The knock at the door woke us up; it was time to go on our walking safari. The tent was freezing cold so it took massive willpower to get out of bed and dress. I made sure I did it appropriately with the right clothes, colors and shoes. I also applied repellent and sun cream then finished the whole process by putting on my safari hat and shades. I was finally ready for the adventure…
The safari guides were there waiting for us, cleaning and checking their guns, looking intentionally serious. Seeing all that made me reconsider if this was a good idea after all: “What if a lion decides to have me for breakfast? Will the two looking-serious guys face it on time or will they run faster than me?”
Then one of the safari guides said: “Time to go, everybody on board”. It was already late to come up with a credible excuse that will not show that I was afraid and regretting the whole plan; hence, I put my best “I can do it” face and climbed into the boat. After crossing the river and before starting the walk the guide in charge explained to us the rules we must follow to ensure our safety: “You should walk in line. You can’t leave the group. You must follow at all times the guide’s orders – here he is the boss! If we come across lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, snakes or any other dangerous animal – DO NOT RUN, freeze still and wait for the guide to tell you what to do. Remember this is the wild!”
Of course after hearing all that I felt a knot on my throat and my legs started shaking. But then I thought: “So what, we all have to die one day and if today is my day at least I will die with style. I could see the newspaper headlines in my mind: “South American woman eaten by Lions!” I could even make it to CNN and BBC news!
With strong determination I started following the group, ready to face the wild and the unexpected. My whole body and mind switched into survival mode, my eyes were all over the place and my ears were growing longer trying to catch any noise that will alert me on time… I was walking carefully, trying not to make any disturbing noise that could upset the dangerous animals surrounding us.
All of a sudden, the guide makes the stop signal therefore we all stopped walking and breathing. We could hear each other’s heart beating faster and faster. I turned pale, my blood stopped circulating while a cold sweat covered my body. My scared eyes followed the guide pointing finger, expecting to see a big black mamba at the end of it or perhaps something more dangerous…
At first I thought: “He must be joking!’ as all I saw was a big dark green and smelling fresh elephant poop, in which the guide was busy investigating with a stick as if looking for something thrilling! Then he asked all of us to come closer to notice the dung beetles that fed from it and also examine the “interesting composition” of the poop. In total shock I heard for ten long minutes a dissertation on “elephant poop and its properties”…
When he finally gave the signal to continue walking I did it at once, ready to move on to the “real adventure”. During the walk, the guide was busy showing us the different trees and flowers, their characteristics and medicinal properties, telling us: “If one day you get lost in the bush you will find in it all you need to survive” To which I silently answer: “Certainly, so we make sure we are healthy enough to be eaten! Come on! How long do you think we will last over here? This is the wild full of dangerous creatures! The minute I said that to myself my body switched again to the survival mode, ready to give a good fight before I die…
I followed the guide for almost an hour paying very little attention to what he was explaining with such enthusiasm and passion. I could not understand him as I was sure that dangerous animals were viciously following us, hunting us, waiting for the right moment for the perfect kill… And there I was stuck with a poop expert!
All I wanted was to face danger and to have something great to tell my family and friends at home. There was no chance I was going to tell them the exciting life cycle of the wild animals’ digestive system! Give me a break please! I was getting annoyed and feeling cheated, this was nothing close to what I had expected!
Then it all came to me! Once again I have set expectations to what I was doing. I didn’t go to the walking safari open to learn and see the wonders of the bush, to communicate with it, or listen to it. I was too busy trying to protect myself from the probable dangers. I also went searching for things to feed my “ego” looking for great things to tell thereafter; secretly undermining our guides and their expertise, convinced that I knew better. Missing out… then I realized that I was the big looser in the walking safari and not the guide or the others.
I immediately associated this experience with the way we usually go through life, missing out the moment as we are too afraid of the hidden dangers and enemies. Convinced that we know better and feeling sorry for the ones that are contented. Focusing on the end result instead of enjoying the journey.
Then I started laughing loud, which caught the others by surprise; they all looked at me with concerning faces. I’m sure more than one thought they have gone for a walk with a mad woman, which made me laugh even louder. Finally I told them “I just remembered a private joke” putting some rest to their discomfort.I did the rest of the walk with excitement, open to the unknown, unafraid and happy. We did not come across any dangerous animal, but I have seen all types of poops and learned everything you have to learn from it. Actually it was an amazing experience as I came out of the bush with a broad knowledge of the wonders of nature and myself.
© 2009 Gabriela Abalo – Author
Welcome to share with friends, email this post and leave a comment.