Journey into the Wild

A day of preparation to enter the wilds, but already the critters are showing themselves! 

A walk to the ocean alone.

Feet in course sand.

Prayers for grounding, setting my intention to embody.

A tall black man playing “catch me” with the waves like a child might.

Heron-like birds that caw like crows.

Monkeys playing in the park.

A black woman walking towards me on the sidewalk, she goes to the trouble to cross over, stepping FAR off the sidewalk as she passes me, avoiding eye contact.  I am sadly reminded that this country is steeped in systemized racism, overtly like the south of the US.

Back at Teremok, two of my new sister friends engulfed in backgammon.

Chi Kung on the lawn, mountain and sky, giving and receiving.

Nut milk and salad and refreshing splashes from a second story hose.

A giggling gabbing 3-hour drive together in the van toward Imfolozi.

Even in the van, my inward learning begins.  I notice how often we comment on everyone’s bodies.  I am mentioned as one of the “voluptuous” ones.  My breasts are mentioned.  My long hair. Another woman’s hair length. Another woman’s butt. Another woman’s calves. As we drive and chatter like hens, I realize just how many comments and topics are reflections of judgement on others’ bodies and our own.  Is it always like this?  I imagine it is.  

I realize that wild animals don’t care about the shape, size, or appearance of their bodies on the day to day. And when I’m fully in my experience of something fun, in the present moment of something intense, in the pleasure of something truly delicious, there is no space in me for such banal pickiness about appearance. So perhaps this is an issue of wildness vs tameness? Perhaps this is a cage of sorts? I ask myself what would it be like to release all perfectionism about my appearance.

It is commonplace for us women to complain about, compare about, categorize and judge ourselves and each other on our bodies, our beauties, our fashions, our appearance.  Wow.  What would we be talking about if we weren’t so obsessed?  Granted, this is a group of women devoted to sensuality, to embodied power, to celebrating the body and its power to be a conduit of energy and vital force, as taught by Dr. Saida Desilets.  So much of the chatter is connected to these practices and all they do for us.  Yet, I couldn’t help but realize that the small triggers inside me were already tenderizing me for the inward shift and healing I’d requested.

Three hours in, and the van crosses through a fence.  It’s time to enter the nature preserve. We just went from very tame to more wild. Yet we are still in a fenced park-like nature preserve.

And within the first thirty minutes, we are overwhelmed as the creatures appear around us as the van rolls along the gravel roads…

Bull Elephant, weeping from the eyes as he is in “myst,” his hormonally raging time for mating and asserting himself.

Family of white rhinos, with mothers and babies, and the bull rhino napping a distance off under a tree.

Impalas. Kudus. All the cute antelope.

Big male giraffe munching treetops.

Wide-winged dark vultures both circling and perched.

Water Buffalo, with their thick and beautiful curved horns, looking like muscled statues.

Pumba pig, which got us singing of course.

Baboons checking us out quizzically.

… And we haven’t even gotten out of the van yet!

These animals were living inside the fenced protected area, the area where many tourists come to snap pictures and gape from the open tops of tour jeeps and the rolled-down windows of white rental suvs. They are “wild” but they are still contained.  And this is the case in almost all of the wild-game experiences in Africa.  Fenced in areas with well supervised animal populations.

Ok, this is a fenced reserve. These animals are wild, yes, but also contained. Even so, I am weeping at the mere sight of these majestic creatures.  “It already feels like enough,” I think.  But that’s because we haven’t yet stepped foot out into the truly wild space – the unfenced preserve where the animals are at choice to come or go… the place where only those with permission may enter, and only on foot, and only with certified and well-armed guides, and only with promises to honor the animals, to use only their trails, and to leave no trace.  That is where the big magic happens.  And yet I am already dizzy with the grandeur of these ancient creatures, and the extreme privilege of witnessing their dignified beauty.

We arrive at the wilderness lodge, where we stay tonight before hitting the trail tomorrow.  the caretaker there says there is a resident leopard.  We will hear him tonight even if we do not see him.  He was right.  We heard his growls and chuffs from inside our bamboo huts.  My belly grumbles in return.  A small voice in my mind repeats, “Is it safe?” And my worry-wart mind stays busy envisioning the potential scenes of death-by-leopard I might possibly experience.  Is it a primal fear, or a well-trained cultural program of fear of all wild things?  

And how wild am I? I’m prone to worry and overthinking. I’m addicted to distraction and technology. I’m constantly nitpicking myself in a perfectionist spin. I have a lot of questions about wildness – the wildness of this land, and the wildness of myself in this body.

One thing is for certain.  This was only the beginning. Tomorrow we would be sleeping under the African sky.  No tents.  No easy exit.  We would have only what we carried in on our backs.  My body would be tested with exertion and heat. But I’ve been backpacking before. I figured it would be kinda like that. Little did I know that every night in the wild would be accompanied by the rumblings, growls, and roars of giant cats.  How does one get used to sleeping through that? 

The next day, I would find out. Because that’s when I started walking into the wilds with 7 other amazing women and 2 local guides I would come to love.

Did you miss a Part of my Africa story series? Navigate here to the various chapters of the Africa adventures: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7