As I grow older my lust for travel has changed. I want more comfort. I want to stay and savor where I am. I want to feel that little surge of adrenaline as something new surprises and amazes me.
People often ask me whats are my favorite places and I have to admit, that depending on my mood, I give different answers. Today I’m in the mood for a little adventure, the place I want to go back to is Africa. I love Africa. I love the people who are kind and sincere. I love the raw beauty of a land that is less tamed by the hand of man. Most of all I love that every day Africa surprises me and I get that little shot of adrenaline.
Today I want to tell you a story and I want to share a truly magical place. The place is Lokuthula Lodge. The lodge is in Zimbabwe situated only a few miles from Victoria Falls. At the time Charlene and I went to Zimbabwe it was our first trip to Africa. We had just sent the last of our five kids off into the world and we were free. We still had jobs, but our jobs were winding down and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Kids gone, jobs under control, houses and cars paid for, sounds good, but it is also very confusing.
With our lives changing and our responsibilities less burdensome we decided to take a month long trip to Africa. We were traveling with our friends George and Penny who had proven to be amazing traveling companions. It was one of those fun groups where everyone was game for every adventure. We had spent days in our rental car exploring the country side around Durban South Africa and had already racked up quite a few great stories when our little commuter plane set down in Victoria Falls.
We were set to be at the Lodge for two weeks and I was ready to explore the wilder side of Africa. On the first day I broke away from our little group and had a fortuitous encounter. I met John. As I was aimlessly wondering thru the Lodges main building I came to the concierge desk and looking out the window I saw large pond that was about a mile below the resort. I asked the very friendly young lady where a path was so I could walk down to the pond and she explained that I could not go down into the bush without an armed guide.
As we were talking a man dressed in dusty gray pants and gray short sleeve shirt walked into the the room. The man was John. The young lady I had been talking to asked John if he could come over and visit with me and he joined us and we introduced ourselves. The concierge explained that John was the Lodges hunter and for $25 dollars a day he could guide me into the bush.
John and I went into the bar and had a great talk. While I drank the local beer John sipped tea and we talked about guiding Charlene and I into the bush so I could do some photography. With a handshake and a smile John agreed to meet me in the morning at 6:00 am.
Charlene had plans for the next day, so at 6:00 sharp it was just John and I moving down the dirt trail that lead away from the Lodge and into the African bush. As we walked John asked what I wanted to see and do and to his surprise I told him I had grown up in the outdoors and I wanted him to teach me what ever he wanted. “Do you want to see elephants?” he asked a little confused by my attitude. “Sure,” I explained, “but I’d also like to learn about the bush.”
John took to my request with a relish that is only exhibited by a man who is in love with what he is teaching. He explained that he had been raised by a local tribe that he had lived in the bush as a child.
He also told me that before his job with the Lodge he had been a government game ranger. A job I later found out is an extremely dangerous job because the rangers and the poachers that infest this part of Africa are always at odds.
By the end of the day John was cutting vines to show me how to retrieve fresh water, had me learning the spore of a dozen of the forest creatures and was giving me the names and habits of the multitude of animals, birds, snakes and insects that lived in the bush area we were exploring.
I know that day John was just showing me his back yard, but to me his little piece of Africa was a wild and amazing place.
For the next two weeks John and I went out for between 4 and 8 hours almost every day and explored. Ranging further and further from the lodge. Some days Charlene joined us and to my surprise she was as interested in Johns wood craft lessons as I was. Each evening around dark we would end up a the “hide” a covered borrow next to the watering hole. At the “hide” I had the opportunity to get photos of hundreds of species of animals and birds as they came into the watering hole for a drink.
Based on our mutual love of the outdoors John and I became friends. He was the teacher and I was the student and over our two week stay at the lodge we spent dozens of hours in the bush enjoying the raw nature that is Africa. I will never forget those days that John and I explored the African bush.
For Charlene and I our month in Africa and stay at the Lokuthula Lodge was a game changer. We came away from the experience with an agreement to make travel our new pursuit. Two months later I was winding down my business and we were moving to the Caribbean to live. Travel is not just about going places it is more about the people you meet and the personal growth you experience when you get out of the box which is your normal everyday life.