Into the wild

It was the hottest hour of the day, and I could feel little beads of sweat forming on my neck as I struggled to fit a massive tea pot into my backpack. Whichever way I put it, it either threatened to break the canvas of the bag or crush the 2kgs of tomatoes that also needed to share the space with my sleeping bag, toiletries and sundry dry goods. We were packing for 5 days in the wilderness, and all essential equipment (such as the kettle) had to be shared among the people in the group. Luckily, our guide Mandla was an old hand at this and once he’d put the tomatoes into the kettle everything fit perfectly.

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As we donned our backpacks and set out, we left behind not just our watches and phones but also civilisation as we know it. We were crossing an invisible, yet tangible line. From now on, we’d carry all of our supplies and exist in harmony with the wilderness. It was exciting and daunting at the same time.

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Later that night I was sitting alone by the fire, enveloped by darkness where the stillness of the night was only interrupted by the occasional call from a nightjar or the distant murmur of a lion patrolling his territory. It was my time for fire duty, something that we all had to do each night. In fact, to call it duty is a bit misleading. It was the most magical time! With everyone else asleep, you felt so close to the wilderness yet completely safe.

We spent our days following the rhythm of nature, waking up with the sunrise and settling in for the night as it got dark. We walked during the cooler hours, and rested in the shade during the heat of midday. We collected firewood and cooked our meals over an open fire. We fetched water from the river, where we’d also cool down and wash our weary bodies (but only after our guides had checked thoroughly for crocs).

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After a couple of days it was as if you could feel the heartbeat of mother nature, slow and steady. My body relaxed, and my lungs allowed more oxygen in. I’d get up just before sunrise to make a cup of tea, then slip back into my sleeping bag to enjoy the break of a new day. In the afternoon, I’d sit in the shade on a rock still warm from the midday sun and watch the animals come down to the river for a drink. At night, I desperately fought to stay awake as I wanted to enjoy the millions of stars above but invariably I’d fall into the deepest of sleep.

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A wilderness trail is so much more than an African safari. It is a deep connection with nature, and a time to discover yourself. Away from the distractions of modern life, you can hear your thoughts in a different way. This may mean facing issues you’ve been trying to avoid, and also time to figure out what is important and what is not. It is one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had!

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Through Slow Travel Africa I organise all types of wilderness experiences, tailored to suit my clients’ requirements.

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