scuba diving!
Just when I thought things could not get better, an opportunity came up to go to Inhaca Island in Mozambique. This was another chance to meet a few “older” Bush Babes, who had been at it with Leilani for longer. I met Karen (Sporty Babe), Janize (Botox Babe), Lani Senekal (Iron Babe) and Auntie Bush, who had recently joined as an official member of the Bush Babes Club.
The island was idyllic, and our tents were camouflaged by the lush trees and plant life. Paradise!
After the long trip, we had a day to frolic in the waves and explore our surroundings. With low tide setting in, we decided to paddle ski to a sandbank nearby where we basked in the sun and the freedom of being in the middle of the ocean, just us BABES!
The trip home was most informative as Botox Babe had such vast knowledge of the local people, their culture and history, and even the crafting of rosaries.
Over the past few months I’ve done so many things that I thought I would never be able to do or experience, firstly because, like most women, I had never put myself first, and secondly because it is easier to not try at all than to fail.
I am proud to be a Bush Babe. I have learnt that with the support of my companions there is little that I cannot do. Strength does come from within, but with people who believe in you, you are able to do so much more.
I have found my “inner babe”. I still hunger to explore and challenge myself, knowing that should I fail, there will be another opportunity to succeed. Being a Bush Babe has brought me closer to nature and allowed me to smell the roses.
I am blessed to be a Bush Babe and to have met so many friends who have made an impact on my life. Thank you Leisure, Jannie, Explore, Beauty, Mobile, Wild, Mu, Pa, Botox, Sporty, Iron and Auntie!
And to my loving husband, thank you my “T” -- for everything! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a Babe and “go bush”… with my fellow Babes!
Bush Babe snippets
Flying high – with Hi-Tec
The Isuzu Babe Mobile has just received another stamp of approval – it now proudly sports Hi-Tec branding, too.
Hi-Tec has come on board big time as a supporter and sponsor of the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club. Not only is Hi-Tec kitting out Leilani (Leisure Babe) with the coolest stuff they have on offer, but they will do give-aways and other competitions for the club from time to time.
For a start, five pairs of Hi-Tex TT Aero boots were recently up for grabs by club members. What’s best is that the Bush Babes will always be first to know about what’s new from Hi-Tec through mail updates and posts on Facebook and Twitter.
Since Hi-Tec knows that most babes have a special man in their lives, they will share the “his” and “hers” offerings with you, too! This winter, base layers are the thing to invest in – for sport or those icy encounters in the great outdoors.
This elastic fabric-breathable underwear is available for both men and women. It has a special construction for better comfort and is made out of Hi-Tec’s COOLMAX fabric. Better moisture management ensures that you will be fresh and warm at all times.
The Herman top and Hekard leggings make up the men’s range while the Rachela top and Rebecca leggings complete the women’s range.
So get your pair today, because all flags that fly at the summit have to start at the base! Both men’s and women’s versions comes in grey. The recommended retail prices are: Top -- R299; Bottom -- R199.
Another “must have” for ladies is Hi-Tec’s lightweight rain gear that has all the basics to keep you dry but no bulk to slow you down -- perfect for your next outdoor adventure.
If you are hiking, golfing, walking or just enjoying a picnic, the Hi-Tec Pour Off Shell jacket and pants offer convenient, stylish yet efficient protection against the elements.
Both the garments fold into their own pockets. They are waterproof but “breathable”, and are fully seam-sealed.
The Pour Off Shell Jacket comes in ladies sizes in both pink and powder blue, and the pants are available in versatile black.
Recommended retail price:
The items are available through leading sports and outdoor apparel stockists nationwide. For detailed stockist information, phone 021-555-0707.