In an attempt to escape some depressing news from Nigeria and Sudan, I recall 10 special moments that remind me of why I love this sometimes crazy, bewildering continent of ours.
I am a chronically bad sleeper, so there was nothing unusual in the fact that at 3am this morning I was wide awake with my laptop, a mug of hot tea and the BBC’s World News for company.
It was a mistake (well the television aspect was) as two stories in particular got me rolling down a hill of gloom. How could one not be upset by yet another bombing in northern Nigeria and the ghastliness of a woman sentenced to torture and death in Sudan because she is deemed to be Muslim and had the audacity to marry a Christian. This kind of fundamentalist absurdity should have no place in Africa, or anywhere for that matter.
To coax my mind away from middle-of-the-night impotent rage, I read Lizabeth Paulat’s wonderfully upbeat post ‘4 awesome trends from an Africa you’ve never thought of’. It did help, for it captures exactly the sort of genuinely good stuff that peterborchert.com wants to celebrate with readers. If you haven’t read it yet, do so – you won’t be disappointed.
I also called to mind a time a few years back when, in a similar slump as a result of the utter failure of world leaders to reach any semblance of a global strategy to combat our influence on global climate, rhino poaching which was then starting to escalate exponentially, and a host of other ills, I started to jot down the first 10 memories that came to mind about the Africa I have loved for six and a half decades. I wrote them up in an editorial at the beginning of 2012 and thought I would share them again. Here goes:
- Growing up in East London and sleeping out on the banks of the Nahoon River under the makeshift shelter of an upturned leaky canoe made from a bent sheet of old corrugated iron. Supper – best was a wodge of sausage sandwiches prepared by a caring mother, and condensed milk out of the tin.
- Almost stepping off a boat on Malawi’s Shire River onto a rock, only to realise at the very last moment that this was no water-smoothed granite boulder but the back of a resting hippo. A near thing – I imagine that if I had completed my ill-judged manoeuvre I would have had to cope with a very grumpy beast indeed.
- Huddling on the slopes of Monk’s Cowl in a shallow cave decorated with ancient San paintings while the terrifying Drakensberg lightning speared our route back down into the valley.
- Watching otters playing in Botswana’s Chobe River at sunset after a day that included being on the water only a few metres from a herd of elephants crossing from one bank to the other. All we could see of the babies were their uncoordinated snorkel-like trunks.
- Slipping and sliding along steep muddy forest tracks in the Perinet Special Reserve in Madagascar with the eerie cadences of indri calls floating on the heavy, humid air. We eventually saw them, their black-and-white markings giving them a distinctly panda-like aura.
- Resting beneath the cliffs of Castle Rock high above Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and meeting up with a curious Verreaux’s eagle as it floated by on its broad, powerful wings no more than a metre from my face.
- Lying on my back on the sun-cracked floor of Etosha’s great, pale pan. It was so still that I could (or at least imagined I could) hear the blood pumping through my ears.
- Being in the Mara during the migration when wildebeest moan and groan from horizon to horizon and then coalesce in tight, skittish groups to run the gauntlet of a river crossing.
- Parked beneath a fruiting sycamore fig tree on the banks of the Sabie River in Kruger National Park just watching the passing parade. It’s amazing what you see by letting nature come to you rather than bouncing from place to place in a futile attempt to see everything.
- Sitting in the dark on the cliffs that drop away from our family cottage on the shores of False Bay. Jupiter seemed to sit like a diamond stud in the crescent of a new moon, Comet McNaught had strung its tail in a great arc above Cape Point and the sea shimmered with phosphorescence … spellbinding.
Perhaps you would like to brighten your day and ours by sharing your special moments in Africa?