Last virtual wander through the Okavango Delta and surrounds.
Today I am thinking of magical wildlife moments. I got to experience so many during my years there. I still have to pinch myself this time really happened.
There’s the time I had to sleep on the pool lounger as a family of hippo were grazing all round my little housie that night.
Or the 5am deep breath and tiptoe past three sleeping bull elephant (all round the house) to make sure I got to the main area of camp to get ready for guest arrival.
Then there’s a moment with a young she leopard making her way across our island in the Delta. It was twilight and there she was sat on the path ahead of me. Too close before I realised she was there. But she paused before moving off, just long enough for us to acknowledge each other.
Then there’s the time our resident bull elephant stuck his whole head through the office door to get at a couple of marula fruit that had found their way onto the floor inside. Yes, I was in this little camp office at the time.
A lone spotted hyena would make the rounds with me most evenings on lock up after guests had retired for the night…. trotting along after me along the boardwalks…. not too close…. after the first few times of feeling insecure, I actually found him quite companionable.
The Pel’s Fishing Owl family nesting in the tree above my house.
The big python who lived under my house. I never had a rodent problem.
And many more…. that’s breathtaking Botswana! Best place to experience real, wild Africa (just my opinion).
But this kind of magic has a life span. Too much of a good thing and all that… still, I am left with incredible memories and oodles of gratitude for this chapter in my story.
In the wise words of Prime Circle from their song Breathing…
“Here’s to the good times The bad times The times that could have been To the wrong times The right times I know we’ll breathe again…”
Another set of pics remembering my time in beautiful Botswana.
Today I am thinking about the Botswana rhythm. There is a wonderful rhythm to the seasons and natural cycles. The flooding then drying of the Okavango Delta. The migration of the zebra and the elephant.
A time for marula trees to bear fruit which brings the elephants.
September is amazing…. a deep breath before the rains arrive. Unexpected flowers bloom. Babies abound – impala, lechwe, zebra.
January is prickly hot. But some afternoons turn black on the horizon and then the lightening and thunder and rain arrive. The cuckoos and Woodland Kingfisher call continuously. A good time to venture into the reeds in a mokoro hoping for a glimpse of the elusive sitatunga. At Xigera Lagoon the African Skimmers are nesting.
The people of Botswana have a rhythm too. A time to plant. A time to harvest. A time to move the cattle. A time to gather from the wild.
There is a beautiful kinship that weaves the Ba-Tswana together as a people but also connects them to this land. It was so easy to fall into this rhythm and be mesmerised by its beat.
So day 25 of this virtual wander down my travel memory lane.
From tomorrow, for the last 5 days of these wanderings I will be tackling the “big shaping” journeys of my life so far.
In light of that, I thought today would be a good opportunity to pause. Returning back to NZ for a retreat “travels with mom” reminisce. We stayed in the Valley Hut at Kōmanawa. A pure space if ever there was one.
Today these pics have helped me soak up that retreat “atmosphere” once again. In these last days of lockdown here in New Zealand and with it being Anzac Day too, there is much time for reflection.
Time for this quiet revolutionary to take stock, re-evaluate and keep dreaming. I still believe in magic…. the magic that makes hope float up.
That’s what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.
“Hope Floats” (1998) – Sandra Bullock as Birdee Pruitt
Longing to experience the real, authentic Mama Africa in all her grit and glory? Love a good road trip? What about great banter around a campfire, sipping a gin and tonic, pausing every now and then to listen to the soundscape that only a night under the African sky can bring? How about magical sunrises and sunsets? Or an impromptu coffee stop in the middle of somewhere intrepid? Want your African experience to include some boots on the ground time for wildlife conservation and community empowerment?
Then you need to meet my gorgeous friend, Carla Geyser. Her Journeys with Purpose are all of the above and then some!
I first came across Carla’s story in 2016 when she embarked on her epic Elephant Ignite Expedition – travelling 16 000km across 10 countries. Carla and her team visited 37 conservation organisations, engaging with communities along the way and distributing 20 000 educational booklets. The idea for this expedition was sparked by the plight of elephants across Africa – their plummeting numbers due to poaching and human wildlife conflict.
Then in 2018 I followed Carla’s next adventure, The Rise of the Matriarch, on social media. This time an international all women crew set out with Carla for a 50 day, 11 000km journey through 4 countries. This expedition raised global awareness for the plight of African wildlife, raising funds for conservation groups and empowering local youth, especially girls.
I still have the diary from that time and scribbled in a
margin is “Blue Sky Society Trust – next time”.
In May of this year I got to meet Carla in person. She picked me to be part of her crew for a
2019 Journey with Purpose. I have
recorded this incredible adventure in previous posts:
Carla is a great expedition leader – the perfect blend of happy-go-lucky and down to earth pragmatism. She knows Africa well and understands how to travel wisely. Able to go with the flow while at the same time being uber prepared for every eventuality – a real skill in this environment!
I love Carla’s attitude to life which is incorporated into
the name of her not-for-profit – The Blue Sky Society. Read here how the name came about. She is a kindred spirit… we share a passion
for Mama Africa, our birthplace. Yet
Carla’s personality is such that anyone from anywhere could not help but enjoy
her company and be swept away in her enthusiasm for life and her work.
I consider it one of the greatest experiences of my life, that May Journey with Purpose. I also consider it an honour and privilege to have shared the road with Carla Geyser and her fabulous landy, Dora. And I cannot wait to go again and be a part of another Blue Sky Society Journey with Purpose!
Carla is an ordinary woman just like me. But her big dreams, her belief in the infinite possibilities of life and her “just do it” attitude make her voice extraordinary….
Four incredible Journeys with Purpose are planned for 2020 (click on the links to find out more):
Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday – 18 July. I chose today to share the story of this incredible woman, Di Wilkinson, because she has chosen to commemorate his birthday in her own amazing way.
I stumbled upon Di Wilkinson’s story on social media.
Hoedspruit, South Africa holds a special place in my heart. I spent many happy school holidays in that
area as a kid. The Drakensberg
Escarpment provides a dramatic backdrop to the mixed bushveld plains that
stretch eastwards. The scenic Blyde
River winds its way through the area bringing the waters from the escarpment
down to these lowlands. Interesting rock
formations abound. This unique mix of
habitats supports a wide variety of flora and fauna. It is a place of orchards – citrus, mango and
macadamia. It is also a place of game
reserves and over the years has become a hub for conservation research and wildlife
rehabilitation. There are a number of
wildlife rehabilitation centres and orphanages in this area. I follow one of them, the Hoedspruit
Endangered Species Centre, on social media.
And this brings me back to Di Wilkinson of The Platter Project.
She is a wonderfully talented artist who produces these
beautiful drawings. Most are inspired by
the wildlife of Southern Africa but as I mentioned at the start, she is
currently sharing a special print with a portrait of the great Madiba.
She “sells” these beautiful pieces – started on platters and is now mostly A3 prints. All the money you pay for her art goes to charity. Specifically charities focused on wildlife conservation, like the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, and organ donation. A strange combination of causes to support, perhaps, but there is more to her story.
In June 2013 Di was diagnosed with kidney disease. Serious kidney disease requiring dialysis
five hours a day, three days a week.
Miraculously, in May 2018 she found a compatible donor and underwent a
life-saving kidney transplant.
To think of all she has gone through during this time but not she has not given up on life, on her family, on her creativity, on her passion, on community. In fact to still have that generosity of spirit that shares her talent with the world and using it to support lives outside of her own…. Di is a truly an extraordinary woman!
And there will be more to her story too. She will be a partner, a mother, a daughter,
maybe a sister, a friend – all those things that make us who we are. But I suspect if we asked her she would
simply say she was an ordinary woman just trying her ordinary best in space she
I find her creativity spectacular. I find her resilience inspiring. I find her care and generosity moving. I find her “voice” extraordinary.
Be well, Di Wilkinson 💚
Check out her beautiful work on Facebook – The Platter Project or
on Instagram @theplatterproject.
In 2007 I spent a year in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
as a SANParks People and Conservation volunteer intern based at Twee Riveiren.
It’s difficult to put the isolation of this spectacular place in words but the experience of living in the Kalahari has been one of the most profound of my life. My time in the Kalahari inspired the name of this blog – Pure Spaces. Spaces/places have such significance for me. The way they make me feel, the energy they give affects me emotionally and often spiritually. The space that is the Kalahari would definitely fall in the spiritual category. And my name means “pure”. So there you go…
What you quickly learn in a place like this is how important
your small community is, you rely on each other for support, for
companionship. You have to get along
because you don’t have a choice. In my
case the small community within the slightly bigger Park community were the
residents of Blikkiesdorp (Tin Can Town).
Our lodgings being converted shipping containers. Let’s pause for a moment to let that fact
settle – a shipping container room in the Kalahari Desert!
So Blikkiesdorp, our little area of the staff accommodation of Twee Rivieren rest camp, was home to me, the intern, and two students studying Nature Conservation from Tshwane University. Occasionally the field guides would visit for a braai. But mostly it was just the three of us. A resident cheetah researcher and his wife adopted me as did the border policeman and his wife which meant a welcome break from Blikkies for a yummy meal or even the luxury of watching a little television.
Don’t get me wrong though, I grew very fond of Blikkies as the year progressed and it brought out some very creative “decorating” in me.
Here is where I need to introduce Kerryn, one of those students I mentioned earlier. A petite, feisty girl absolutely passionate about wildlife conservation. Kerryn and I clicked almost immediately. I say almost because she admits based on meeting my predecessor, she was determined NOT to like me. But it seems our common love of the band Smashing Pumpkins broke the ice! There is a good 10 year age gap between us, but I quickly began to admire her, particularly her determination to succeed in a (still to this day sadly) male dominated field of work. I am thrilled to say that we remain very close friends today even with the many miles that separate us.
It started with Kerryn, this kernel of an idea. By the time I had spent time getting to know
Margie, the researcher’s wife, and Isabel, the policeman’s wife, as well women of
the Khomani San community, I was overwhelmed by these extraordinary women I was
meeting and the stories I was hearing.
None of them would describe themselves as extraordinary. Most of their “voices” weren’t the voices of
activists or feminists. They were just
ordinary women blooming where they were planted – creating, nurturing,
learning, growing, caring, loving in that very unique way women do.
I have to share these “voices”, I thought. Their stories deserve a place in the sun. So here I am all these years later beginning
this journey… I finally seem to have found my courage, to have found my
voice. This is the introduction to what
I hope will be a series of posts over the coming months – the extraordinary
voices of ordinary women.