The (other) Mosquito Coast and Crocodile Bridge

Historically, people think of Nicaragua and Honduras as the mosquito coast, but Africa has its share of mosquitoes and malaria zones; Maputo and Komatipoort being two of those. Below are the initial impressions of these vastly different cities.

We crossed the border from quiet Swaziland into Mozambique, and the sidewalks were bustling with people and activity.  Wood-framed stalls were stacked side by side like a crooked house of cards.  Inside: mufflers, clothes, fruit, bags of cashew nuts (yum), tires, lumber, and bric-a-brac galore.

Trucks were filled with green bananas, and women balanced buckets of grapes on their head, scissors dangling on a string to cut off the plump clusters. Tractors wobbled slowly down the road, passed by fast-whizzing cars that do not stop at “robots” (stop lights) or stop signs. The polarity of rich and poor in the capital city of Maputo is glaring.  Beautiful, old-world hotels dot blocks of buildings that are dilapidated and beyond repair.

Maputo is a town heavily influenced by its Portuguese origins, but is a buzzing meld of cultures. Our summer visit there was a heady mix of sublime Caipirinhas (a drink of sugar cane, lime, and rum), hot sun, anti-malaria medicine, and delicious food. It also has its share of crime. We parked on the street to board a ferry to nearby Catembe Island, and gone only an hour, we returned to a stolen review mirror.

A few hours by car in a different direction, the terrain completely changes, along with the ambiance. In the peaceful, tiny town of Komatipoort, we spent the night on the other side of Crocodile River from Kruger National Park.  Rarely am I wide awake and giddy at 5:45am, but crossing Crocodile Bridge to begin a day of safari, I was overwhelmed with anticipation.

I had never seen an elephant in the wild until that day, and it really is something to behold. Elephants are not just intelligent, but expressive and emotional. They mourn and bury members of their beloved herd, and they celebrate the birth of a baby elephant with joy.

It was an amazing day of collecting bits of knowledge about animals and the bush, and witnessing nature at its finest. The light changed frequently and was beautiful to watch, moving from bright and sunny to foreboding clouds that cast long, dark shadows, then the golden light of late afternoon appeared, illuminating the trees and grasses. Favorite images:

Sometimes the best part is back at the lodge, at the end of a full day, listening to dinner conversation. And as a response to the question, “What’s all the fuss about? It’s an elephant,” I would quote something a great friend sent: “Don’t forget to stop and be grateful for the ordinary.”  I guess locals forget that seeing wildlife like this is not an ordinary experience for most. For some (like me), this is the stuff of Hemingway novels. I suppose for others, it’s just another crocodile story… ”

IMG_4411Enjoy the journey,

Starry

2014 Word: Safari

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Celestial Gift, New Year’s Day

Is it too late to say Happy New Year in February? The first part of the year has flown by. Our family closes 2013 in a new country, having celebrated our first Christmas with a few tears of homesickness, but mostly joy and gratitude for our new lifestyle, friends, and adventures.

It’s summer here in sub-saharan Africa, as polar storms cover the U.S. with heavy snowfall. My mind recognizes the heat, but my body wants to go into winter hibernation. I feel fortunate, however, to have hot sun after a long rainy season, where villagers rarely had dry clothing, and heavy rainfall washed away the leaves, stones, and dirt used to fill potholes the size of bathtubs.

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The rains brought gorgeous, dense and verdant foliage, and in our “surprise” garden, (not knowing what former tenants planted), new flora and fauna bloom and delight us. And, recently, a migration of hundreds of white butterflies fluttered through the tree canopies in our back yard, tumbling in erratic flight patterns like white rose petals falling from the sky. I see movement in the bushes, too, sometimes…is that scampering shadow a mongoose or a huge monitor lizard? Africa constantly feeds our imaginations and keeps us guessing.

Like New Year’s, my birthday is always a time to stop and reflect about the past year, and what’s to come. I received a philosophical birthday wish last week from Dalton, who fills our car at the Engen Petrol station. He jubilantly wished me many more years ahead, and told me to remember, ” Life First.  Problems Later!”  I couldn’t agree more, Dalton. Thanks!

In little nooks and crannies of time since New Year’s, I’ve made it a priority to start going through a slowly accumulated pile of excerpts highlighted in books, articles torn out of magazines, and lists of podcasts, website references, and blogs to peruse. A few messages keep recurring:

  • re-educate yourself to listen and trust the inner-truths
  • follow your intuition, and if it’s really your intuition talking, (your idea or activity) it will lead to a feeling of greater aliveness and power
  • choose how you want your day to unfold, and where you put your energy (not on negativity and all things soul-draining)

I’d love to get up every day and set positive intentions. I suppose it’s like exercise: you just have to get into the habit. Are there days where your head hits the pillow and you wonder where the day went, and how you never found time to X-Y-Z?

Several blogs I enjoy have mentioned choosing a “word for the year.”  What is the word I want to represent 2014? Several words and phrases resonate: authentic. centered. letting go. permission to create. But I think my word for the year will be Safari, as it has connotations of exploring, forging new paths, and discovery.  Which word, image, or quote would you choose for your year?

A quote that speaks to me:

What in your life is calling you?
When all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild iris blooms by itself
in the dark forest,
what still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats
hides a summons.
Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must,
or leave it forever nameless,
but why pretend it is not there?
Source: “The Box”, Terma Collective

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Wishing you an amazing soul safari in 2014.

Cheers,

Starry