I am ever grateful to my Dad for our family bush trips. Holidays in Zimbabwe and Botswana wove golden threads into the fabric of my being, they contributed in forming my values, spirit and character. Outdoors and nature became a touchstone which would be increasingly vital in a world of transient artifice.
In the Okavango Delta, boundaries between earth, sky and water blur as reflections create a symphony of beauty and light. The bream, independently caught on an earthworm threaded hook attached to a candy stripped fishing rod, were cooked over a fire, forever raising the bar which no store bought fish can clear. Perhaps these holidays should have raised questions regarding Dad’s paternal love. He would tell us with unwavering confidence that there were never any crocs where he said we could bathe in the refreshing waters or spend the day at Maun Camp tubing on the water with fearless, carefree abandon. Yet, at night, torchlight shone along the banks would reveal rows of twin glowing orbs attached to the sharp end of those non-existent crocs. I guess, what doesn’t kill you gives you some skeletal steel.
My brother’s wedding gift to us was a few nights stay at Chobe Safari Lodge on honeymoon. Our stay was imbued with a deep sense of privilege. On sunset boat trips, hippo and great herds of elephant silhouetted against the breath-taking changes in hue and light as night’s curtain lowered to mark the close of day. Our marriage began on the common ground of a shared love of the African bush. The Big 5 is awe inspiring, but on a family holiday, children may experience equal delight watching a shongololo or an ant lion. Here they can learn lessons which no textbook can teach.
The pans are another unique feature on the ancient face of the Botswana landscape. Dad took us to Nxai Pans where the stark simplicity left an indelible mark. The starscape was breath-taking and while we lay looking up, the roar of a lion reverberated around us. Over many subsequent years, when everyday struggles threatened to overwhelm, I had a recurring fantasy, wherein I packed my Mazda 323 and ran off to camp in the pans, where I remembered seeing a table of tariffs showing a ridiculously low yearly rate. I would mentally create packing lists and plan my escape. The plans never came to fruition but put my mind to better use than circling worries.
The pans gave me my love of the desert. Stripping reality to sun bleached bones creates a space where thoughts and feelings are unencumbered with peripheral clutter. In South Africa, Tankwa Karoo, the Richtersveld and the Northern Cape satisfy my hunger for space and simplicity. Last week we made a somewhat crazy 2000km round trip over 4 days to witness the power of Augrabies Falls in flood. The contrast of life-giving water and harsh desert conditions leaves no space for any unmet inner need. I am grateful that my husband, like my own father, wants to give his children these experiences.
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