Africa has this way of crashing through you, like a wave from behind. You can resist all you like, and, of course I continue to resist, but eventually the surge is so great that the beautiful tumble is absolutely inevitable. Even poetic. And so much more gracious.
Think of the most exotic thing you could add to a travel reverie right now? An invitation to the African bush. A solid memory of Meryl Streep with that perfect Danish accent – and don’t forget the disgustingly-handsome Robert Redford in full khaki. Somehow safari, bush and the beautiful have set a path, yet again.
But alas, I’m a city rat, I say proudly. Yes, I am the flick flacker who savors the great metropolises that freckle our globe. And so I oppose, combat really, all that giddy quiet peacefulness. And not to mention that horrid and incessant sound of silence. But then there is that call of a lioness… and the hours of silently watching a dung beetle roll his piece of the world.
Why would I dare so far from my city fellows, my over-full yoga classes and my bearded bespeckled barista who panders to my obsessive-sounding coffee order daily?
But then the rumble from deep within me swells ever so slightly. The undeniable and recondite longing for something beyond the dilating concrete, hordes of cars and gentrification dinner debates. It’s quite simple; I had to admit that I had a deep impulse to find my way back to the wild. Back home. As much as Manhattan can be a wilderness, this was different –- and the torrent runs deep in my core.
Call me an evolutionist, a kind of crumb trail follower, hunting for a spoor that could hopefully take me somewhere feral, somewhere closer to the source. The greatest minds of the last two centuries — say Hitchens, Vidal or Stein — over-thought and obsessed this very fine balance of existence. And the ones that are alive — say Thabet or Chomsky — are overthinking this, right this minute.
I wasn’t necessarily thinking of skipping hand in paw (or wing) with a critter or anything whilst on safari in Africa. But I did want to be shepherded discreetly deeper into the wild, I wanted to be shown my minuscule role in the universe. By implication, naturally, I had put to rest the existentialism debate hamster-wheeling in my head for just a second. I now just wanted to have some empirical evidence, and luxury and conservation brand Singita evidently rewards all their guests with just such openness.
Who knew I could just hop a few flights, step off into the dust and then be wallowing in the brighter than daylight African sun. Next is to be Land Rovered straight to a new understanding of luxury, just with a slight flutter of the eye. Bingo. Suddenly all things that I thought mattered slipped away and time, freedom and space were all that had any significance.
Belonging to the great grandfather of the Singita founder, the Castleton lodge dances on a slight hill while winking towards a watering hole where animals ritually congregate. They seem to be just like the animals I know from home: slurping up G&Ts, playing the flirting game and bathing as if at the Equinox gym commune.
But my trust was clear; pop a vein for this lodge’s bush injection. And the consequences? Profound and prolific. With too many afternoon sleeps, grazing the Singita feasts all day, and hours of meditative staring into nowhereness bush. The deep verandahs, amorous linens and low-slung chairs lay claim to the generous villas where I unfurled myself every day in this utter seclusion. A whole lodge all to myself, some might call it exclusive use; I saw it more as a gift from the African gods. And I was doing a kind of rain dance in gratitude — but minus the rain please.
And as the African light started to withdraw from wild dog day afternoons I would lie in a clawed bath alone, although it was big enough for the perfect ménage a trois, and look out over the veld tumbling to our starry skies. The world was just more beautiful here, and I was just a wee speck. Admittedly I was infinitesimal, and I allowed myself to just be that. Nothing and everything. A hunk of the wild.
Sabi Sands, South Africa