I’ve really enjoyed reading everyones take on this months travel linkup theme about ‘love.’ There are so many things I could talk about here but I thought I’d share one of my most memorable travel experiences in the form of a short story…
( G if you’re reading – this isn’t one of those ‘loosely based on’ stories! 😉 )
Surpassing the need to scream ‘We found it!’ is probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I had just spent the last hour trekking through the wild African bush, fast enough to keep up with the guide, not too fast to create too much disturbance. Ducking low hanging trees, looking behind to check our small group was still together and every so often being surprised by a lovely sharp acacia branch brushing swiftly across my arms. Wounds that I endured with pleasure as I eagerly carried on to reach this moment.
A parting of the grasses revealed a species on the brink of extinction, here in Matobo National Park, two of the worlds few remaining white rhinos stood before us. Standing still hoping not to startle them, holding back breaths, the only sounds were that of rustling dried leaves as the slow wind blew.
My group and I stared in awe of this magnificent creature happily grazing, blissfully unaware of their threatened existence. After what felt like miles of walking, stopping only at the sight of faeces, a sight which filled us with joy every time as we knew we were edging closer to our goal, as we sought one of the most powerful mammals on land.
As I peered between the tall tufts of grass, stems that provided valuable cover, one of the first thoughts that popped into my head was quite simply that there was nothing ‘white’ about these white rhinos, they were more of a bleached grey, almost as if they had developed a camouflage to fit in with the granite rocks that towered around them.
From our earlier dung-analysis, we had established they were grass eaters, grazers who foraged from below rather than their sister species the black rhino who would grasp food from above. Andy was a local Zimbabwean and had worked within Matopos Hills for too many years for him to even remember, an expert at the ways and workings of the wild African bush.
We had stopped only a few minutes before the sun started to fall behind the granite rock formations, we knew our moment was over and we had to act fast to get back to the truck. Here in the midst of winter, as the sun set, the temperature too dropped almost in perfect harmony.
Our guide Andy piled us into the car, ‘closing up the jeep’ as the cold winds started, hinting at a surprise as we headed back. The five of us shuffled close for warmth as the final door shut and we were plunged into pitch black.
Every road bump seemed rougher in the dark. All excited talk about the afternoon’s adventure started to fade, as we realised the ride home was starting to feel longer. What was going on? We shouted through to the front, trying to get some answers. No reply. We tried again, in unison. No reply. The journey didn’t seem to end and every minute that passed felt longer as we all sat in silence.
After what felt like an eternity, we came to an abrupt halt. Andy’s heavy footsteps were the only sounds once the roaring engine was silenced.
‘Surprise!’’ he gushed excitedly as he threw open the door. Gingerly, we each climbed down one by one. There was nothing around. No lodgings. No people. No trees, nothing?
An endless plain of open space. We were the only beings here. Just us, the ground we stood on and the infinite starry sky, enveloping every inch of our eyeline. They were the kind of stars you see in textbooks. Bursts of light illuminating the entire sky. Shooting stars streaking every so often, the constellations mapped out flawlessly.
Andy reappeared, with blankets and mugs of deliciously warm hot chocolate. He talked us through tales of the cosmos and astrology. It was the real life version of a beautiful, night-time dream.
That’s the thing I’ve loved most about Africa. Every time I think I have had the experience of a lifetime, there’s always an unexpected surprise waiting round the corner, ready to take what’s left of my breath away.
What is that you love? A place? A person? An experience?
Love, love is in the air…. *saxophone music begins to waft*
We want to know what you adore. It could be a love letter to your favourite city, a special someone, a flavour you can’t live without or well, anything. Feel free to let those creative passions flow…