If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that South Africa left a very strong impression on me. This is the very last story…
On our way out of Kruger National Park, we spotted a lioness napping alone beneath a bush. We rolled down the window and shut the engine. We watched her while she slept, sprawled on her side and panting in the heat. She looked up occasionally at the sound of a passing car before settling back to sleep. We were close enough to see the faded spotted pattern on her legs.
I don’t remember falling asleep, but when I woke up, Rob was asleep too. The car had warmed up quickly, and I woke up warm and disoriented. The lioness was awake. She looked at us from her bed beneath the bush as if to say, I know you’re there, but we never felt threatened. As we started the engine and drove away, we couldn’t believe we’d actually napped beside a lioness.
When we left the park, a male lion and his mate wandered along the side of the highway, searching for a shady spot. He was a young male and had only the beginnings of a scruffy mane. It was in that moment that I realized we’d never really leave the park.
We’d never really leave all of the things we’d learned and seen. In the span of only a week, we’d followed elephant tracks through the bush, watched an eagle carry a snake as it flew. We’d driven back to the same spot everyday to watch a rock python curled in a tree and followed circling vultures to kills. We’d slept beneath a cover of unfamiliar stars, the Scorpio constellation staring down at us beside a red, hazy Mars and an exceptionally bright Venus. We’d driven past cold, gray coal factories outside of Johannesburg and watched the sun set and rise in unimaginable shades of red. Going home would be a welcomed thing, but it wasn’t easy.
We spent our last two nights in a treehouse where we were able to roll our bed outside beneath the stars. Ours was the only light to be seen for miles and when we shut it, we were alone in the wilderness. It was the first night in a week without camp fires and the muffled sounds of people talking in the distance, or the roar of the Crocodile River in the background. It was still and quiet and the perfect way to collect our thoughts before leaving.
We spent our last day writing down the things we didn’t want to forget, and it’s been an honor to share them with you. Our trip inspired a novel that I’m very excited to begin, one that I hope will continue exploring Africa a little closer to home.