Day 38: Refueling Station & Getting Perspective

(The beauty and spaciousness of Murchison Falls National Park and my encounters with the animals is still alive and stirring in me. I find I don’t quite have the words to put to my experiences. So this is a bit of a placeholder post that captures some of the “outer” details of what I did and not so much my inner reflections of it all. I’m still reflecting! So for now… this…)

My 3 day weekend adventure…

Day 1: Leaving Kampala for Murchison Falls, about a 6-7 hour journey North.

A visit to the Falls… the Nile river spraying my face as the wide girth of its usual flowing waters is forced through a much smaller gap in the hillside… deriving much joy at being in the presence of such extraordinary power and beauty.

Day 2: Safari, this time in a van with 6 others and our driver, Ronald. Driving through the huge park, spotting and being with the animals… giraffes, buffalo, lions, warthogs, several different species of antelope, birds and more birds and more. So different from my backpacking safari adventure last month in South Africa and yet still beautiful and nourishing in its own way.

Afternoon safari by boat along the Nile river… hippos, birds of all sizes and colors and activities, baby crocodiles, a big sleeping croc, more hippos… then the view of the Murchison Falls and wishing to get closer to feel its spray again.

Dinner outside. Warthogs visiting us. Storytelling by the campfire. Dancing and music around the campfire. Then time for bed… in my own private bandu… glamping in style. First hot shower in 5 weeks.

Day 3: Another drive through the park. More animals. Giraffes. Lots and lots of giraffes. Energy and medicine of the big perspective. The higher ground.

Happy to be surrounded by so much space, so much beauty, so much clean air… and then the smell of dung and it’s all enlivening.

Laughing along with Ronald, our driver, at his stories… about the hippo and the warthog… when we sit down together I can tell you these stories sometime.

Drive home. Conversations with the Ugandan-Canadian woman, my new friend. Getting to ask her all my questions about culturally sensitive issues that have arisen so far. So insightful. So valuable.

Being quiet with the space of me… the new perspectives that have arisen in this journey… the awareness it is essential to get out of Kampala every month to visit more of this beautiful land, to get away from all the congestion and pollution, to experience more of this country, to tap into that giraffe view.

This 3 day adventure served as a visit to the much-needed refueling station.

 

I Am Just A Speck

One of my biggest takeaways from safari:

I am just a speck in this grand, awesome Universe, and I’m also an invited, welcomed and essential part of it all.

Thank you, South Africa, for the gift of inviting me to come home more fully to myself.

Photo Credit: Susy Bermudez. Taken during the Wild Women In The Wilderness Retreat with Dr. Saida Desilets in South Africa.

Peek-a-Baboon

On our last night out in the wilds, we arrived at our campsite: another baboon ledge overlooking the river where elephants, buffalo, crocodiles and yes, even baboons, were gathered. Thank you, baboons, for letting us crash at your place for the night!

 

Photo Credit: Dr. Saida Desilets. Taken while on the Wild Women In The Wilderness Retreat in South Africa.

That One Unexpected Moment That Changed Everything

While on safari I slept at night on rock ledges that were usually inhabited by baboons.

I lay, feeling so supported, while gazing up at the sky full of stars.

Occasionally I saw a shooting star.

I had the direct experience of being one with this huge glorious Universe.

As I walked the 2000-year-old rhino trails, I encountered dung… elephant dung that was like big round brillo pads and antelope poop that seemed so polite after the big plop piles of buffalo poo.

I encountered bones… the jaw of an antelope, the horns of a water buffalo along with the scattered remains of its skeleton, vertebrae of large animals that I didn’t recognize.

There was a vividness of life in the green grasses with the white and black of the zebra stripes and the tall bobbing head of the giraffe and the primal call of the hyena to its tribe at night.

And there was the silence… my silence…

Silence that I kept for the first 4 days of the safari.

The silence both emptied me and gave me everything.

The inner clutter cleared out. There was a thinner membrane between the me that I knew of me inside this skin sack and the larger space of infinite existence that spread out all around me.

On day 3 or 4, as I sat feeling both alone in my own space and not fooled, knowing I was also communing with the space and creatures all around me, words were birthed out of me, from the silence and received by the silence…

“It’s okay that my mom has died.”

The words both surprised me, as there was no premeditated thought about saying them, and at the same time they were the most natural thing to say. There was a shift in everything in that moment that was both simple and profound; a coming home to myself again more fully as a daughter of a mother who has died. And yet there I was and here I am, the daughter of the planet, the daughter of the cosmos; a woman on her path, a woman in the wild, a woman of the wild. A wild woman at home with life and death and grief and rebirth.

I didn’t share this experience with anyone else for many days, not till the closing circle with the women I was on safari with. It was mine to be with but there was no longer any need to hold onto it. It was spoken. It was true.

And now life is carrying me forward in its ever unfurling current.

It’s okay that my mom has died.

I am still here.

There is still life.

There is the echo of life that once moved through here, on these paths and in my heart.

That echo will always be here.

And that truth is creating space for more living.

 

 

**

Photo Credit: Dr. Saida Desilets. Picture taken while on the Wild Women In The Wilderness Retreat in South Africa.

The Golden Rules That Kept Us Alive

Before setting out on the trails each morning during our 6-day safari, Vuyani and Zondi (our amazing guides) reminded us of the Golden Rules:

  • Walk in single file, staying an arm’s length away from the person in front of us at all times
  • Remain silent
  • Make a clicking noise with our tongue if we needed to get the guides’ attention
  • Do exactly what the guides say without question (so we were to stop and freeze when given the appropriate hand signals or take cover behind a large rock or tree when they yell, “Cover!”)

One afternoon, when the sun was high in the sky, I saw Vuyani make the hand gesture signifying us to retreat. My heart started thumping as I stopped in my tracks. Was Vuyani going to yell to us in the next second to take cover? I quickly scanned the terrain behind me… would that thorn bush make adequate cover from a charging rhino or elephant?

Zondi went on ahead as Vuyani quickly circled around behind our queue and lead us down a short hill through the thorny bushes. What animal had they seen? I wondered. And just how close was it?

After a few minutes Vuyani came to a stop. He turned to us and whispered, ‘It’s a mama rhino with her baby.’ We moved out of our single file line to gather around him. A shiver of awe ran through me. I knew that we didn’t ever want to get too close to a rhino, let alone a mama and her baby.

Then Vuyani surprised me as he leaned closer to us and asked, ‘Do you want to see them?’ Hell yeah was the emphatic unspoken response, communicated with strong head nods. He led us up another small hill and stopped us right before the edge so we could see them at eye level.

We stood in silence, soaking in the beautiful site of this protective, curious mama and her little one, who ended up being the one to take cover. While we had passed the invisible boundary of the mama’s comfort zone, we weren’t about to get any closer or overstay our welcome. Vuyani turned and led us back down the hill, carrying us forward through the bush while giving the mama rhino a wide berth.

I offered a silent ‘thank you’ to the mama rhino. Seeing this formidable creature so close left an imprint on my being: I felt humbled and grateful to have been in her presence.

 

***

Photo Credit: Dr. Saida Desilets. Taken while on the Wild Women In The Wilderness Retreat in South Africa.

 

 

Being On Backpacking Safari

How do I put into words my experiences of…

  • Seeing elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, crocodiles, rhinos, wildebeest, water buffalos and a cheetah, all out in the wild, while walking on 2000-year-old rhino paths
  • Sleeping on baboon ledges under the stars and being serenaded each night by a symphony of frogs
  • Being awakened in the early morning by the sound of baboons on the ledge right above us
  • Sitting on the rock ledge in the sweet pink light of dawn with a cup of muesli, gazing out at the riverbed… not ‘watching’ but ‘being with’… inhabiting space and enjoying the continuous ebb and flow of animals and birds, silence and sounds
  • Bathing (if you can really call it that) in muddy water upriver from huge crocodiles
  • Washing pots with elephant dung (it makes a great brillo pad)
  • Being without a phone, calendar and computer for 12 days
  • Being silent for 4 out of our 6 days on safari
  • Seeing how thoughts become forms that are just clutter, creating unnecessary static
  • Afternoon siestas spent snoozing in the shade during the hottest hours of the day
  • Using leaves for toilet paper and always requiring another woman to accompany me when going “number number” (aka number 2)
  • Carrying a heavy backpack with all that I needed for the week (including a plate, cup and spoon that I used for all meals, a plastic water bottle that got filled up in the river, a food sack that thankfully dwindled down to almost nothing by the end of the week, and my torch)
  • Being guided, inspired, entertained and protected by two men (Vuyani and Zondi) from the Zulu tribe who encouraged our own direct experience in the wilderness, rather than filling us with information
  • Crouching down in the dirt to see huge lion tracks, putting my hand side by side with them to compare size
  • Spotting the trail of a crocs tail in the sand by the river from the safe vantage point of the baboon ledge
  • Not ever having really clean hands or fingernails
  • Getting scratched by 1 and 2-inch-long thorns growing from ‘the coward’s trees’
  • How delicious the simplest meals tasted out in the bush, especially our lunches that we prepared and ate with fingers and pocket knives and dinners that were prepared for us over a campfire by Vuyani
  • Night watch
  • Hearing hyenas calling to each other during the night, ‘Yoooup… Yoooup’
  • Unwinding and letting go of ‘doing life’ while surrendering and softening more deeply into being

Ahh… just like our eyes are for seeing, yet we see with more than our eyes, words give me a way to point to and attempt to share these experiences that are so beyond words. May these words give you a taste of the sublime wild pleasure that was safari.

**

Photo Credit: Dr. Saida Desilets. Taken while on the Wild Women In The Wilderness Retreat in South Africa.

My Africa Adventures

What else is possible when you go way beyond your comfort zone?

I left New York for South Africa on July 31st to follow a calling…

A calling to leap more fully into life, to go beyond my comfort zone, to travel to the other side of the world where I could engage in day to day, inspiring and empowering activities with brown skin women and children.

As I followed this calling, magic occurred: I got invited to participate in a 12 day backpacking safari in South Africa (which I said YES to!) and I found my dream non-profit organization to volunteer with in Kampala, Uganda.

What grand and glorious adventures await?

I will be sharing them with you here! I invite you to read my posts and allow my words to transport you on these adventures along with me. And I welcome your comments, too! Let me know how a certain post touches you… what gets evoked in you… even just a note to say you’re with me and reading these means a lot to me. It can be pretty wild and lonely sometimes out here beyond the comfort zone… sharing my journey with you reminds me of how we are really all connected.

High-5’s from Africa,

Megan

P.S. Not sure where to start? You can begin by reading my blog from the bottom up to get the chronological day-by-day stories. Or you can check out these two posts to get an overall taste of my backpacking safari adventure in South Africa and my first two weeks in Kampala, Uganda.