One of the things I struggle with most is that there is too much noise in this world. Sometimes it’s actual noise like the sound of the excavator currently digging in our backyard. Most often, it’s mental noise. It’s the pull of a thousand pieces of information coming at me. It’s the ping of notifications on the phone or the unwritten to-do list that nags, “You are so far behind.” I’ve been practicing being present this past year in the hopes that it will help me to be able to focus on just one thing at a time and be okay with it. It’s a work in progress.
Some magical places in this world seem to make being present come more easily.
My husband and I just returned from a week in the South African bushveld. It was a place where being present, with the relaxation and focus that naturally follow, came without struggle. There were a lot of hours spent driving in an open 4×4 vehicle scanning the landscape for animals. The mental ease of being in a place like this almost reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m walking on the beach or in the woods – where thoughts are free to move unencumbered and attention is focused on the surrounding sights, sounds and smells.
Our bushveld experience wasn’t all relaxing – but even in the stressful moments, I felt completely present and alive.
Probably the most unnerving moment was getting stuck in the mud, unable to go forward or backward while surrounded by a herd of about 50 elephants. Hearing our ranger saying in hushed tones, “Be quiet, don’t move” got my attention and had my heart pounding. The big bull elephant was in must (a time when they are often quite aggressive and unpredictable). As the elephant approached, we held our breath, waiting to see if he would turn on us or pass by. Firmly stuck in the mud, we had nothing to do but wait and see. He moved on without incident.
One of the traditions I love about being in the bush is getting out in the middle of the game drive to have drinks, snacks and watch the sun go down – Sundowners. The ranger set up the picnic table and served us our gin and tonic. All of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, an elephant appeared moving very purposely and somewhat aggressively towards us. I’ve never seen someone pack up a picnic table so fast! We jumped into the vehicle, and to our relief, moments later, the elephant bypassed us. Needless to say, that night we decided to have our drinks in the vehicle!
Some other exciting moments included:
- Following three lionesses through the bush as they looked for breakfast. The lions ended up on the local airstrip which often has lots of animals as it is an open space where they can easily spot the predators approaching. Just a couple of hours later, we ended up at precisely the same spot for our morning coffee! The lions appeared to have moved on, but who knows exactly what was hidden close by?
- Getting a flat tire not far from where we’d just seen some lions.
- Following 2 cheetahs through the bushveld as they marked their territory.
- Watching a pack of wild dogs eating while the young ones played. This reminded me very much of the way my brother’s two golden retriever puppies play with each other. Hearing them snap the bones of their freshly caught dinner was a quick reminder that these were no golden retrievers.
- Tracking the elusive black rhino. We followed the tracks for quite a while through the bush but couldn’t find the rhino. Eventually, we gave up our search after dark. Returning the next morning before dawn, we finally saw two beautiful black rhinos. Success!
- Watching elephants swimming on a scorching day. They actually submerged themselves entirely in the water – playing, splashing and seemingly having a lot of fun.
- So many beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
- The elephants joining us for dinner – check out the video below.
I hope you enjoyed a few choice memories from this trip!