We slept another peaceful night in the beautiful wild. Morning came early again so that we could join a game drive on the reserve we were staying at. Our Kruger National Park tour was awesome, but the game drive gave us a more intimate look into animal life. Because we were on a drive within reserve land and not inside the national park, we weren’t constrained by roads or marked paths. Our guide pointed ahead, and our “searcher” (positioned on the mast of the vehicle) hacked at brush and bushes with a machete to clear a path for off-roading. Travel efficiently.
The reserve is home to five lions and a handful of rhinos. The reserve does a lot of anti-poaching advocacy, and some rhinos are even de-horned to discourage poaching.
We spent hours yesterday searching for lions inside the vast expanse of Kruger, but were able to find a lazy lion couple on the reserve in no time at all. They lay underneath the shade as the early morning sun slowly grew brighter. Fun fact, lions do NOT like the heat.
As we sat inside the open safari vehicle watching the lions with no real barrier, a fellow guest asked our guide why the lions didn’t attack us.
“Everything that sees a lion runs away. Except us”
Our lack of fear is confusing to them. Additionally, 8 people sitting inside a car look like an 8-headed monster that smells like gasoline to lions. Our guide was very clear though…if somebody were to jump out of the car and approach the animal alone, it WOULD kill them.
“They are very efficient killers”
After sipping some thermoses of coffee by the back of the truck and watching a beautiful white rhino run by, it was time to head back. It’s amazing how toasty it gets by just 9 o’clock in the morning. We had a couple hours to lounge around and relax before heading to the airport to fly to Jo’Burg for just one more night.
The tiny-ness of the airport was just as surprising the second time around. Flyers don’t go through security until just before boarding, so we waited in the outdoor picnic area eating grilled cheese sandwiches while half a dozen monkeys leapt from the rooftop to steal soda cans and burritos. Nothing surprises me anymore.
Back in Jo’Burg in no time at all. This time it was familiar and easy. We stayed in the trendy area of Melville at a guesthouse perched on a hill with a view of city lights. We ventured off to Lucky Bean restaurant on 7th Street, an area packed with young people and dotted with bars. It didn’t take long for us to grow exhausted, since we had grown so used to early nights and early mornings. We ventured home as the air got cooler and the streets took on their familiar quiet vibe.
Twinkling lights glittered across the horizon from our tree top view of the city, like a being in a cloud with a vista of life ahead. It felt a little like coming back home, since this is where we started our trip. Home is such a funny, fluid thing. We take pride in possessing and building a home, like it’s a prize to present to others. It ties your identity to that physical space and traps it there. When home is fluid, you free yourself. You’re free.
The next day, we dove into some unbelievable scrambled eggs with hot chilies at Eggs Go-Bar and then spent a few hours meandering around the Neighbourgoods Market, relishing in the dozens of food stands and open-air bar deck. By the time we’d inhaled 17 food samples and made a quick stop at Origins Centre for some humankind history, it was time to leave the hectic streets of the city for the travel limbo of the airport. Just one more trip around the globe.
Traveling for the sake of wandering is one thing, but it’s a complete experience when you understand a place you’ve visited like a local, the good and bad. That can be really hard. You have to break down your instinctive barriers and assume the positive before the negative. Sometimes you royally fail at it. But that’s the subtle responsibility you have wherever you go. You become the keeper of that awareness and knowledge. You are responsible for having an impact on people at home. It’s easy to let a comment slide like, “I heard it’s dangerous”, and harder when it’s, “did you only stay in the white neighborhoods?”. There is so much left to change.
You are the defender of your fleeting home. Be present with that responsibility. Have hard conversations, and share the beauty you were lucky enough to be a part of.