if not, why not, if not why not gogo
just four days ago i woke up in my broken (again) tent, enjoying the crispness in the air as the clouds touch down over my campsite in the molotoja nature reserve, swaziland. the damp in the air brought out the scent of the grasses and held down the smoke from the hot-water fire. the buck on the hillside opposite of me sneezing in alarm of my presence, but i pretended it to be allergies.
six days ago i spent three hours bushwhacking and battling my way though a forest in swaziland: easily the toughest day of hiking in my entire life. my battle against the wall of thorns, vines, and dead undergrowth of the forest was after my trail down to a river in the bottom of a valley disappeared and i made the choice to make my own way down and back up in the valley. as i waded up a small river, scrambled up a loose rock slope, and fought my way though the dense forest, i managed to tear clothing and skin, only making it through by a scrap of brute determination and the threat of the daily late-after thunderstorm.
eight days since i was surrounded by the landscapes and animals of the malweni nature reserve, a park with an amazing history of conservation. but for the past fifty years the animals haven’t had predators other than humans and their automobiles, so seeing game is like fishing from a barrel with a hand grenade.
ten nights ago i sat on the sand in front of a massive french bus-tour group, watching swazi dancing and listening to the strong singing from the men and women at the malweni nature reserve. the dancing was dramatic and intense, a display of the swazi’s pride for their heritage, even if it was being regurgitated only for the consumption of these french tourist. listen below, or download (mp3).
twelve days ago we left lake pondo and crossed the border into swaziland, a country filled with absolutely charming people and photos of their king and queen mother. we shopped at a pick-n-pay, a baby brother of walmart, and found some local flavored food (like chakalaka) and saw people walking around dressed traditionally with giant patterned fabric wraps with photos of their king in the middle wrapped around them.
fourteen days since i left rock tail bay, our twenty-four-hour break from the camping life of the road in a nice lodge back on the indian ocean’s coast. we had a sunset drive on the beach that started with thousands of crabs dancing in the wash of the waves as the sky turned to pink and ended in a fruitless search for hatching sea turtles on the beach under the light of an impossible amount of stars.
sixteen days ago i was in a radio studio watching and chatting with youth of the ingwavuma area participating the in the unicef’s international childrens’ day of broadcasting. while being quizzed life in the united states and the celebrities i know, i was able to relax with a group of teenage boys and girls that had found a new sense of confidence and perspective on the world in their hobby of radio broadcasting.
nineteen days ago i was in the familiar waters of cape vital, part of the guided tour through isimangaliso wetland park at st lucia by conservation/environment guru kian barker( aka shaka-barker); my game drive and sea-snorkeling a deja-vu of my previous trip here, sans the clear water and the cohort that i bonded with so much on that trip.
it’s been a month since leaving sungubala and the days of subsequent travel between babanago, richards bay, and st lucia are now fuzzy in my memory (my only strong memory from that time was my giant pancake dinner one night).
73 days since we left capetown,
months have become irrelevant by their uselessness to structure where we have been and what we have done. it’s even hard to group days into weeks as one day i will be camping on the edge of a vegetable garden, behind a tea garden and embroidery project, and the next snorkeling in the indian ocean, and the next staring at rhino walking up to our camp on the edge of a lake.
our typical pattern of staying for five days at any given location gives us time to settle in, get to know the place and the people, but at the end of those five days, i get an itch to move forward and have another change of scenery. looking back, the weeks lay divided between worlds of different locations, not only scattered geographically but emotionally. the months of our trip seem impossibly long, covering giant chunks of people and places, but as we move forward, they fly by surprising us with the idea that the rest of the world is spinning by in another parallel but disconnected life filled with crackberries, politicians, and television.
falling in love with this ‘constant shuffling of my feet’ makes me wonder about the likelihood of being able to stay in one place for any period of time in the near future. i miss southern maryland, baltimore, and the united states terribly (and rejoice in the idea that when i return i will have government provided healthcare), but it seems impossible that i will be happy landing back into one place again. i dream of somehow buying a small ‘bakkie’, pickup truck, and continue my adventure as cost effectively as possible in the rockies, alaska, or the appalachian mountains and new england. i am spurred to keep moving by andy deklerk, a man listed to be a great guide to alpinism, rock climbing, or base jumping, when he recommends in his book, the sharper edges, to take retirement early and not let ‘youth be wasted on the young’.
the title to this post is part of my internal argument: if not, why not, if not why not gogo. these were the names of three bars in swaziland, owned by the same owner, that stirring up a bit of controversy in their pretty conservative country. its not for the bars that i bring this up, but for the questioning of ‘if not, why not’ and the idea that taking a chance for fun is always worth it. traveling is a constant adventure, a chance of running into something that can change the rest of your life, and should always be taken in the spirit of peace and mutual understanding.
i am nowhere near as fearless as i pretend to be and still have only been pushed out of my comfort zone a limited number of times here, but i feel that the only way to move forward in life is to keep it fresh, moving in unexpected ways, an to aim where your heart points you to. dream big, and then do it.
to all of you in the states and elsewhere, i hope you are enjoying the spring weather, soaking up some of the sun that just looks so much bigger here. i think of you all a lot, and i hope all is well.