And we wander..

“No eches raices en un sitio, muévete
pues no eres un árbol para eso tienes los pies
el hombre más sabio es el que sabe que su hogar
es tan grande cómo pueda imaginar”

I feel sometimes our past comes in ocean waves. You will be looking forward to the shore, to the goal and then gently, without you noticing something pulls you back to your depths. The waves turn the world upside down before spitting you back to the shore. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of saltwater (even narrative one) to put things into perspective and listen to what the Universe is telling you. The past can drag you back, make you go in circles and then throw you back on the beach for a different life, a different goal. Like the waves, we are ever changing.

“Don’t set your roots in one place, move
you’re not a tree, this is why you have feet”

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La Tortuga, Venezuela

It all began as a quest to search for a place where I could feel that I belonged. My hopeless wandering lead me to more airports, airplanes and lives out of a bag than I could have imagined. The instability of the search became my stability. I didn’t know how to stay in a place for more than a year. Too much to see, to much to do to settle.

“The wisest man is he who knows his home
is as big as he can imagine it to be”

It only took a while to realize that my peace came from a feeling of a certain place. The remoteness of it gives my peace, quiets my soul, makes me repeat this mantra “I’m in love with my life”. For the last 2 years this mantra hasn’t come to me as easily as it used to, it had abandoned me and I, it. It caught me by surprise recently, the thought popping before I had realized. When I went to basics, the feeling came back.

DSC_0919 It’s ok to deviate but when the Universe insts “listen Linda, listen”.

The universe has spoken. A 3x3m for earthly possession is the only thing I need for now. I took a detour. Explored life on the other side and met people to last my through. It was lovely but my feet and Fizz still need to wander. Wander I shall, with the magic of new beginnings and the ocean waves at my back.

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The Kalahari canary

“The Kalahari will reveal itself to only those who seek with a true heart”. As soon as I read this on the cover of our newly bought map, I knew we were doomed. Something inside of me told me this was not going to be the experience I had hoped for; turns out it really wasn’t. This National Park is renowned for predator sightings and full of predator action if you believe social media. I had pretty much… none of it, making it one of the most frustrating wildlife experience I’ve had in a while. I had such high expectations that I probably set myself for failure from the very beginning. It’s funny how sometimes the Universe slaps you in the face with a warning that what you’re doing, and whom you’re with is not your path.

When I returned for the second time I warned everyone:

“We’re going to the desert, during summer”
“The HOTTEST summer recorded in the last 100 years”
“We will see nothing, I´m warning you”

Luckily my travel group was a lot more optimistic than I was, and armed with cameras and gin & tonics, we set off into the hot, hot, very hot Kalahari desert.

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After a few days of this, they stopped believing anything I had to say

The first afternoon back I started spotting what would be my trend for the following two weeks: owls. Little known fact that this park holds a large population of different species of owls. I was thrilled – I love owls!.

We arrived to Mata Mara rest camp and a very nice, but slightly condescending man started talking to us about our time in the park.

“We looking for a pair of scops-owls that are always around here. We see them every year”
“Oh really?
Oh look!!
There they are”.

I have never spotted anything quicker in my entire life.

“Where?”
“Right there”
“Oh no my angel, that’s a canary not an owl”

….. WHAT?!
Like… WHAT?!

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My exact face. 

If there is something that sets my blood on fire is being called names in a patronizing way and being dismissed because I’m girl. But honestly.. A CANARY?! Scops-owls are white and big canaries are small and yellow

I know my birding is not the best but A CANARY?! I have never felt more insulted by a stranger.

This is a yellow canary. Taken by http://www.kalahari-trails.co.za

“No, I will show you”

I jumped out of the car (apparently in full “I will show a canary mood”) and pointed to where the owls were.

“THAT is an owl”

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Not the original one, but you get the idea

My friends were in the car crying their eyes out, they love when people underestimate me and find it hilarious when other get shown by a small Venezuelan girl in Africa that loves owls. The man, embarrassed said thank you, took a photo and then quickly left.

To this day, every owl I spot is a canary. To this day my friends cry with laughter at this event.

During this trip I learned that my self perception is very different to the way people see me as. I’d like to call this the jack russel (terrier) syndrome. It all started with a photo of me driving that only magnified with the canary incident.

ALE_8993 “I look like a stick”

“You always do”

“I look small, like my car is too big for me”

“It is”

“But I feel so big”

“But you’re not, you’re a little chicken wing”

“Oh look, a canary my angel”

(Insert not impressed face here)

I have always believed myself to be a very tall and big person only to realize that perhaps I was actually, surrounded by small(er) people and that to the rest of the world I’m no bigger and louder than a jack russel. I feel big and tough but apparently the world doesn’t see me that way, they don’t judge me that way. This came as a shock to me as I have never considered myself “petite” – I understand all too well now what small dogs go through, especially Plaga, she always regarded herself as a great dane, perhaps that’s why her and I were always meant to be.

For the rest of the trip, I carried on spotting owls. Big, small, hunting, sleeping. This trip turned out to be one of the best roadtrips of my life, who knew it would all start thanks to an owl.

The best secrets

“Buffalo, I just want to see a buffalo”. Out of the big 5 this was the only one Anjou hadn’t seen. He came on a drive with me because he couldn’t face going on back home and not having seen the big mean black cow.

“Are you sure?”
“Yes, please no cats. I’m tired of them”
“Ok then, buffalo it is”

The reality of every lodge worker is that, unless you’re a guide or a tracker, your exposure to wildlife is quite limited. Because of this (and because of mental sanity) it’s normally common practice for guides to take people on a drive whenever we have an afternoon off. Everyone needs a little reminder of what the place we live in is so special and unique and the best way to remember that is to live it.

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Rolling together

The irony of it all is, every place where I have chosen to work, seems like cats are easier to find than the mighty Cape Buffalo – no big herds wherever I work, just the smaller group of the so called Dagga (muddy) boys.

The first thing we saw…. was not a buffalo. It was a dung beetle. A tiny little black insect rolling a big ball of crap. I got so excited and hyper about it and went on and on… and on, that eventually he had no other option but consider them nice enough to view (they’re cool, can we go now?). With little expectations of finding a buffalo, but a lot of hope we carried on looking for them. A waterhole was a good option, it was hot – a good chance for them to be in the water; of course they were not. But while we looked we found many more things, elephants all around us, hippos singing in the water, nyala posing in the golden light. Our hearts were happy and right that second, when everyone had been quiet for a little while, and while I was enjoying a moment of gratitude for all the beauty around us.. they there were! Three big bulls enjoying the mud. Anjou almost fell out. He was so happy, so ecstatic.

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A  rare (for me) sight of an entire buffalo herd 

“Now I can go home, I have seen them all”.

I didn’t think we would see them. I said to him there was little hope. I think I played little in the part of finding him, but I think this was a gift for him from the Universe. To me the gift was that one split second, that moment when you see something through someone else’s eyes for the first time. It’s a unique moment, an addiction that I wish I could explain. Like everything in Africa it’s only a feeling and it lasts only a moment, but it’s powerful.

We clearly didn’t go home because there was still light and still a while to go. So we carried on. It was a quiet day, not too many animals out and about so we decided to stop and enjoy the sunset. While we did, the Universe had a surprise for me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it. My brain didn’t register and I turned around. I saw him again. Refused to believe it. Got the binoculars out.

“OH MY GOD.
Guys look, now
NOW
THERE!
I need to a take photo otherwise they won’t believe me!”

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“What is it Ale?”

“It’s a rhino, a black rhino”.

Hand are shaking, eyes got teary. A black rhino. A wild black rhino for the first time in two years. I’m still thanking all the Gods, the old and the new, for this. He was the first one spotted on the reserve in the last 25 years.

“Now you have seen them all, now you can go home”

Sometimes, the best moments in life are those fleeting secrets, the unexpected ones. The ones that your friends appreciate because of your emotions. The ones that remind you what it’s all about.

Mmm.. Thursday?

Depending on our daily routine and of jobs, different weekdays can have an attached meaning and feeling to it. Mondays will always starts slow, Wednesdays are almost there, Fridays – you can feel the happiness in the air, Sundays you rest.

But…

What happens when you work Monday to Monday?

Life changes,
You’re exhausted,
You’ve never been so free.

I work Monday to Monday. Depending on the season I can start waking up as early as 430am or as late as 530 (yay winter!) and going to bed either at 830pm (this is a true life goal for many guides) or after 10pm – typical boma night.

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Somedays I wish I slept like a leopard.

Since we’re little, we learn to go by the calendar and respect the gods of the Days, but in my daily routine, weekdays have no meaning. It’s a strange feeling. I know it’s Monday because there’s a town trip, I know it’s Friday because we might have a party, I know it’s Sunday because the world has gone quiet, I normally miss Tuesdays.

In a normal life you eagerly await for the weekend to feel free, and feel defeated on Sunday evening because “well, gotta go back to work tomorrow”. Here… well things are a little different. The lifestyle is more a “carpe diem” style. Any day of the week is a good day to go out, to celebrate, to have a special occasion until very late (which is 11pm thanks to our curfew). Excuses like “I have to work tomorrow” are never uttered and never respected. The only thing that commands complete absolution is “I ran out of money”, or “I’ve had a long cycle”. Because all great gifts come with a price, we get tired, we work hard and we look forward to those precious days of leave. The first few days of leave are indeed spent recovering, sleeping, regaining the lost optimism (which probably left us by week 5 of a work cycle).

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Because every morning my mane looks something like this.

It’s a tough life, it’s a fun life. To me, it’s been a life lived more because it’s taught me not wait for the weekend to go out, not to wait for 5pm to laugh, to have fun, it’s taught me to enjoy the chaos of times, but it’s taught me to appreciate the silent times. It’s a challenging way of enjoying the present and feeling utterly free. It has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever received and one to work really hard for.

If I can wish something for everyone today, is that you find a life that sets you free and makes you happy for the most part, even when you’re at your worse. Then you know you’re truly alive, and that’s all that really matters.

 

 

New girls on the block

Every property has a superstition attached to it, “scientifically” based on the animal movements. If you want to find rhino you go this way, if you want to find elephants you go to the river, if you want to find lions you go North and if you want to find leopards you go East.

On a morning of explorations, I was on my favourite road during a winter morning. We had been driving for a while, without seeing much almost making me regret my route choice. Sometimes you follow your gut feeling, and sometimes that gut feeling, you learn, can disappoint.

As we came into a junction I slammed on the brakes. Unknown to me as to how, my tracker and 3 guests missed the spots that walked right in front of us. At first a blur, commotion and screaming; we then realized that the blur was actually a mother and two cubs!. Hands shake, I’m too afraid to call it out loud, they’re going offroad, low range goes in, let’s do this. Hands stil shake. Cameras are going click click click click click click click. Heart has stopped. I can’t think.

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A few seconds after we spotted the,

We had never met before, but when she saw me she only glanced at us and then carried on. My heart was about to explode. She was taking her two cubs to a kill. I was alone in the West and there was a jungle ahead of us – the Universe granted us this much of privacy as everyone else was too far to join. I snapped a few photos to try and figure out who this mystery girl was and then they disappeared into the wild.

A few weeks went by I still hadn’t managed to find them again. I drove the same road, the same area, always with the hope of finding a sign of them. Their backyard was too big, I didn’t have such luck until one day Enock made my luck change. He found them and called me back, I saw them again playing in the tall grass and was completely taken by these larger balls of fluff.

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As it happens, one of them was more outgoing, one of them was shier. They were both entertaining. We were to become great friends after that. I would go West on my own looking for them and on more occasions than not, they allowed me to find them and spend time with them on their daily goings. A privilege that demanded a loud Thank You to the stars. They became my favourites, part of many storied and encounters and always there on the most unexpected days.

Outcrop and her cubs became of the best gifts I ever received.