A South Indian in the Southern Hemisphere

A month after my Kanha adventures, I was packing bags for another jungle-in South Africa this time, with another bunch of junglees-Mumbai teenagers. I almost felt like a globetrotter (except, my brain kept trying to short circuit and say “You are a homebody” incessantly),

Here is the regular roundup of random records:

The sky is falling – there is so much sky visible, that you just end up feeling small and insignificant 🙂 Sky:1, humans:0.

Joanna, what happened to that hope: In the 2 waking hours in Jo’burg, I heard tales upon tales of outsiders bringing gun violence. Then there was the case of machine gunfire at 11.45pm. I walked to my large balcony and peeked out and saw the gunfire flares somewhere in the valley below. Joy!

All set about with Fever Trees: We we’re headed to the Greater Kruger area, in Limpopo and Mpumalanga (it means where the sun rises) districts. Kipling returned with Just So Stories, this time. A week before, my friend Pavan swotted me on the head because I was going to Limpopo and forgot how the elephant got his trunk. So, off I went, caught up on some stories, and was ready for some fever trees!

These trees have bright green bark, which come off and leave that green residue. Locals believed that they give fever (yes, you sang that part, I know), and cut them down in big numbers, apparently. But they seem to be returning, at least for face value outside game reserve entrances, etc.

Here be dragons: People migrating across the Great Escarpment a couple hundred years ago came across dinosaur bones, and assumed them to be dragons. Hence, the grand name of Drakensberg mountains, for these colourful beauties.

Rainbow nation: These guys are proud of their 11 languages and various cultures. I suppose it’s a lot like us: we’re excited about what it means but it’s a pain when you have to communicate or eat at homes of people who have entirely different diets, etc. Some of them wanted to know how many languages we have. I said “Oh, some 27 or so… official ones, at least”. They went and googled it 🙂 There is visible evidence of people with little in common trying to get their messages across and get the other group to truly understand their culture. Like elsewhere on earth, it seems more fraught than not. My rondawel (round house), however, was an oasis of peace.

Walking about in the bush: that my first sighting of some of giraffes, ostriches, Marula trees and some other game was on foot while looking for snares. That was lovely!

Animals, animals everywhere: I loved the fact that my first trip to this most loved of continents was mainly to see animals. There are just so many of them and in such variety. We saw a Hyena enjoy his meal (crunching bones, tearing bloody chunks of flesh etc.) from about 15 feet away. We heard about how elephants die of starvation when they lose all their teeth (because, no dentists in the wild), while looking at them. Saw the Big 5 and the Ugly 5. Every time we saw a red-billed hornbill (or was it yellow), someone definitely said “Zazu”

Camping with hyenas, hippos and leopards prowling outside: I’m a natural born chicken. Scared of the dark. Till… last year. And here I was, in a tent, with the inner zipper torn, outer zippers intact (and some stones I got in to reinforce the velcro stays to the ground), and hearing hyenas breathing and scratching my tent walls.

Meaning and money: I met people from the African Impact program, who live well, live happy, and are chasing meaning. In their ecosystems, it is possible to do that without money being a dire need. The decision is, “Do I want to maximise the money earning or be happy with a fair bit less?” I am wondering what we can do – those of us out of full-time, company-bound work, to have these conversations and take the movement forward. Ideas, anyone?

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