In The Bush

My trip to South Africa changed my life forever. My mom and I went one Thanksgiving not too long after my dad died because it was an adventure that we both wanted to do. Little did I know the impact that journey would make on my heart and mind for the rest of my life. When we first arrived, we came to Cape Town. It’s a beautiful town that has many incredible sights to see. The cliffs and mountains there captivate you to the point that you might not believe what you see, but it’s real. Table Mountain reminds me of the Smoky Mountains in the states because the clouds make it look like a gigantic tablecloth. It’s almost like the heavens use the shadows to create an ambiance of a heavenly meal prepared before you. The hills and valleys are lush with greenery, and the winds are high at many different times, but it gives your soul the feeling of flying with the best possible views that life provides. While I only got to see the beautiful parts, I am keenly aware of the dangers and issues the town deals with, but the people there are incredible. It took some adjustment to get used to how they drive on the roads because everything there is reversed unline the United States. That trip was the first and only time that I’d been in a helicopter. The views I saw will forever remain in my mind as magical.

A few days after mom and I were in Cape Town, we went to the Rock of Gibraltar. I’d always heard about it growing up and can attest that it’s an incredible sight. It’s chilly inside, but that’s normal. The Rock (aka Barbary Macaque) is notorious for being mean on the outside. They will steal anything they can from tourists, and you don’t dare feed them. They are highly aggressive and will take any opportunity that they have. They are as cute as they can be but don’t entice them.

Not long after that excursion, we left for Johannesburg. It was an hour’s flight from Johannesburg to where we needed to go. Driving to the reserve would have taken about 4 hours, so going by plane made the most sense. It also allowed us to take a private plane and see a part of Africa that we would not have seen otherwise. At the Madikwe Safari Reserve, I had the best experiences. Our guide was named Billy. Billy was extremely knowledgeable and had eyes like a hawk. All of those guides have excellent vision because their lives depend on it and the lives of the people they take on those tours. They all wear uniforms with bullets attached to them because if one of the wild animals gets out of line, they will take it down if one attacks a human. If it means the life of a human in their care versus the animal’s life, they will protect the human. But they don’t kill unless necessary. Yet they have stringent rules about what people are allowed and are not allowed to do. There have been people killed because they did not adhere to the guidelines. Billy and the other guide, JP, made no bones about that.

One of the first days they took us was in one of the expanded jeeps that allowed at least 8 to 12 people to write in them. As we were going through the reserve, Billy told us to be on the lookout for glass bottles. I knew that glass bottles could pose a threat with fire, but I didn’t realize how serious an issue it is in those reserves until Billy brought it to my attention. The park does everything it can to keep those glass bottles off the roads and the sides because if the sun hits it just right, the conditions on the reserves often stay so hot to where it’s easy for the land to catch on fire. Water is scarce in those areas. The last thing anybody wants is to watch as an incredible reserve goes up in flames and destroys many of the animals that reside in those areas.

Captured a pic of Black Mambas mating

The first night that I was there, I remember going back to the lodge I was staying in, and JP and Billy both told me that I needed to have an escort there. Now I’m incredibly independent, but it got my attention when both of those men said that I needed somebody to walk with me to their lodge. JP walked with me back to the club and told me to be very careful. Why? Because there were scorpions that were on the path. It was pitch black at night; they had to walk us back to our rooms with a flashlight so that we could see where we put our feet and make sure it was safe. We were instructed to keep our shoes and everything else off the floor and away from where bugs could crawl into them. We took all kinds of precautions. But it was worth every minute of it.

I captured pictures of lions, elephants, zebras, impalas, and exotic birds for the next couple of days. But the images that I took of black mamba’s mating made the trip more meaningful for me than anything I’ve ever seen. This trip was the trip that told me that I did not need to settle for anything in my life. It reinforced that the lessons that I was learning in the bush would be lessons I would take with me in every aspect of my professional and personal being. It would become the cornerstone for how I base relationships in the future. Because on that trip, I learned how to let my spirit soar. I knew what it meant to live a life of freedom without so many restrictions that I placed upon myself. When you have a chance to go into the bush, you learn that survival is not only based on common sense but there are things in life that you utilize to the best of your ability. Knowledge is crucial when dealing with something you don’t know or even understand. Aligning yourself with people who know what they’re doing can make all the difference in the world. It can mean the difference between life and death.

Not everyone gets an opportunity to go into the bush, but what I can tell you is this if was this; if you do get the chance, it will change your life. Everything you take for granted every day will not be as easy to keep in your previous mindset. If the animals taught me anything, everything has a balance of nature. But the freedom that those animals exhibit also shows the level of guardedness for their survival instincts. They are fiercely protective of their offspring, just like we are. And they have a sense of community. The impala, zebras, and elephants were all in packs of community. And when I saw those giraffes, there were usually two of them together. I got plenty of butt shots with them. But the respect of the animal kingdom for one another is something that, unfortunately, society is not adhering to within the human-animal domain. The world is so busy trying to destroy one another that we can’t learn from our actions. Maybe that’s why the bush means so much to me. The lessons I learned there showed the essence of the animal kingdom.

So as I close out today’s blog, I hope you will get an opportunity to visit the bush one day. And if you do, take in everything you can. You might find that as you’re willing to open your mind to the vastness of the world of the kingdom, you may learn more about your behavior along the way. Sometimes being around wildlife is the best growth mechanism we can use because it shows us who we have the potential to become. And that is a gift more incredible than we may understand at the time. Have a great day, everyone.

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