May 8, 2008

Touring Southern Africa

My sincere apologies. I unfortunately haven’t been able to post in some time because I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of southern Africa with my family. The journey was amazing and breathtaking and simultaneously surreal. So many moments of being taken by the beauty of the world; equal number of moments of gratitude for being able to experience that beauty first hand.

Some notes and pics from the road:

April 21st – 24th
South African Safari: Kruger National Park, Timbavati Reserve

I must say that before arriving on safari I had my reservations. For all who know me, I’m not exactly a “camping” kind of girl, much less one trying to hang out in the bush. But after my first safari experience, I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone – even the most city of the city girls.

The truth is being so close to some of Earth’s most magnificent creatures is an unbelievably beautiful and humbling experience. For me, it was a consistent reminder that this place does not belong to us; as humans we’re simply borrowing parts of it for a bit of time.

There really is no effective way I can put the experience into words. In an attempt to capture each amazing moment my family and I took nearly 1200 pictures. Here are some of the best:

April 24th – 28th
The Path to India: Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town

This trip to Cape Town marked my fourth, so I thought I had seen it all. Turns out I hadn’t actually seen anything yet. ☺ The highlight of the four days was the Cape Peninsula tour. To simply drive around the peninsula doesn’t take more than an hour or two, but we spent the entire day leisurely stopping at each beautifully scenic point. (We also took a slight detour to an ostrich farm and penguin colony along the way. The more time I spend with animals lately, the more I see humanity in them and animals in us… sounds strange, but let’s just say having a diva ostrich snap at me when I tried to touch him taught me a lesson or two. =))

The Cape of Good Hope was a particularly interesting stop on the tour. It is perhaps the most tourist-visited site in Cape Town, as it is known to be the southern most point of Africa (although technically that point is Cape Agulhas). The area is crawling with buses and trinkets and retirees – signs of tourist hell. But upon arrival near the lighthouse, where one can get the best views of the actual “southern point,” all of that tourist-related anxiety melts away. The scene is stunning and you can actually feel yourself within the space of history.

For my father, the Cape of Good Hope had a whole other level of meaning. As a small boy studying in rural India he learned of Vasco da Gama and the explorer’s adventures to find the ocean route to India. Never in his dreams did he think he’d be standing at that very point one day – the point that in many ways linked east & west; the point that combined where he grew up and where he is today.

April 28th – 30th
The Smoke That Thunders: Victoria Falls, Zambia

At the moment I’m sitting in Livingstone, Zambia, “working” on my laptop literally ten feet from the Zambezi River flowing slowly before me. It is a gorgeous, nearly cloudless day, temperature at a near perfect 76 degrees, and every time I look up from the screen at the vision around me, I have to look again to make sure my eyes haven’t deceived me. It’s as if my mind can’t comprehend being in such a beautiful place while still getting “work” done. (I suppose it helps that our hotel is on the river. ☺)

My eyes have felt tricked many times over these past two weeks of tours, guides, hotels and airports. Earlier today I experienced the Victoria Falls. Standing in the thundering mist of the falls is incredibly invigorating. It feels like a wonderful shower in nature’s water, with the slight (ok more than slight) twinge that you might die as the water’s power pulls you in.

At one particular moment, we were crossing a very wet & slippery bridge to see more of the falls. This walking bridge is directly parallel to the car bridge that links Zambia and Zimbabwe. With everything happening in the region right now, it’s hard to simply be present without thinking about what Zim’s people are going through. But I did have a selfish moment, where I looked over the bridge at the gorge, water, and rainbow beside me. And in that moment, I felt completely at peace.

It has been such a privilege to see these sights and be in these places. As a spiritual person, I am aware of a divine presence all around me, but there have been many moments, like the one on the bridge, where that presence has felt incredibly intense. Perhaps it’s because I’m sitting before that which is unadulterated, relatively untouched by human interference. Perhaps it’s just the beauty of the places themselves. Not sure. I just know that I’m really grateful for all of it.