Africa’s Top 10 – Saying Farewell

Leaving Africa was full of mixed emotions.  Over the past two and a half months we have traveled through 12 countries on this incredible continent and to think we have only scratched the surface is unbelievable.  Africa is a place that when you visit it captures your spirit and your soul!  Before we traveled to Africa I had heard many people say “once you have experienced Africa, the ‘Africa Bug’ will always be with you”, and they couldn’t’ be more accurate.  No matter where else I travel in the world or what I do in life a small part of me will always be in Africa and a big piece of Africa will always be with me!  I will forever feel connected to this addictive land.

There is a book that we came across in our travels that I would highly recommend reading, AFRICA – Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden.  In Chapter 1 Dowden does a fantastic job describing the perception people have about visiting Africa, and if you read nothing more in the book, I hope you will read this excerpt which I found particularly thought provoking.

Dowden writes, “Few go there.  Africa has a reputation: poverty, disease, war.  But when outsiders do go they are often surprised by Africa’s welcome, entranced rather than frightened.  Visitors are welcomed and cared for in Africa.  If you go you will find most Africans friendly, gentle and infinitely polite.  You will frequently be humbled by African generosity.  Africans have in abundance what we call social skills.  These are not skills that are formally taught or learned.  There is no click-on have-a-nice-day smile in Africa.  Africans meet, greet and talk, look you in the eye and empathize, hold hands and embrace, share and accept from others without twitchy self-consciousness.  All these things are as natural as music in Africa.

Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher.  And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open.  They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived.  In Africa the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense.  Visitors suddenly realized what life is for.  To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that still abound in Africa”

I personally think that Dowden’s generalization could not be more accurate and perhaps the West has something to learn from Africa.  I hope that I have come away from Africa a better person with a broader understanding of what life is all about.  I will remember this experience for the rest of my life, thank you Africa!

Since many of you have asked for highlights from our travels through Africa I have put together my Top 10 list below….enjoy!  (There are of course hundreds of other amazing memories and highlights I could share!)

10.  Learning about the Bushmen and visiting their villages

These men and women are thought to be linked to the origin of man and their way of life is absolutely fascinating.  It was a privilege to meet them and learn about how they try to keep their heritage alive today.  More about this from Fran in his blog titled, San ‘Fran’ Bushman.

9.  Rafting the Zambezi

Two words: Adrenaline Pumping!  Such an incredible accomplishment that I would do again in a minute despite being thrown from the boat twice!!  See Fran’s The Mighty Zambezi for more details!

8.  Meeting the locals (Charities, Orphanages, Village Walks/Meals)

Traveling overland allowed us access to people and places that we would have never experienced if we flew from one place to another.  These unique experiences made our African experience all the more special!

7.  Going on Safari/African Wildlife

My new favorite hobby! 

6.  Living without constant contact

Yes, this was hard at times but once you are use to it there is nothing more liberating than not being tied to any electronic device!!  I think the world could do with being a bit less reliant on technology as there is something so nice about communicating with people face to face, making a real connection!

5.  Learning to speak Swahili

Being able to speak the local language (even if just a few words) is such a nice feeling and always much appreciated by the locals.  Learning Swahili was so much fun and something I quickly missed after leaving Tanzania. 

4.  Dinner with Patrick’s family at their house in Kenya

Our chef from the Gorilla Loop (Patrick) invited us to have dinner at his family’s home in Kenya which was absolutely incredible!  They welcomed us with open arms and treated us like royalty, I will remember that night for the rest of my life! 

3.  Close animal encounters (Gorillas/Lions/Rhinos/Cheetahs)

Being within 3 feet of mountain gorillas and 30 feet of White Rhinos is not something that happens every day!  We were very lucky to have such close contact with these wild animals!

2.  Ballooning over the Serengeti

Peaceful, beautiful, incredible!!!  There is something very special about being in a hot air balloon!  Thank you Franny…you are the best!!  More on this in my Endless Plains blog!

1.  The children in Kenya and Uganda screaming “How Are You?!”

When I think of my travels for Africa all I can hear are the little voices of these children screaming out “How Are You?!” as we drove through their villages!  They are so sweet I would have loved to bring them all home with us!  See my How Are You?! blog for more details!

Thank you Africa for capturing my heart, see you again very soon!