There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

Definition of Walkabout :

a short period of wandering as an occasional interruption of regular work
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

11 February 2016

Polaroids

We've all heard the stories about how some cultures believe that a photo steals a person's soul.

Whilst traveling in and around the various slums outside Nairobi, Kenya, I found quite the opposite to be true. Taking Polaroid pictures that I could watch develop in front of the eyes of the subject and then leave the picture with them opened up a deep and profound connection.
It may not have been much, but I like to think that these Polaroids are being held tightly in little one's backpacks, under their pillow, or on their bedroom wall.

I hope that they continue to inspire hope for a brighter future, a will to continue their education and dream big for the life they want to have.
For the children of Kenya, I hope our memory board we made for you will remind you that you can achieve anything.
Never give up hope. You will always have people that believe in you.

16 November 2015

Taonga

Zac and I walked about a 1/4 of a mile down to the Zambezi river. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the area was quiet. A monkey was curiously watching us, the water peacefully lapping the shore, and soft music could be heard in the distance. I saw a sign offering a dinner and evening cruise by Taonga safari's. 
It was our last night here in Zambia before heading back to Kenya to complete our humanitarian project. At the time, I had no plans to quit BCK, in fact my life was still full of dreams to continue this work.

All I wanted to do was to instill happy memories in all of us about the continent that I love. I thought that I would treat everyone to a nice little river cruise. We board and find that it will only be us, the boat captain and cook. We are thrilled to have the boat to ourselves, and pour our drinks as the meat starts to cook on the barbie.

The motor starts and seconds later we are going down the mighty Zambezi.
Brightly colored birds zip along the shoreline, as creatures new and old are spotted. Hippo pools and the ancient crocodile once again fill us with everlasting memories.
As the sun begins to set, the mighty procession of elephants fill the river banks. They forage the trees and brush, snapping mighty wood like tinder. They trumpet and stomp in graceful fashion as we gaze upon them in silent wonder.
The pictures we have of each other on this final night speak to how close we became, a true family. Although we may not speak often these days, I've no doubt that our bonds of friendship and love are forever cemented from our time here.
Bonds that can only be formed in the Heart of Africa.

18 September 2015

Walking with Lions

Our small group starts walking quietly down the dirt path with our Zambian guides, in nervous apprehension. The King of the jungle, several kings to be exact, are lying in wait for our arrival.

Curious heads rise as we approach, and I look into the eyes of the great lions, and the stark realization of my place in the animal kingdom is known.
We are taught the proper way to approach them so we don't startle or spook the lions. Our hands slowly touch their soft fur, feel their strong muscles, their lungs breathing, the purring of contentment as we scratch their underbellies.
It then becomes time to go for a walk. These lions need no leash, and most likely wouldn't tolerate one anyway. We are in their land, guests in their environment, and we walk beside and behind them as we venture into the Zambian bush.
 
Probably my highlight of this experience was holding the lions tail as we walked, and brushing it up against my cheek.

Even as I am typing I still can barely fathom what I did....
as I went walking with the lions of Africa.



01 September 2015

Karen Blixen

In 1913, Karen Blixen left her hometown in Denmark to live in what was then called "British East Africa".

Except for leaving for a brief time to recuperate from syphilis that she caught from her cheating husband of convenience, Karen worked the land trying to grow a coffee plantation.

She did so with the help and respect of the Kikuyu tribe in what is now known as modern day Kenya.

In the Ngong hills outside the bustling city of Nairobi, one can still visit the grounds of Karen Blixen, her home, plantation, and farm equipment.

Walk around the peaceful gardens and try to imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago.

I finally watched the movie "Out of Africa", that is based upon Karen's novel of the same name. To see Kenya portrayed so wonderfully in that movie made this heart ache.

It is hard to put into words, perhaps it is something only those that have been there may understand.

Karen was there for almost twenty years. She never returned.

I was there for six years, and who knows what the future may bring.


11 May 2015

Walking in the bush with Lillian

Lillian is a young female, rescued in the African bush from poachers by those that work to protect the precious animals of Africa.

Her eyes gleam with wild animal fervor as we approach.
We are told how to approach, stroking the tail, under the chin, scratching the belly like a beloved household dog. The tenuous muscles underneath the fur twitch at our touch. The breathing strong and steady.
Wild in the truest sense of the word, yet she is also loving and playful. Lillian licks my bald head and my hand with her coarse tongue. I shudder with delight.

We go walking through the bush. The cheetah's stop and prick up their ears as they hear something beyond the grove of nearby trees. Their instincts are pure, and we have to hold onto them tightly so they don't give in to the urge to run off and explore, hunt....kill.
Their is nothing quite like the feeling of holding onto a creature in which you know you have no control over, letting go your fear and trusting in the pure animal instinct.

10 May 2015

the speed of a cheetah

Since we didn't see any big cats while on our Botswana safari ( our guide told us that they live in another part of the park), the group decided to check out a local place in Zambia called Mukuni Big Five. The brochure claimed it to be a free range sanctuary for young cheetahs and lions.

Set on top of a hill over looking Livingstone town, I wondered what the day would entail.
After a brief introduction over morning tea we are told about the animals placed here. Injured or abandoned in the wild from poachers, Mukuni Big Five raises them in a safe environment, with the goal of rehabilitating them back into the wild.

Our first experience is to witness the speed of the cheetah, the world's fastest land mammal. We are taken out to what appears to be a wooden hitching post for horses, only squared. As we enter, one of the guys brings out a young cheetah.
A toy that appears to look like a small animal is put onto a string. We are asked if we are ready, then seconds later, the toy is released, and the young cheetah races past us chasing it.

The first time all I see is dust, the animal is so fast. Luckily, the animals love racing, so we get to see them run around us multiple times.
It was an amazing start, but what comes next blew my mind. For now though, witness the speed and grace of the cheetahs at Mukuni.


09 May 2015

Let's plaster, Kenyan style!

The loads of sand are shoveled off the lorry into the street outside of the Vessel of Hope school in Kenya that we are working on improving.

We then bring the sand inside, bucket by bucket, where we can then mix it with water from the river and start the process of plastering classrooms so that they can be painted and become a more suitable environment for the students to learn.
Learning how to plaster "Kenyan style" is it's own unique art form. You mix then flick the wet sand up onto the walls and ceiling. You smooth and pound the mixture into the dirt to make a floor.

You endlessly pound the stone walls to break apart what has deteriorated so that a newer, better foundation can be put into place.
As one volunteer put it... "It's incredible, amazing! How the Kenyans take what little resources they have and turn it into something lasting and new. I'm so grateful to be able to help!"
I couldn't have summed it up better myself. Their is nothing quite like being covered in dirt and beaming with the joy of accomplishing something for the greater good.
*****


08 May 2015

Quad ridin' in the Zambian bush

If you find yourself in Zambia, and have had your fill of Safari's and gorgeous waterfalls, try going four wheeling through the bush. It may just be one of your favorite unexpected adventures.
Let the dust fly as you race around century old Baobab trees, keeping an eye out for animals that may just be around the corner.

Let the late afternoon African sun drench your face in warmth as you marvel at the scenic beauty.
Stop in a local village to meet the students of a school. Hang out with them and learn about their studies, family and country.
When you need a break, enjoy the best Orange Fanta you have ever tasted in your entire life, and marvel in the experience.
Yeah, if you are looking for something a little different, you should certainly try some quad ridin' in the bush.

07 May 2015

Land of the Giants

The safari jeep rolls down the dusty road, thick trees surround us as we go. All eyes are wide open searching for signs of wildlife in the Chobe, none of us really knowing what to expect.

We emerge from the thicket of trees close to the mighty river. For a moment I think I'm seeing a mirage through the leaves.
I'll never forget the sound of the mighty and graceful elephants walking along the river's edge. Witnessing the family dynamics of the herd ; Father's showing dominance through size and strength, Mother's protecting their young. You can see into their eyes and know they are thinking about you, just as curious about us as we are them. It's an epic feeling.
Giraffes here bend in the most curious of ways to forage for food. I've never seen this type of flexibility before. It shows just how nimble and amazing these creatures are, and how adaptable to their environment. Nature surely is a wonder to behold.
You can say it a million times and it never gets old or untrue, the skies of Africa are unlike anywhere else on the planet. Everything is bigger, more open and wild.
As this may have been my last African safari for quite awhile, I treasure the people I shared the experience with even deeper. True bonds of friendship that were formed, unbreakable memories I hold dear.
My love for the Motherland will never fade.

26 April 2015

The Chobe river safari

Early in the morning we pile into the van in Zambia, but there isn't a tired eye among us. For today we are driving to the Chobe National Park in Botswana. The anticipation in the faces of those about to embark on their first African safari is high. For me too, as this will be my first time in Botswana, and my first time experiencing a safari from the water.
The Chobe river divides Zambia from Botswana. Passport control is a little building on the side of the river, and we are quickly and happily stamped into a new country. We put away our passports and board a small skiff to transport us across the river as the sun begins to rise.
Just like that, we are in Botswana. We laugh at the huge family of monkeys that are frolicking among the great semi trucks waiting at the border crossing to go back to Zambia. Soon our Safari jeeps arrive and take us to the drop off point. We board our boats and start down the river, the great blue sky above us and nature's jungle all around.
After a short while, we come close to the shore, tall marsh reeds hiding what may be beyond. Our guide lets us know that we are on the shores of Namibia, home to some of Africa's biggest elephants. As if on queue as we slowly make our way through the reeds to the shore, the sun is blocked out by an enormous shadow....
Our first glimpse of the mighty African elephant is an epic one, and everyone's adrenaline is pumped. Moving on down the river, incredibly we come across a python. It is hard for me to spot at first, as the natural color of the snake blends so well into the environment, but once spotted, I can't take my eyes off of it.
Herds of hippo are active this morning. Toted as one of Africa's most dangerous animals, I've usually only enjoyed watching these great creatures in the water, thus only seeing their eyes, ears, and backs. Today though they were on all fours on the shoreline, giving us all a full view.

Marks are covering the sides of many of them, and our guide lets us know that this is from the males fighting for breeding rights.
Crocodiles, so still that they seem to be placed there for our enjoyment, and not real creatures that can crush out our life existence with one ferocious bite of their mighty jaws.

It's been a few hours by now, and between my morning coffee and the water on the boat to keep me hydrated, the urge to relieve myself is strong. It was even stronger for those with me that were enjoying morning beers. After a few requests for a bathroom break, our guide surveys the shores and seems to find a spot that doesn't have crocodiles, hippos, or any other animals that are too close to enjoy us as a snack.

It was a surreal rush taking a leak in the Chobe!

It's almost noon, so we head back to have lunch before embarking on our land safari in the afternoon. I wonder....

can it get any better than this morning? Yet I know that in Africa, one is always constantly amazed and surprised with the wild beauty that presents itself.


04 March 2015

tracking Rhino scat.....

When the girls approached me about wanting to do a "walking Safari", I thought that this must be the first scam for outdoor adventures that I've come across in Africa. No way you could "walk" where Africa's Big Five animals are....

No Way Possible.

But they were insistent, and the hotel said they had heard nothing but good things about it. What the hell, tomorrow was our last day in Zambia. I told them I would go along.

We wake up around 6am the next morning to get an early breakfast before they arrive to take us on safari. A Toyota pick up truck pulls up, with two guides, one male the other female, in the cab.

"Jambo!" I inquire as to where the three of us should sit, but the girl climbs into the pickup bed so we can fit into the cab of the truck. I feel bad for her as there is frost on the window.... but off we go.
About twenty minutes later, we pick up our tracker, then turn off the main road onto a dirt trail. No locked gate to pass through, no National Park entrance fee. We simply enter the bush of the Motherland.
The guide drives for a few more minutes, then abruptly stops as we are informed that this is where we will begin our search for the Rhino that lives in this area.

The tracker cautions us to be very quiet, then starts searching the animal scat on the ground so that we have a sense of what direction to be going. If this sounds surreal, trust me, it felt surreal!
We start hiking along, making our own trail as we go. Animals start to appear, and it is unbelievable to me how close we are to them in their own natural habitat.
As I'm enjoying the scenery around me, our tracker suddenly motions all of us to stop immediately, as he is pointing forward and up towards a large acacia tree. A mighty giraffe is staring intently at us, no more that 20 feet away.

We wait him out, then continue onward. My heart is racing uncontrollably. The Rhino scat is getting fresher, and we walk slowly and quietly forward.

Will we actually find a Rhino in the bush by tracking scat?
I'll let you watch the video for the big reveal that happened, but trust me, it was our most satisfying breakfast ever when we were done.
*******


20 December 2014

a moment to myself in Zambia

All the hard work in Nairobi...

Running an expedition team, building a school, unconditionally giving every last piece of myself for what I hope to be the greater good.

Exhausting.

All of the adventures in Zambia..

I needed a moment to myself. I find a path beyond the Chrismar hotel rooms that leads to unfinished construction on the edge of the Zambezi jungle. I climb the wooden planks to the highest point and sit on a concrete slab.

The sun is wrestling with the clouds to let rays of it's light reach the earth. A lake glistens between the tall grasses.
I take a moment to myself in Zambia...


19 December 2014

New Beginnings

I precariously step from rock to rock, trying to avoid the flow of raw sewage seemingly everywhere. A place most wouldn't dream of going, but amongst the horrid smells and visually painful sights around you is a hidden gem.
The New Beginnings Education Centre.

Build.Create.Kenya's In-country director, Justus Munyoki, is a powerhouse figure in the slum communities of Nairobi. He tirelessly is working to improve the lives of his fellow Kenyans. One such effort was in starting this school, by himself, in an area that was in desperate need of hope.

As BCK took our 2014 expedition team inside the school to see Justus's challenges, we are bombarded with smiles, singing and dancing. In fact, the students and teachers are rejoicing in the fact that we have come.

It's as though they are glad that someone recognizes them as people, and not just more discarded litter.
The songs the children sing sound more like church hymns from a joyous choir, sung with such infectious enthusiasm. Music truly has the power to uplift the downtrodden soul. BCK recognizes the power of music ourselves, and one of our goals is to incorporate music programs into the schools we try to support.

After the children were finished, Pauline and I decide, very impromptu, to give back to New Beginnings with our own song. I pull out a couple of harmonica's that I brought for the school, and we start to play. I'm not sure how it sounded, but it felt fantastic.

From the laughter of the children, the tears of joy on the team members, and the gratitude on the faces of the teachers, I'd say it went well.

We left some harmonica's and educational supplies with the school, said our goodbyes, and headed back to our rooms for the evening.

Just another day in Nairobi with Build.Create.Kenya.