Flipping through those disturbing headlines can sometimes squelch our dreams. Fires blaze in Brazil. A tropical storm drenches Puerto Rico. Protests arise in Hong Kong. Is there any place safe for travel?
As autumn leaves fall, the awareness of another season ending raises questions. “Is life big enough? Is life too complicated? As comfort levels change with each passing year, finding that middle ground between risk and fun can be challenging.
Thinking back to a morning more than a decade ago, to the biggest risk I’d ever taken, a smile arose within me. Bouncing around in a Land Cruiser, headed for a safari in Ruaha River Camp on the way to our honeymoon was one of the most exciting times in my life. Even knowing all the risks, –if I had the chance, I’d do it all over again.
Our travel group had been in Africa for a couple of weeks. From the shores of Dar Salam to the mountains of Idunda, we hadn’t seen a single large wild animal, only a few extremely skinny dogs. Everyone was excited to experience the wildlife reserve in Tanzania.
Wide eyed dik-diks seemed amused with the automobile as we entered the park. Monkeys seemed untroubled by our presence. A couple of giraffes tangled with one another. Large hippos soaking in the river appeared harmless, until our guide informed us, those seemingly soft, slow looking creatures are more vicious than lions. A herd of zebras ran into the distance as our jeep came within thirty feet of a lion gnawing on dinner. A few miles down the road a mother elephant reared her head to protect her baby. Our guide whispered to freeze and then pleaded to be quiet as a woman started to whine. But nothing had frightened me more than when the man I had just married walked within a few feet of a hippopotamus.
Throughout the safari it had been obvious, the park reserve was home to these animals that roamed free from fear of humans. Escorted to our sleeping quarters that first night, the guide warned, “Under no circumstance should you leave the protection of your Banda, the stone huts!”
It was getting dark. Minutes before the power to our bandas would be turned off, one of the women in our group screamed for help. With only sandals to protect his feet, my husband ran a few hundred yards through the long field grasses to their stone hut. Opening the door, a scorpion the size of my hand scurried across the floor in front of him. Surprise being his only defense, he quickly stomped on the venomous creature! Checking around the ladies cabin, he found what they labeled a “hamburger” spider, because of its size. Reassuring them there weren’t anymore… he said goodnight.
I was a nervous wreck as my husband walked back through the chest high grasses and into our banda. A rustling came from the bushes outside our window, interrupting his soothing words. There stood an enormous hippo. Slowly, we moved away from the window and laid quietly in bed. My heart had quit pounding in my throat, when my eyes fixed on an elephant. His trunk appeared in one window. His body mostly hidden behind the door as his tail swished between the bars of the other window. Exhausted with concerns, I became unconscious. Sleep consumed my night.
We woke to a brilliant array of colors painting the early morning sky. Peaking our heads out for the first time since our enormous friends had visited, we stood motionless and wide-eyed. A large chunk from the edge of the roof was gone.
Even in the confines of a stone banda with barred windows, and in a jeep with the protection of an educated guide, there were still risks involved in that trip. However, I know there will always be risks in life. The trick for me is to gauge the fear factor versus the enjoyment and knowledge gained from the experience. Here’s a trinket from this safari experience, that I may find useful when writing children’s stories. Reach for dreams and you just may find, the “bigger” your life the smaller and the less important those sensationalized news stories become.