When they say age is just a number, they are right. W;hat we attached to that big number and big milestone is entirely up to us. When I was younger I thought that when I reached this age I would have a settled married life, I would be travelling the world on occasion and probably be getting ready to have kids. Whenever people spoke of their 30th birthday, all ever came to mind was my aunt’s 30th. She had a party at the loyal Astral, invited a bunch of people I don’t recall seeing again, and all I can seem to remember from her event is her running upstairs when little Tati would start crying. There’s never been emotion attached to this memory, just a raw feeling of what life really is like.
As I approached this milestone, instead of feeling sorry for myself for not having what I always though I would by this age, I felt relieved. The fact that my life hadn’t turned out according to plan was the biggest gift, as I was given the opportunity to explore, travel, keep growing and always rebel against societies’ routine parameters.
My 30th birthday started in a clouded morning in Maun, and in style with the random reality of the life I lead, it started with a bit of magic and superstition attached to it. A black cat was the first being to greet me into the outside world. I have always believe they bring good luck, although Maximo swears the contrary. This cat wasn’t particularly friendly, we stared at each other, and in those early moments after waking up where everything is a blur, I believe the cat blessed our tyres for the journey ahead by inspecting all of them. Later, coffee cup in hand, we set out to Moremi’s South Gate. As we left civilization behind, more puddles appeared, fewer cows were seen and more trees started taking over the scenery. Before reaching the gate we had already been able to spot a cheetah with a kill and a herd of elephants. They day looked promising as the sunshine fought the ominous clouds in the horizon.
“Where are you going?”
The world goes silent as the gate lady stares us down.
“Will we get there?”
“Bodamatau is flowing, you have to go around the Xanaka side otherwise you won’t make it”
Optimistically we though “what’s an extra 20km to get there if we can actually make it?”. Our hearts sank 5km into the reserve where we were met by a giant crater filled with water that promised to make the good old Fizz a submarine. Although we got through that, and every other massive pothole afterwards, we braced for impact the entire way. It was a mix of “remember to breathe, I hate Mopanes, it’s beautiful here, Ricky would’ve loved this” as we travelled thru the heart of Moremi.
Reaching 4th bridge was a breath of fresh air as we had finally reached a more open portion of the Delta – not far from where were our tent would live for the next 3 nights. As wonderful as the 4th bridge was, as horrible it was to try and cross the 3rd bridge (“bridge” being an optimistic word for this infrastructure), however we managed to survive every attempt. Little after arriving and wit camp logistics have even put into place and finished, we set out to explore our surroundings in one of the most northern points of the great Okavango Delta. Not feeling too confident about the lack of visitors, and about serious amount of water overflowing from all channels, lagoons and life in general, we decided to keep our explorations on the safe side of the dry roads.
When I was little, the one thing that I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams was that I would ever take up an interest in birds. I still struggle with them and I truly believe my eyes cannot grasp shape and color as some other people do… but! Things change, and no more clearly than what happened as we found the most beautiful lagoon in the Delta.
“Stop!” – arm slams across Tristan’s chest.
“Stop stop stop. Oh my God”
“Can you see it there? Is that really a skimmer?”
We approach the shore slowly.
Car tilts from side to side as we scramble to get a camera and snap a shot the one bird I’ve been looking for the last 5 years. In the most unexpected place, at the most unexpected time, the most unexpected person finally got to tick it off her list.
Ironically, part of the reason why I had wanted to visit this area was that I wanted to fly with the carmine bee-eaters once again. These creatures are stunning bright pink birds that have realized that a big car cruising through the long grass is just as good as any elephant. Big things tend to make small insects fly, making the colorful predators fly at arms length from our windows. This was something I experienced years before and to this day it has been one of the most precious aerial dances I have ever been a part of. It is a small act that fills my heart by being one where wildlife and humans can coexist without fear.
As the afternoon draw to its end, we had a celebratory sundowner to cherish the fact that despite all we had survived.
“I hope we had seen a lion for your birthday, I know how much you like them”
“Give them time, they’ve only just been told I’m here”
As we finished our drive for the afternoon, the approaching storm reminded us that things were only going to become more interesting during the evening. We changed plans and because we forgot to bring a pan, we cooked sausages in our kettle, made two-minute noodles and had a fine dining experience under the stars before diving into our tent.
In the distance we heard lions roaring later that night
Tristan smiled “they always come to you, don’t they?”
With that, I fell asleep. Life may not have turned up the way I though it would but I’m grateful for the journey that it’s been so far.