In January, 2013 Derek said: ‘Let’s go on an American road trip this year.’ He was hungry for new experiences in the moment since my brush with cancer. The cogs in my brain whizzed, remembering a recent story of a friend who had been ‘dragged’ through Mozambique and Zimbabwe by her husband who had been in search of some historical find. She had told the story as if it had been the worst thing that had happened to her but somehow it had piqued my romantic curiosity for some new adventure, with Derek, on my own continent. So without any further thought I blithely chirped ‘Why go to America when we haven’t even explored our own continent.’ Derek, always game for new adventures, jumped at this idea with great enthusiasm before I could blink.
It was only the next day when my romantic had firmly shut herself back inside that my inner-anxiety-generator switched back on and I began to contemplate what had possessed me to suggest such an idea. I generally ate, breathed and slept with anxiety so this trip into Africa is not just the story of two white South African middle aged suburban’s but it is also how I faced my anxiety and Derek acquired the taste for gin and tonic.
In February of 2013 I wrote a quote in my journal: ‘learn to live your own life’ by Dalene Matthee from her book: Pieternella, daughter of Eva. I further wrote in my journal in response: Midlife summons me to grow. It gives me challenges to change, going into deeper places to discover my authenticity and realize my limitations. I ask myself ‘is this the person I want to be in the future?’ Midlife is the journey of gradual unfolding – a time of choices and decision-making, where the person we are choosing to be is eventually revealed to us. I guess just having had a double mastectomy for lobular cancer the previous year and going through reconstruction all added to my desire for change in my life.
As an anxious person I always think of how or where things can go wrong and make elaborate plans for all eventualities; Derek on the other hand is spontaneous in his planning and seems to think it will all work out in the end. Most often it does work out in the end. We are opposites. The fact that we have been married for 34 years proves that it has worked for us, but not without its ups and downs and a fair share of in-gracious thoughts. So planning this African trip became a masterful cohesion of every detail planned set loosely in road map that we followed. We went from South Africa through Namibia, Zambia, to Malawi and home (the original plan was to come back through Mozambique – here is the story of what changed our minds). Eventually we came back through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to South Africa.
Before I go into details of what we planned to do and how we kept ourselves safe I want to say that we believed that we could learn a lot from other people’s experiences of road trips in Africa. And as it so happened Derek knew some people, through his work connections: one enjoys repeated trips into Africa and has an all-consuming passion of taking footage of elephants, one enjoys the 4X4 experience as a regular holiday and the third is a couple who, because of their lovely articles written for magazines, have been repeatedly invited to stay at camps and resorts far and wide in Africa in order to test-run and write about them too. We met with each individually and gleaned as much knowledge as we could. We asked many questions about what vehicle, what food, where to stay, what their experiences were, what time of year is good. We also spoke to a nature conservationist who had done a fair bit of traveling in the Northern Cape and other parts of Africa and we picked his brains too. I love research and because of my anxiety and fears I did a lot of online research too. The plan was coming together.
So that was the beginnings of an African adventure stirring in our hearts. The anxiety was not yet put to rest and so I hope that you will continue on our journey as I unfold the story in future.
Till then – enjoy life!
An African adventure began to stir in our hearts.