The warm soothing glow of the campfire felt good, and behind me amidst the crystal goblets and rows of fine wines, my personal butler was preparing another gin and tonic. This is the life.
Leaning back, I savoured the cold drink and the past few days spent in paradise – a luxury game lodge deep in the bush. I had been truly pampered; chauffeured around by my guide, treated to champagne brunches and vast sundowner snack buffets sprawled out over the Landy bonnet. In between feeding times we saw a lot of game … lion, elephant, leopard, cheetah cubs, doey eyed giraffes, the works. Not exactly hard work as the most exercise I think I had the whole week was lifting my binoculars to check out another big cat which my guide pointed out to me.
But as I reclined, resting my feet on the cobbled fireplace and glancing at the silver candelabras, I realised that this afternoon’s elephant encounter was way different. Something had stirred within. My surroundings suddenly felt uncomfortable. And I felt as if my entire outlook on life and living had, in the course of a few minutes, changed forever. Let me explain.
The afternoon game drive began, after I had almost reluctantly prized myself away from my spot at the pool, much the same as all the others. After an hour or so we spotted a big old elephant bull in the distance slowly ambling along his path that led to a small waterhole in the clearing beyond. Thats when it started.
“How about we push the envelope a bit”, asked my guide as he slowly turned his head. “Sure, why not”, I’m game”. The next thing I knew we were out on foot talking toward the waterhole, crouching behind low bush and scrub to keep cover.
Remember the stirring feeling I mentioned? We were close to the waterhole now … and to the approaching elephant. Expertly, fluffing some chalk dust from his pocket to check the wind direction, the man in khaki beckoned me to sit down silently and wait. The huge bull approached us and began to drink. He was so close I could hear the water pouring into his stomach. But curiously, I felt no fear, no desire to flee, and was struck by the impact of the moment. His hazel coloured eyes seemed to peer down at me, penetrating deep into my very soul. Sitting there in the dust, out on foot in the bush, I felt the pulse of Africa merge with my own. The envelope had certainly pushed and I felt deliriously happy about it.
That day with the elephant happened over ten years ago, and since then I have enjoyed a passionate love affair with adventure travel. The purpose of this article is not to knock silver candelabras, bonnet buffets or personal butlers, but they are out. The great outdoors – on my terms, is in. So is sweating in the sun, paddling rivers, foot safaris, diving, enjoying cold beers with vibrant locals and general envelope pushing. I’ll always treasure my few minutes with that ol’ elephant bull out in the sticks for stirring my blood. He taught me a thing or two about life … like how meaningful it is to get my boots dirty.