I feel the sun beating on my face, the sounds of birds (not the ones I’m used to hearing back home in Newcastle, Ontario Canada) and our tribe beginning to wake up and make their way to breakfast.
OMG! It’s real… I am in South Africa.
Like the perpetual five year old I am I jump out of bed, hit the shower and run down stairs like it’s Christmas morning.
Good Morning, good morning, good morning as everyone slowly joins us in the dining room before we head out on our journey to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
“Time to go” says Dawid, my new friend, founder of Toerboer and partner on our VividLife South Africa: Connection, Compassion and Courage, journey.
We all make our way (slowly of course) to the bus which would be our home for the next 6 hours, with a stop at Nan Hua Buddhist Temple to set our intention.
As we hit the highway I’m submerged by a much different energy than I am use to back home, slow, steady, no one trying to
bully or cut us off, no honking horns, just a bunch of locals, some piled in the backs of trucks on their way to a regular day at work. This all feels so comfortable, so real. My breath starts to slow, my shoulders drop and suddenly I feel like I’m home. Like I’m wrapped in the arms of the great mother, the tears start to flow as I take in what is some of the most enchanting scenery I’ve experienced in my life.
The journey is a long one, and road trips like this aren’t really my favorite thing. I prefer them short with lots of stops,
however this time I’m distracted by the connection that seems to be sweeping the air with the twenty five others traveling with us, the epic landscape and my first sighting of South African wildlife a few baboons lining the road looking like they’re up to no good.
And we arrive…
The gates open and the first thing I see is a Zebra, and then a few monkeys as we slowly make our way to reception down the bumpiest road I think I have ever been on. It was like a really bad roller coaster however once we arrived, greeted by the staff and shown our FABULOUS safari style accommodations, my stomach settled and I was ready for an adventure, not the one I expected but the one I needed.
We met for a beautiful buffet dinner in the Lapa as we were filled in on safety and what we were to expect during our volunteer stay. I have to admit once they told us there were Cheetahs, Hyenas, Scorpions and poisonous Snakes on the property I was like the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz seeing the sign “I’d turn back if I were you” flashed in front of my face, however at the same time I was eager to experience it all.
Timm (my husband) and I head back to our safari hut to get settled and ready for our first night drive. As I stand in the living room section of our hut, putting on my home made bug repellent, I see Timm come running out of the bath screaming “there’s a huge lizard in there”, my heart skips a beat as I head to the bathroom to see what the fuss is all about. I see nothing, that is until I look behind the toilet and the thing runs towards me. Obviously I jump, but once I get a good look I noticed it wasn’t as large as he described it to be and it was kinda cute. Timm wanted me to remove it but that damn thing was just too fast. So he/she ended up being our roommate for the next few days. We’d see it from time to time and eventually got used to it.
Timm and I head down to the Lapa to meet our ranger Fabian and head out with a few other peeps from our tribe. OMG I can’t believe I’m in South Africa, I can’t believe I’m outside with wild animals with no fence, in a vehicle with no windows and about to journey at night time (prime feeding time in South Africa), What am I thinking?
But every myth, fear and perception was thrown out the window as I covered myself with a blanket, relaxed, listened, watched and breathed in the cool evening air. I’ve arrived. Nine months before it was just a dream, but here I am.
The very first animal we spotted was a Hyena, my first thought was “oh shit” as I had been told their jaws could crush bones in seconds, I drew closer to my husband, however it ended up being much smaller than I anticipated and ran away from us, lol.
Again the myths, perceptions and fears were eluding me. I mean I wasn’t about to jump out and go chasing it, but I was becoming more and more relaxed understanding that I needed to be aware of the dangers but not consumed by them.
As we approach the end of our safari night drive I am already in awe and we hadn’t even really started our program at Moholoholo.
As Timm and I head back to our room with our headlamps on the fear kind of creeps back in. I’m in the middle of the bush,
in a hut, but still in the middle of the bush. I lay down in bed and the first noise I hear I jump, obviously I didn’t get much sleep that night. Besides the fear, seeing the lizard constantly crawling the walls, being afraid I would get bit by a mosquito and get Malaria, there was also a gang of Baboons outside our hut that were making as much noise as they possibly could. I tried to muster up the courage to go out and yell “shut up” however obviously it didn’t happen.
As the sun comes up the noise of the Baboons begins to fade and the sound of South African Birds takes over. Even though I barely had a wink of sleep I jumped up, nagged at Timm to get up (something that wasn’t at all different from back home) got showered and headed to the Lapa for breakfast and our instructions for the day.
“You can walk with our group or get a drive to the Rehab Centre”says Tamzin, the event coordinator for Moholoholo. I was like “WHAT, WALK?”, “through the bush”, “Yes” says Tamzin. Keep in mind that I’m afraid to go outside my condo at night to walk the dogs because there have been a few Coyote sightings and now I’m in the South African bush about to go for a walk. Oye!
But I swallowed my fear and did it anyway. Obviously there was danger involved however If we followed our instructions and stuck together we were safe.
As we came out of the bush I look to my left and there was the most beautiful mountain. I stopped for a few seconds to take a picture, turned around and realize my group was way ahead of me. Yikes! I ran to catch up and as we entered the gates to the rehab, to the right, there was a lion that seemed to be stocking us. The same Lion that I would later be cleaning out his cage. I had another cowardly Lion moment and almost didn’t do it.
My courage muscle was really being worked in South Africa and I will forever be grateful that in spite of my mind constantly trying to hold me back, I faced my fears, jumped in and to my surprise ended up loving it. It felt like my natural element. I had always dreamed of working with these types of animals as a child, however since I came from a poorer family never thought I’d actually get the chance to do it.
Later in life I found the principles of the Law of Attraction, and struggled intensely to undue my conditioning, however just standing in that Lions cage with a bucket and shovel I was living proof that it works.
Start walking in the direction of your dreams and they start walking in the direction of you.
Throughout our few days at Moholoholo I had the opportunity to work with so many animals. I mud bathed a baby Rhino, fed Vultures, played with a Seval and tickled a Honey Badger. It was magical but beyond the fact that I was standing in a child hood dream there was a sobering reality looming in the air. One that during an educational lecture by Brain, the founder of Moholoholo caused me to have to get up and walk away and to break down in a way that I had never experienced, an “ugly cry” as Oprah Winfrey calls it, and I just couldn’t stop.
We were informed of the serious effect of climate change and poaching on South African wildlife. And just not about the picture perfect animals we see on TV. About the reality of how even the smallest and ugliest creatures effect the whole, and how when one falls it creates a ripple effect. As well as the impact we have with every single step.
I mean I knew this but not to the intensity that it was described.
Animals being hunted for sport, poisoned, captured as pets, and also our misconceptions about it all.
Brain continuously called us “Bunny Huggers“ referring to our lack of knowledge and sensitivity and we were soon to get a sense of reality, toughen up, and hopefully use our new found wisdom to make a difference, if even just to educate our family and friends upon our return.
So much happened at Moholoholo, so many experiences and memories. From learning and connecting with wildlife and
nature, to overcoming fears and misconceptions, to forming deep bonds with our tribe and our incredible ranger Fabian, host Tamzin and the rest of the staff.
In just a few short days our lives were transformed beyond the capability to facilitate in words. Connections were formed so deep that as we pulled away on our last day uncontrollable tears flowed and the sound of silence penetrated the bus.
It felt like the last scene of Wizard of Oz where Dorothy was returning to Kansas, however I couldn’t pick which one I would miss most of all because they all touched me in their own unique way.
But somehow, some way I have a feeling we’ll be back. Cause as Dorothy said “there’s no place like home” and we definitely felt at home at Moholoholo.