This is a love letter to Africa

Aug 12, 2016

south african landscapeIt’s been said, once you get the dust of Africa on your boots, you will always find a way to return. To me, there’s nowhere else in the world that compares to being in Africa. And once you’ve been there, it seems really hard to get it out of your head. You miss it. It resonates, and gives you a different perspective on things, as it has for me.

Africa truly has to be experienced to be fully appreciated and to understand all that it is. The extravagant ‘methodically planned’ journey that we ponder over is so simple once you get there. Apart from being stunningly beautiful and incredibly epic, it’s the most visceral, robust, majestic, relevant and rural space that I’ve ever seen. It simply took my breath away and it’s a trip that will stay with me forever.

I’ve become absolutely obsessed with the African Safari and being in the bush, there’s something so magical, mysterious, and exciting about it. So there I was, happily bouncing around in this very rugged-open- safari -style jeep that was being driven by our awesome ‘local’ Safari guides named Harrison and Asheme (they alternated driving us). They so graciously put up with all of my many- daily questions, as well as my being vegan- ‘situation’ which needless to say is not big in Africa. I loved that somehow, the guides were always able to spot the animals in the high bush from a very great distance with their “naked eye” as they would so often say to me, as I (momentarily) struggled to see what they saw! But then again, they regularly do these Safari drives for a living so they have an idea of where some of the animals could be, and of course they communicate with one another. But none the less, its not always easy to spot the big 5, one must ‘drive the distance’, and that’s the adventure! It was great getting to know these fine men and their culture and was rather amusing swapping the different lingo they taught me, some very useful words in Swahili!

Anyway, you’re in this beautiful, serene setting and completely consumed by the green golden lush landscape and the massive ‘sculptured’ looking trees that are deeply in-bedded into the rich red earth, whilst simultaneously being consumed with the abundance of various sounds and smells of the animals’ nearby. It’s thrilling! You never know what’s suddenly going to appear in this real life ‘Jurassic park’. It’s wonderful to be able to see these animals in their true and natural habitat, as you witness the incredible ‘circle of life’ at its very core.

As you travel from one sun-glittering area to the next (for instance) Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, Arusha, and the Northern and Southern Great Plains of the Serengeti, the landscape and temperatures change drastically. And what I’ve seen at all of these places, are the most fantastic sunrises and sunsets which are filled with the most vibrant saturation of violets, pinks, oranges and blues.

The blackest night skies are lit up by the perfectly illuminated moon, with an abundance of big, bright, shiny twinkly stars. And the only sounds that break the silence are the deep, vibrating, thundering roars of lions, and the heckling laughs of hyenas in the near distance. In my boma (tent) I often found myself drifting off to sleep only to be awoken minutes later by the clicking of unknown hoofs outside. I’d feel such of rush of nervous excitement of the unknown right outside my tent that made me feel so alive in these moments! The nighttime never sleeps….

The trees are like characters in a play and each tree has a different characteristic. Some of the tree trunks are as wide as 6 feet! And I noticed on quite a lot of the trees, the bark from the tree trunks had been stripped off at the base. Bark holds great nutritional value and serves as ‘fiber’ for the elephants which helps them digests their food. Interesting thing.

Whilst traveling around more of the rural villages and communities, I really took notice of how everyday life is for these people. A lot of people walk great distances to get to work, or to get cattle etc. and at times, the taxi options available, are on fast moving ‘motorcycles’ or wide-open trucks, not the safest! What astounds me, but is very common in Africa, is seeing such large heavy plastic bins and baskets filled with grains or other heavy items, that are balancing on top of men and women’s heads who walk for miles like this (cant be good on the neck). I thought how incredibly hard these people work for everyday basic essentials. Very commendable indeed.

Despite some of the hardship I witnessed, I saw good things happening too and was always greeted with smiling faces. I noticed the construction of more schools being built, and development plans have been under way for a much-needed medical facility in a small local Massai village. I especially loved interacting with the beautiful Maasai people. So you understand a little bit about them, the Maasai people live under a communal land and management system. Their houses are made out of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and cow’s urine. The fences around the houses are made of acacia thorns that prevent lions from attacking the cattle. And it’s a man’s responsibility to fence the houses while women construct the houses. Women are also responsible for collecting water, getting firewood, milking cattle and cooking for the family. The men (warriors) are in charge of security, and the boys are responsible for herding livestock (the men will also herd cattle when needed). I found their traditional way of life to be very interesting, and was rather surprised when I saw that Maasai warriors all have smart-phones hidden in their shukas! (Traditional red cloth they wear), I loved seeing that! I also noticed that broadband connection throughout the country is great, and social media is vibrant and powerful.

As you can tell, I’m very passionate about Africa and I’m already planning my next trip! Africa belongs to the animals, the people, and the culture. It is their world, and is to be respected, cherished and to remain pure. My hope is that more people understand the great importance of conservation, and have continued education through out the world so that we can see the magnificent wildlife for years to come in their own natural environment, the way it is meant to be.

Respect and cherish the animals and the culture.

I love you Africa.

Lisa G.