Star Date: November 2011
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
( Hello. Sotho South Africa)
"It is what we make out
of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person
The Essence of Africa. How does one capture the essence of this fascinating continent without sounding like a travel brochure or using every cliché in the book? Unlike anywhere on earth this massive continent offers unequalled diversity. Pure, raw impact. Where else can you go to sleep with the sound of lions roaring, hike along the top of a thunderous mile wide waterfall, or have lunch with a bone crunching leopard?
Animals abound. Predators stalk you, wild cubs and babies charm you and lacey, luminescent butterflies remind us of the impermanence of life. Scenery and unique wildlife are so spectacular that it takes a pinch from a passing monkey to bring you back. Gazing over the golden plains, across a misty mountain valley or trekking through a primitive forest, one realizes the entangled web of life of which we are all a part. This is a gift of creation and must be handled with the care deserving of a precious bequest. We are stewards. It is time to take care or lose our legacy - forever.
This rich, irreplaceable natural history alone will draw you back time after time but scenery and wildlife isn't all that Africa is about. It is the people. The smiling, dancing, laughing, writhing, pulsating spirit of the people. An element of joy is always there, portrayed with a broad genuine smile or under a thin veneer of hardship, just waiting to explode. With "so little" the people of Africa have "so much". Spending time in a remote thatched village or playing with curious children in a run down schoolyard confirms this observation. Where else would you see a young boy proudly wearing his earphones and moving to the music? Only problem was that the earphone cord just ended and weren't connected to anything! He was connected to the music of Africa in his heart. Who needs an iPod? Sitting in the cacophony of a colorful market pumping with energy, or with locals along the shore of a fishing village on a star filled night, reminds one to slow down, observe and absorb this essence. Appreciate the simple things around us.
It started watching the fiery red sun setting along the Zambezi River in Zambia. Next to us were a 'white' Afrikaner couple from northern South Africa on their way to Mozambique. Hitting it off, they offered for us to stay in their home while they were away, giving us a base from which to sell our van. They lived in a farming community near Soweto, outside of Johannesburg. Arriving late at night we parked under a tree outside their high, barbed walls. To our disappointment wires had been crossed and the person with the key was not available until after the weekend. Instead the welcoming 'colored' neighbors invited us to park in their yard, extending a bedroom to us once the van was cleaned out and waiting to be sold. They were extremely helpful and openhearted, admitting that we were the first 'white' people to visit their home, and never a 'black'. After coming from the acceptance of the rainbow of races in Hawaii, we found this interesting. Warm hearts, whatever the color, shine bright and these dear folks were leading the way to dissolving differences in a country crying out for tolerance.
Quenching our insatiable thirst for more time with African animals, Pilanesberg and Marakele National Parks offered more close encounters with our magnificent wild friends. We were invited to stay in yet another township by a park employee for 3 nights. People stared as we took our evening walk through the dusty but tidy streets. White people were simply never seen here. Locals joined us for our evening walk around the township with our host or invited us in to their tiny houses with warm hospitality. These 'black' locals were concerned about criminals from outside coming to rob them, as is the fear in white suburbs. They just wanted a peaceful life, a simple place to live, a job, food to eat. A little frosting on the cake would be nice, but that isn't the reality for most people here. They've learned to settle for a crumb of the cake. Under all this racism, everyone just wants the basics of life. All of humanity, world over, longs for these same essentials of life. Deep down we are all the same - all one.
The "kicker" of this whole scenario is that some of our new friends were 'white' Afrikaners, some were 'colored' and some were 'black'. They would seldom interact with each other, yet alone invite each other into their homes or neighborhoods. Instead these beautiful South Africans of all colors opened their doors and hearts to a couple of nomadic Hawaiians, proving that change is not only possible but happening.
Driving the continent pushed our limits at times, blasting us right outside the envelope. What envelope? Africa isn't known to be the easiest place to travel but it has an adventure around every corner. We can proudly say we had no real trouble while traveling throughout Eastern and Southern Africa for over 2.5 years. 95% good people and 5% not so good. We hung out with the first group, not focusing on the 'bad boys' who make the news headlines. Challenges in logistics rise daily forcing one to acquiesce to the flow of the continent and connect to the rhythm pulsing through her veins. Ride the current for the trip of your life. Be forced into the present moment - open to what presents itself. Forget what the media portrays. Yes, as with periods in every country's history there are problems; mostly caused by the disease, famine and ensuing strife surrounding war. Conflict is often fueled from abroad with hopes of pillaging natural resources during the chaos. But Africa is not the dangerous "hell- hole" it has been labeled. Turn off CNN or question the reports. Africa is a surprising, intriguing and enlightening continent waiting to welcome you with open arms. Learn her lessons and be prepared to be changed for life. Once experienced you will be forever dreaming of Africa.
And so it
goes.........................................Next month once again
life changes our plans mid-stream. When people ask us what our
plans are we often smile and with tongue in cheek, give our possible
itinerary. This time we went to sleep dreaming of Africa and
woke up back in Asia. We bid farewell to our beloved Africa.
We shall return. Until then let's be thankful for the gifts we
are given and make the best of them. We can complain about not
having shoes until we meet someone with no feet. An attitude
of gratitude goes a long way in life. Thanks for stopping by.
Take care and Keep smiling!
Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00US = 8.5 S African Rand ZAR
David Livingston's books are worth a read: Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi and its Tributaries and the Discovery of Lakes Nyssa and Chilwa (London 1865)
Johannesburg is worthy of it's reputation for crime and violence. Travel with care. That being said we spoke to many people who loved living there. Just outside, 50 miles or so, is much more relaxed and the nearby game parks are worth visiting.
Weather is an important factor in Southern Africa. Travel with the seasons. We had perfect winter/spring weather, heading north as the weather got colder. Not checking the rainfall in many places will end with the roads being washed out if you head to remote areas. It gets really cold on the southern coast of South Africa but no snow - you just have to watch out for rogue penguins crossing the road! Next stop south - Antarctica!