Two sparks lit me up on a normal Tuesday morning on the train while on my daily journey to work. First is the January edition of National Geographic titled “Why we need wild” and, second, my South African Indian wife’s comment “you have found your wild”.
I had spent one year in South Africa, most of which in Johannesburg with a short stay in Durban, however the contact with the wild was secured by numerous short distance destinations from the city, but deep enough into the wild (Pilanesberg, Magaliesberg, Cradle of Humankind and even the Drakensberg).
Contact with the wild is secured by numerous short distance destinations from the city
I also made few trips into the more wild nature, crossing the Kruger National Park (north to south), trekking in the Drakensberg after a relaxing break at iSimangaliso Wetland Park and St. Lucia reserve. I’ve enjoyed a trilling three-day drive from George to Cape Town trough the wine route, tasting absolutely delightful wines (Montagu, Calitzdorp, Stellenbosch & Robertson) only stopping for letting tortoises cross the road and of course spectacular whale watching.
South Africa welcomes you as a mother, same as its people and its animals
Entering the Kruger National Park, after over a 6 hour drive, a large elephant welcomed me and my trip in the wild. As huge as this intimidating wonder of the Park was, I felt a quite, calm and transmitting a relaxing sensation which turned my journey tiredness into an uncontrollable excitement… what a totally unexpected encounter! Mother Nature embraces you in her warm and forceful arms with her animals, plants and lots of sunlight. The trip continued at a much lower pace as maximum allowed speed in the park is 40 km/h to 50 km/h; within 30 minutes I had reached my first rest camp Punda Maria.
In order to make the most out of the day, spotting animals and enjoying the drive, I woke up way before sunrise. A quick shower followed by an even quicker breakfast then I left the camp, hit the road hoping that the day will reserve me some more surprises. Within few hours I met a good amount of gazelles, zebras, various wildebeests and antelopes, but the ultimate dream, the sole wish was, of course, to meet a big cat…the King of the Jungle.
I was certainly not the only curious animal in the park
Suddenly, from behind some trees, a very tall figure captured my attention. Families of giraffes made me stop for a while. These are the world’s tallest mammals. They have beautiful spotted coats and no two individuals have exactly the same pattern. The towering baby giraffe was looking right at me, straight into my eyes, into my soul, with such a curiosity typical of my character when exploring new territories. My journey that day ended at the Olifants rest camp.
I was less than 72 hours immersed in the wild and not even realizing that the silent powerful force of nature was working on me…calming me down, de-stressing my mind. I could feel new and positive energy flowing through my veins, like oxygen exchanged in our lungs during respiration, I felt part of another world, another planet and my soul was vibrating with happiness.
The excitement of still driving through one of the largest nature reserves in Africa (and the world) was hanging in the air, certainly supported by the view of various Game. An astonishing figure, a slow walking rock-like, unexpectedly appeared on my side in the middle-far distance: a rhino walking through the fields! Rhinos rank amongst the most endangered species on Earth; there are only five remaining species and are primarily threatened by poaching.
I stopped the car observing his moves and, in relatively short time, found ourselves staring in each other’s eyes, in a silent dialogue. My fulfilled day finished with the arrival at Satara rest camp where I stayed for the night. I could not believe what I had just seen and experienced that day and at the same time excitement and inner deep peace.
My last day at Kruger Park started with a mix of joy and bitterness. Although my journey across South Africa was continuing, I was conscious of my departure from the park and felt like I was saying goodbye to good old friends.
That day I planned to explore the area surrounding “Satara”. Most of the magazines and travel guides describe Satara as “the best for viewing Lion, Leopard and Cheetah” as well as “at Satara there are good bird watching opportunities” (Lonely Planet, South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland, 2013). I am not interested in birds, at least not in this particular moment of my journey: as you can imagine why I was there.
A too early bitter taste as impatience rises up
The more loop drives I completed, the more some sort of sadness sentiment was rising up in me. I was, once again, very impatient and even started not to enjoy the gifted moment of being in contact with nature. It was in that moment that my (pre)occupied mind and the feelings of sadness and bitterness were simply blown away by a unique experience. In the low green grass a lion, a lion turning and rolling like in ecstasy of joy.
As he, the wildest powerful royal animal amongst all, was happily “laughing on his home living room”, I was discovering that the wild is part of the human “territory”, just as I was enjoying my new-found territory in South Africa.
Lions live in prides and are the most social feline species in the world. I have been reading several researches, books and magazines which in different details, all reported that contact with nature helps to de-stress and relax, stimulate creativity and can even further improve brain efficiency and memory.
Contact with nature helps to unwind and relax, stimulates creativity
While crossing Malelane Gate, waving goodbye at the smiling park border ranger, I was already, once again, lost in my thoughts, in my new and next destination, next poem and yes, I was impatient yet again, however this time wanting to hold my brushes, colors and a bunch of empty canvases where I could express the wild that I had found.
Crossing the Kruger National Park and being immersed in the wild nature, I had found my wild and I wish that someday you will find yours too, if you haven’t already.
Photos: Daniele Cermelli CC BY-SA