Saturday, December 20, 2008

African adventures

It has been an absolute privilege staying at Motswari private game reserve in Kruger National Park. It stretches over an unfenced area of the park and therefore allows wildlife to meander around our rondavels, swimming pool and dining areas. At night, we have to be escorted around the site as wildlife, particularly a very curious elephant, can be found on our doorsteps! The accomodation is not just comfortable, but also luxurious and a welcome escape from the oppressive heat. The food is sumptuous and I am sure that in the 3 days that I am here I will put back on the weight I lost during my episode of peptic ulcer.
We are woken each morning at 5am. Whilst this does not appear to be a civilised hour to wake up when one is on holiday, it does give us the opportunity to see wildlife when they are most active. We meet for coffee and a muffin at 5.30am before we start our game drive at 6am. We get back at 9.30am, have a gorgeous brunch before we spend the middle part of the day resting. My family tend to head for the pool whilst I head for the computer and then go and have a much needed rest before we meet again at 3pm for lunch and the commencement of our second game drive. During the middle of our game drive, we stop to drink wine in the middle of the African wilderness and it is such a treat. We get back at about 7.30pm before we go for cocktails and a 5 course dinner. Yes, life has indeed been difficult recently for Dr Mel.
We have seen an abundance of wildlife. We have been up close and personal with elephants, rhino, giraffes, antelope and lion. I used to think that lion were my favourites amongst the big cats, but last night, we had the amazing experience of finding a young leopard and I have now decided that they are most definitely my favourite. My mum has been to Africa 4 times and has never been able to see leopard, so it was such a thrill when we heard that one was wandering around and was quite active. Our guide, Giyani ,heard of the sighting over the radio and made a beeline for the cat. I have to say, it was a hair-raising adventure. I can only liken the experience to being on the "Indiana Jones" ride at Disneyland because at times, we seemed to be airbourne in our open-air jeep. It was simply exhilarating to be going through the african wild with the wind blowing through my hair and the scent of animals wafting past my nose. The white knuckle trek was rewarded by the sight of an exquisite young female leopard who was about 10 months old. She almost appeared to be showing off for us. She perched herself on a log which made for a fabulous photo opportunity and then she sidled up against the jeep just so we could appreciate the intricate patterns on her coat. My Mum started crying as she was so overwhelmed by the experience (is it any wonder why I cry so much when I come from a gene pool like this?)
This morning we saw baby elephants having a wonderful time rolling around in a pool of mud and we were within 2 metres of 7 lions who decided that they were on a photo shoot and gave us perfect poses.
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world having such a magnificent experience.
Tomorrow, we face a very long drive back to Siteki. Whilst many of you may think I'm crazy, I have decided to work at the Good Shepherd whilst we are there for 4 days. The fact is, I miss the patients. I miss being with Swazi people. Their smiles, their kindness and their lives have affected me deeply and I just want another opportunity to be with them- even if it means facing the devastating consequences of HIV. Whilst I describe the many wonders of Kruger, I also spend a great deal of my time by myself thinking about the past 5 months at the Good Shepherd. Whilst my family will tell you that I haven't changed a bit, the fact is that this experience has changed me forever- we are on holidays at the moment and the full impact of my experience in Africa is not being felt. There are times here when I actually struggle to enjoy myself because I am still trying to recover from paying witness to abject poverty. I'm still thinking about the diseases that have ravaged my patients and I am still battling with doubts about whether I should be coming home to my life of privelege or whether I should continue to be where I am most needed and most appreciated. Life here in Africa has been the greatest challenge of my life so far but I still feel as though my time here is not over. I am struggling to identify just what I should be doing with my life.
Nevertheless, I will continue to try and enjoy my time here. It's truly spectacular and if any of you have ever considered an African safari, I can assure you, it's what dreams are made of.