…We Came In?

You either get the point of Africa or you don’t. If you can’t get past the fear of animals, of poverty, the juggernaut of nature, then you probably won’t. But if you do stand in it and smell it and listen to it, then it will be one of the biggest, most profound and powerful things you will ever feel. It will fill the wet evenings and the dark mornings. It will mark your card and have you on callback forever.

–A.A. Gill.

...we came in?

I’ve been here before. Staring at the empty space, trying to figure out how it’s all going to fit, wondering what will come leaping out when it’s opened upon our return. I should’ve left well enough alone. I shouldn’t have unpacked it to begin with. But it was a painful reminder after returning from our first trip that it didn’t belong, and because of that perhaps we didn’t belong. An admonition of where we’d been and where we weren’t. So its contents were emptied and it was quietly placed in the back corner of a darkened room with only memories to console itself with. Now it sits in front of me patiently waiting, while behind me our cats pace nervously. They’re decidedly unhappy at what they see and I don’t blame them. They know what’s coming. They’ve been here before too.

The past year has been a busy one for us. Besides the retelling of our adventures here on Africa or Bust!, we were awarded Blog of the Week by GoAbroad.com, we had photos featured in Traveling Greener, Kim wrote a lovely piece called A Volunteering Honeymoon in Zimbabwe for Getaway Magazine, and we were both invited by the editors of Transformative Tourism to contribute a story each for a book we’re hoping to soon see published and on bookshelves. Kim also penned a wonderful piece about the plight of two world renown wildlife sanctuaries — Elephant Nature Park and Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand — who have faced the wrath of the Thai government for standing up to and decrying said government’s complicity in the illegal baby elephant trade. I’m certain that the coming year will see at least one of us traveling to ENP and WFFT to contribute to the wonderful work they do.

I tried to keep busy by showcasing a few of the amazing people I’ve met over the years on our travels, and would like to thank Cliff Schmidt, Kirsty Lynas, Mark Clayden, and Bruce Colin for allowing me to subject them to my Q&A poking and prodding. Such fantastic people with such compelling stories. We hope to share more of these types of profiles with you in the months to come.

Our pride - Lucy, Leo, Sal

We found ourselves falling deeply in love with elephants and rhinoceroses, who face their own struggle against poachers and the ever-encroaching cruelty of man. As an anniversary gift we fostered a young rhino and a baby elephant in the care of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Solio and Barsilinga are beautiful, heartwarming animals who wouldn’t be alive and thriving today if it weren’t for the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Run by the indefatigable Dame Daphne Sheldrick, DSWT’s mission is the protection and conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitats in Kenya, and is best known for the wonderful work they do rescuing and looking after orphaned elephants and rhinoceroses, who are hand-raised with the hopes they’ll one day be able to return to the wild as adults. Their dedication to animal conservation is extraordinary, and if you’re not familiar with them you should be.

Somewhere in the midst of all this we found the time to take a trip to New York to reunite with friends we met while in Africa, make a pilgrimage to the grave of John Coltrane, and take in the phenomenal photographic work of Nick Brandt. Brandt’s non-profit Big Life Foundation also is focused on the conservation of Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems and is similarly worthy of your attention.

But in our hearts were the lions. Always the lions. So we’re temporarily bidding adieu to our own pride and hope Lucy and Sal forgive us for leaving them as we once again pick up our conservation work with the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust. This time we’ll be volunteering at their Livingstone, Zambia location inside the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. It’s an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a new culture and country, to meet and make new friends, and to work and fall in love with a new group of lions — the most important of which are the Dambwa Pride. A younger pride than their compatriots in Ngamo, they’re still very important to the lion conservation work of ALERT and we’re honored to be a part of it. However, we couldn’t travel so far and be so close not to feel the pull of others, so during the course of our stay in Livingstone we’ll be taking a side trip to Antelope Park to reunite with Milo, Wakanaka, Lewa, Laili, Penya, Paza, LuLu, Big Boy, and of course check in with Moyo to see how his bravery is holding up.

As with last time, we don’t expect to have much internet connectivity while we’re traveling, nor do we particularly want to keep our attention glued to a keyboard when instead it should be immersed in our immediate surroundings, so please be patient with us. We promise to come back with a few more stories and a picture or two to share. We will, however, do our best to update our Twitter feed on a regular basis while we’re in the bush and share with you some of our adventures as they’re happening.

Isn't this where...

I’ve been here before. The spaces have been filled. The heart is ready. Everything is in its place and it’s almost time to go. In a few short days Kim and I will embark on our return trip to Africa — a place that continues to call to us with a persistent and seductive rhythm we’ve been unable to shake. You either get it or you don’t. A year on from our honeymoon adventure we still fall asleep each night hoping to dream of lions roaring, and wake each morning wondering when we’d return. Soon, sweetheart. Soon. Forty-eight hours of traveling, twenty-four hours of flight time, 12,000 miles to go. Almost there.

Whuh whuh whuuuuuuh. Did you hear that? Isn’t this where…

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