It always starts this way. The beginning of our day is the call of birdsongs and the din of cicada beckoning in the new dawn. Even before light fills the sky, we hear life calling the day in. And we rise. As one. To sit amongst this life with our coffee. And watch as the show begins. Birds, frogs, centipedes, crickets and lizards appear. Then the butterflies and bees and colonies of ants. It’s a show of the species of the biome. It changes constantly with climate and geological conditions. But it’s always there.
We are downstairs on our chairs. Coffee in hand. Absorbing the dawn species spectacle and chatting about our day. Should we go or should we stay ? Where to next ? What if the roads and what if the people and what if the truckers and what if the time and what if the distance. Usually we have no answers to anything. Route planning is guess work. The internet has not yet penetrated the details of the road terrain or the people and the countless other unknowns of African continental road tripping. It’s guesswork as I say. And trust. We simply trust our instinct and know that above all else we will work this day as one.
Being one is a big thing. It’s constant. Living in a few square meters of space leaves no room for individualism or egos or arrogance. Facing the most treacherous roads and climate conditions and disease threats leaves no space for a holier than thou attitude or trickery or rash bravery or even personal misalignment. It demands a certain sense of the long view, of perspective, of inner comfort and making peace with unknowns, and of deep deep resolve and patience. And it demands a definite sensitivity to the other, a broad and conscious mind frame to problem solve together and find solutions no matter what, a definite sense of care that is more weighty and measures way beyond what one used to know about caring for the other. Now the other is everything else you need to complete the total you. Together we are one; divided we fall. We both know that.
Sounds odd. But it is real. Road tripping across Africa raises the bar on a lot of things. On every aspect of relationship management between each other and between us and everyone else. It raises the bar on countless daily operational challenges. And everything else in between. It raises the bar on what time itself means. Like when it takes a day of driving hard to do just 50kms, when it takes half a day to find and exchange some money, or a week to find clean water, or a month to find a longed-for destination across roads that conspire to break your will. African road tripping raises the bar on just about everything.
Bit by bit it changes you. Wears down your horizon of expectations. Wears them down until you have none. And expect none. Knowing that Africa will deliver whatever it does in its own time at its own rhythm and through its own mysterious and definite song line. All you need to do and know is to listen to that song line, hear it’s call, follow it’s notes. Delete your embedded bank of expectation and indeed your lurking prejudice and reach complete acceptance. And you will be fine.
Road tripping Africa penetrates everything. Even for us folk who have lived as partners for more than four decades. It strips us down and makes us see and appreciate each other anew. Perhaps it is the living and working and driving in a cruiser home-on-wheels constantly that opens up a whole set of new learnings and experiences of our mission together and of one another. We work and eat and sleep and drive and cook and do ablutions together all the time. Everything has its place so either of us can instantly find whatever it is that we need. Each step we take is about caring for the other and not just oneself. If one rises so does the other. If one falls so does the other. Because we know deep inside us that without the other we are incapacitated and incomplete for the challenges of the road ahead.
It’s an education. Not least because it opens up vistas into the self. Self not just as the partner of the other, but more directly as caucasian foreigners who can so easily become the object of some nationals distrust. Self as in finding the resolve to dig deep to dissipate that which divides us from the other, from the restless crowd. Self as in the need to constantly self reflect. Deeply. To think hard about evolving the self and striving to be the agent of compassion, rather than a prisoner of arrogance and self righteousness. Self in being alone. I mean completely alone with the people all about you. Being that foreign and unknown one, incapacitated by a lack of language fluency, reliant on gestures and drawings for help and solidarity. The apex conqueror of old now dethroned and debilitated and alone. Now trusting only ones own humble offering of honesty and submission and servility for survival. Without words. Without logic. Without reason. Naked. Stripped naked before the anger or the goodwill of the other. It’s humbling. And raw. And liberating. All at the same time.
This is not the place for heroes and egos. This is not the place for answers and logic. Or rules and regulation. This is Africa. It changes by the minute, the hour and the day. What was is gone. What is, is what is. And what is now can also be what it is not too. Do not measure Africa with the yardstick of what you once knew. Do not search for a logic of something that appears illogical. It will drive you insane. Just be. Be present and polite and humble and available. For anything. Because anything and everything also goes in Africa, dressed up in a costume of laugher and fun.