Tag Archives: Mama Africa

Wild October

Mid-October. I am a couple of weeks into my strange sabbatical. Lots of taking stock and reflection.

It seems someone decided it was wild-for-nature October too, which I appreciate. This was my #wildoctoberart contribution. The art prompt that inspired this sketch and colour was misunderstood 😀

So this wild heart has an #inktober story to share. The meaning behind the new ink on my arm and how Dragonfly Travelling come to be…

I was probably about 14 or 15 years old. It was one of our family wanderings around South Africa. This time into the Drakensberg Mountains and a place called Injisuthi.

There are no words that really capture the grandeur of this place. It is truly wild and the magic of Mama Africa sparkles across the fast flowing streams and flits through the dells and gullys, then soars up and over the grass covered hills, along the cliffs and into the caves. Here the evidence of early human wanderers lingers.

Dad and I intended to try a 4 to 5 hour hike up into the mountains. A couple of hours in we lost the trail completely. Even retracing our steps didn’t work and we were soon well and truly lost. As the afternoon drew in so did the black storm clouds. We could see the river in the valley below that we would have to get down to and cross to find the road that would take us back to camp. Contouring along the ridges trying to find a path down to the river proved challenging as most the dells were thick with thorny brambles. We pushed through and eventually came to a shallow enough spot to cross the river. As we were crossing the heavens opened and the storm broke over us, thunder and lightning lending even more drama to our predicament. I had removed my hiking boots to cross barefoot. Once across I sat on a large flat granite rock to put my boots back on. The boots were new and had given me blisters. I was so tired by this point and pretty wobbly from feeling the concern of being lost in the mountains. We had been away from camp 6 or 7 hours by now and I knew my Mom would be worrying. So I sat on the rock trying to put those boots back on my broken feet. The rain stopped in those few minutes and the sun shone through a small break in the cloud. It shone down on my rock and in that moment two crimson dragonflies alighted onto the rock beside me. They weren’t there more than a few seconds and they were gone, the sun disappeared and the rain came back. We hiked to the road as the storm continued and a passing vehicle offered us a ride back to camp. We accepted gratefully, returning 8 hours after our departure to the relief of everyone.

That moment on the rock with those two dragonflies has left an indelible imprint on my soul. It has taken me years to find ways to express and articulate its significance. The fact I was with my Dad. The fact it was a challenging situation. The fact that it was in those magical mountains of my homeland. The fact it was dragonflies. So much symbolism…. I am an Enneagram Type 4 and we love us some symbolism 😀

It might seem strange to say but the dragonfly moment has become the expression of my sense of place in this world – my deep connection with Nature, with my family, with my roots, with my purpose. It turns out there is an African proverb that expresses this idea too. Ubuntu – I am because we are. For me we includes all of Nature. This has been grounding, particularly in the past couple of years as I have moved towards living my purpose.

And so I began to articulate the significance of this moment. It started with an email address, then a simple tattoo on my wrist. Now in the completed ink story on my wrist including all the colour possible with the African daisies! And this blog…. which still freaks me out every time I am compelled to post! Like I say in my little bio – an act of vulnerability for this wandering introvert. But as a lovely kindred spirit of mine says “growth through discomfort”.

Do you have a significant moment with Nature you can draw on? A moment that grounds you in who you are in the grand scheme of things and how you want to live on this Earth? What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children and their children?

As the incomparable Sir David Attenborough says in his latest doco (a must watch!), we need “to move from being apart from nature to become a part of nature once again”.

I encourage you to find your Nature moment 🖤

Wanderings Day 29

Only two more posts to go for this virtual wander down my travel memory lane.

Two days of Kruger National Park memories… this is part one.

I was just looking down the list of rest camps in Kruger. It turns out over the many adventures there since childhood I have stayed at all but two.

My favourite area to wander would be from Satara northwards.

Pafuri is particularly magical with all those fever trees and glimpses of nyala in the shadows by the Luvuvhu River. That brings to mind the Nyala Walking Trail – sublime!

Actually any of Kruger’s walking trails are a fabulous experience. Lucky enough to have walked a few of these over the years too.

Kruger visits were so formative for me. I learned so much about ecology and how ecosystems work simply from soaking up all the info I could get my hands on. Here is where I fell in love with birds and took up birding under my wonderful Dad’s guidance.

Kruger has a distinct spirit of place. The air crackles with its magic as you arrive at the gate (any of the gates). I thought this might change over the years, grow dim somehow as I aged. But no. I got to visit again last year briefly and the magic is still there.

Now I probably need to say at this point that I am fully aware of Kruger’s history. Not all decisions made in regard to its management both for wildlife and for the surrounding communities have been sound or just over the years.

All I want to focus on right at this moment in time is the gratitude I feel for having had so many opportunities to pass through Kruger’s gates and get swallowed up in that bushveld magic.

Wanderings Day 28

Botswana Part 3.

Last virtual wander through the Okavango Delta and surrounds.

Today I am thinking of magical wildlife moments. I got to experience so many during my years there. I still have to pinch myself this time really happened.

There’s the time I had to sleep on the pool lounger as a family of hippo were grazing all round my little housie that night.

Or the 5am deep breath and tiptoe past three sleeping bull elephant (all round the house) to make sure I got to the main area of camp to get ready for guest arrival.

Then there’s a moment with a young she leopard making her way across our island in the Delta. It was twilight and there she was sat on the path ahead of me. Too close before I realised she was there. But she paused before moving off, just long enough for us to acknowledge each other.

Then there’s the time our resident bull elephant stuck his whole head through the office door to get at a couple of marula fruit that had found their way onto the floor inside. Yes, I was in this little camp office at the time.

A lone spotted hyena would make the rounds with me most evenings on lock up after guests had retired for the night…. trotting along after me along the boardwalks…. not too close…. after the first few times of feeling insecure, I actually found him quite companionable.

The Pel’s Fishing Owl family nesting in the tree above my house.

The big python who lived under my house. I never had a rodent problem.

And many more…. that’s breathtaking Botswana! Best place to experience real, wild Africa (just my opinion).

But this kind of magic has a life span. Too much of a good thing and all that… still, I am left with incredible memories and oodles of gratitude for this chapter in my story.

In the wise words of Prime Circle from their song Breathing

“Here’s to the good times
The bad times
The times that could have been
To the wrong times
The right times
I know we’ll breathe again…”

Extraordinary voices of ordinary women: Carla Geyser

Longing to experience the real, authentic Mama Africa in all her grit and glory? Love a good road trip? What about great banter around a campfire, sipping a gin and tonic, pausing every now and then to listen to the soundscape that only a night under the African sky can bring?  How about magical sunrises and sunsets? Or an impromptu coffee stop in the middle of somewhere intrepid?  Want your African experience to include some boots on the ground time for wildlife conservation and community empowerment?

That all important coffee break along the way…. Maputo Special Reserve, Mozambique

Then you need to meet my gorgeous friend, Carla Geyser.  Her Journeys with Purpose are all of the above and then some!

Carla with Izzy (another kindred spirit) on a boat… a day exploring the waters of Maputo Bay, Mozambique

I first came across Carla’s story in 2016 when she embarked on her epic Elephant Ignite Expedition – travelling 16 000km across 10 countries. Carla and her team visited 37 conservation organisations, engaging with communities along the way and distributing 20 000 educational booklets. The idea for this expedition was sparked by the plight of elephants across Africa – their plummeting numbers due to poaching and human wildlife conflict.

Then in 2018 I followed Carla’s next adventure, The Rise of the Matriarch, on social media.  This time an international all women crew set out with Carla for a 50 day, 11 000km journey through 4 countries.  This expedition raised global awareness for the plight of African wildlife, raising funds for conservation groups and empowering local youth, especially girls. 

I still have the diary from that time and scribbled in a margin is “Blue Sky Society Trust – next time”.

In May of this year I got to meet Carla in person.  She picked me to be part of her crew for a 2019 Journey with Purpose.  I have recorded this incredible adventure in previous posts:

Carla is a great expedition leader – the perfect blend of happy-go-lucky and down to earth pragmatism.  She knows Africa well and understands how to travel wisely.  Able to go with the flow while at the same time being uber prepared for every eventuality – a real skill in this environment!

Carla overseeing production of a delicious potjie… on top of the world in eSwatini

I love Carla’s attitude to life which is incorporated into the name of her not-for-profit – The Blue Sky Society.  Read here how the name came about.  She is a kindred spirit… we share a passion for Mama Africa, our birthplace.  Yet Carla’s personality is such that anyone from anywhere could not help but enjoy her company and be swept away in her enthusiasm for life and her work.

I consider it one of the greatest experiences of my life, that May Journey with Purpose.  I also consider it an honour and privilege to have shared the road with Carla Geyser and her fabulous landy, Dora.  And I cannot wait to go again and be a part of another Blue Sky Society Journey with Purpose!

Dora the Landy in Kruger National Park… this photo taken shortly after two spectacular leopard sightings

Carla is an ordinary woman just like me.  But her big dreams, her belief in the infinite possibilities of life and her “just do it” attitude make her voice extraordinary….

Four incredible Journeys with Purpose are planned for 2020 (click on the links to find out more):

Chasing Waterfalls

The Great Zambezi

Aqua Earth

Trekking Giants

Go!  Travel with Carla. Let Mama Africa embrace you.  Wander the road less travelled.  It will change your life.

Ritual, Food and Living Sustainably

As part of my journey with Dr Tererai Trent’s book – The Awakened Woman – I have been reflecting a lot about the place of ritual in daily life.

Dr Tererai Trent’s book with the companion journal from the Kikki K collection

She talks of the importance of ritual in helping her on the path towards her sacred dreams.  In the companion journal I am working through there is a section titled “grow your soul through ritual”.    She writes about the richness of her culture in the part of rural Zimbabwe where she was born. There is such beauty in the connection of her people with natural world and the rituals that result.  It is an inspiring read.

Dr Trent is not the first woman I have come across who speaks of the essential place of ritual in her life.

One of the prompts in the Awakened Woman journal was to list any rituals you practise already.  At first it was difficult to think of any rituals in my own life.  Looking to the past, my ancestry, the idea of a rich cultural history is fraught.  My ancestors come from a group of people who’s past actions and values I would prefer to distance myself from in many ways. 

Then I started thinking closer to home, to my family and my childhood.  I was lucky enough to grow up with my great grandparents and grandparents on both sides.  Family tradition in abundance.  As I began to list our family traditions a realisation occurred – it was me who turned many of these traditions into ritual.  Especially at this time of the year as we head towards the festive season I have become the keeper of my family’s rituals.  So without consciously thinking about this before, ritual has played an important place in my wellbeing – in feeling connected with the spirit of the past and in rooting deeply in the present to grow into the future.

There is another quote from the Awakened Woman journal I like,

“Rituals are the actions we can take to help us walk the path to our dreams.  They connect us to a more authentic version of ourselves, allow us to pause and focus on what’s important and strengthen our beliefs”.

So what can ritual look like?  I think it can be any action sacred to you, that you deliberately and thoughtfully repeat.  I believe ritual becomes a very personal thing.  I have rituals around prayer, meditation and a mindfulness practice… oooh and time on my Shakti mat!  Finding time for stillness in the day to day busyness of life has become essential for me.  Particularly as I currently live and work in a busy city – an environment that drains my energy.

The next prompt was to consider how the rituals you practise help move you closer to your dreams.  Definitely a concept I had never considered!

One of my dreams goes around treading lightly and respectfully on the Earth.  And so I got to thinking about whether ritual plays a part in my attempt at living sustainably.  And upon reflection it does.

My family has a lot of ritual around food.  We use food and precious family recipes as a way to commemorate family occasions, mark anniversaries and the passing of seasons.  As immigrants our food rituals connect us to a spirit of place and time as well. 

And what I now realise is that I have come to think of food and food preparation as a way to honour what Mother Earth provides – there is ritual in that.  I still choose to eat meat – not in large quantity and only if I know where and how it was produced.  I focus on what’s seasonal and grown locally.  In a country like New Zealand I am extremely lucky to easily know where and how meat, eggs, milk, butter, fresh fruit and veg are produced and make my consumer choices accordingly.  While cooking and preparing meals, I have now added in quirky little prayers of thanks to living things, plants and animals, that have given their energy to allow me mine.  A weird ritual perhaps but one that has given me “pause and focus on what’s important and strengthening my beliefs”.

All this has made me ponder the food thing when travelling.  How can you be comfortable without really knowing where the produce is coming from or how it was produced?  I then remembered my time as F&B manager at an ecolodge in the Okavango Delta.  The thought that went into sourcing food to provide a 4 star offering in a very remote location.  We did source locally as much as possible.  We did create menus based on seasonal availability.  So the food side of things became as considered in the journey towards a sustainable organisation as the energy use, green building materials or waste minimisation strategies.

Above are some images from my time in Okavango…. best office in the world!

So even on safari in really out of the way places, treading lightly and living sustainably is possible.  I take comfort in the knowledge that in their own way many eco-conscious tourism operations in Africa today do incorporate ritual.  Ritual that makes them respectful of the wildlife and wild space in which they operate. Ritual that makes them sensitive to the communities they impact and include in their conservation intention. Ritual that ensures their guests are supported to also tread as lightly as possible in their journey of exploration.

I am thinking again of kinds of organisations like Asilia Africa and Yellow Zebra Safaris… which I linked to in my previous post as well.