A childhood dream grips my imagination in a vice-like hold. It’s been like that for decades. The recurring dream. It’s a dream to circumference Africa off-road. A dream first spawned by my father. He opened my love for the bush dawn, the safari road and the campsite fire at dusk. He showed me wild places as a young boy. I remember them well: Kafue in Zambia, Gorongosa in Mozambique, Etosha in Namibia, Moremi in Botswana, Hwange in Zimbabwe. That was it. The whole list. But it was more than enough. Enough for me to repeat the same countries of my childhood with my own children adding new parks as we go: the then Kalahari Gemsbok Park, Chobe and Savuti in Botswana; Mana pools and Matusadona in Zimbabwe; South Luangwa in Zambia. And to explore east African parks: Mara Mara and Lake Nakuru in Kenya; Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Tarangire in Tanzania; Simien and Bale mountain parks in Ethiopia; Liwonde in Malawi to name a few. Throughout the formative years of my children becoming adults, we followed in the footsteps of what my father moulded in me, doing time with my kids on the Southern and East African tracks, camping in public campsites, sharing stories, learning all the time and making memories with them.
That is it. That is the blueprint I carried from my father to my children. I guess I am that agent of memory transfer, memory making. But its never enough. Not enough because all that history did was to embed in me my own desire to grow my lifelong love affair with our continent, to hear her people and experience her great plains, over and over. A love that grew to embrace the mountains, rivers, forests and coastlines too. A love affair of the fauna and flora in her countless biomes. A love for the diverse people of our continent of mystery and poverty, of love and war and loathing. This fascination with the people and wild places of Africa is what drives my imagination and my actions to make my dream to cross the contours of the continent come true.
I am one of the fortunate few. I am a follower of the road less travelled. That’s what I think when I think of my trip through Africa. And indeed of my life too. I have always followed the road less travelled, always swam against the mainstream. That unknown road feels good. It cements some inner alignment to the universe within me. Like I was meant to be there in the less travelled road. In the road of uncertainty, of mystery, of danger and surprise. Of “awe and wondering” as Paul Simon once said in a song. Testing the outer limits of self from the road, and all that arises on the road. Seeking a life fully lived, a life without regret. That is my singular mission.
But there is more. The path of the less travelled road is also a metaphor for a practical drive choice: which road to follow? It’s the choice to take the footpath when the jeep track ends, to take the jeep track when the gravel road ends and always to take the gravel road rather than the asphalt one. Face north when travelling north and south when heading south. Fear not the west or east as a means of finding the track north or south again and again. Fear not the unknown, fear not the other or the thought of losing ones direction. Its all a state of mind I tell myself. Calm the mind. Believe the words you always said to your children: “you can’t get lost in Africa. Africa will love and hold you. Someone will always come along and you will be saved by the warm heart of this continents people”. Believe these words. Even if they are only partly true. No one knows. Believe it for your inner peace, your inner sanity. It calms the mind. Roots the centre. Holds you true to your inner will.
That too is where my journey starts. A journey of the mind, of the imagination, of believing. Sharing my dreams and my belief with Lou. And Lou believing my truth too. And then it evolves into practical steps that we do together. Steps that started more than eighteen months ago with securing the Trooper and fitting it out into our home on wheels. And then doing the admin for the journey: passports, driver licence, carnet, insurance for us and the vehicle, inoculations, letting out our Kalk Bay home, preparing our bush house in Kruger Park for life without us, writing this blog. Its a multi-pillared project of note. But finally we can see the end point. As I write this our Cape Town departure date of end August 2019 is upon us. We are migrating to our bush house for a further two months to complete some maintenance work before we leave. And to allow me time to wrap up my work commitments without disappointing anyone.