I am going to keep this post short; not because I don’t have much to write or anything but because in this post, I want to share the most magical experience I have ever witnessed through my own eyes. Remember how in my first post in the South Africa series (here), I had mentioned how this whole trip had actually come into existence? The magical experience which I had been chasing throughout this entire trip was finally here on the night of my 10-hour long Game Safari (Read here). It was the Night Safari which was next on my schedule. After the 10-hour long game drive during the day, my body was not at all ready to take on another 3-hour ride hiding among the bushes and chasing more wilderness. Luckily, the small massage centre in St. Lucia turned out to be my personal saviour for the day. It was weird to see a massage parlour run by African women being called, ‘Thai Massage Parlour’ but it was really the turning point of my day. I felt fully recharged and ready to chase some more wildernesses in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (commercially known as the Night Safari).
The next thing I remember is that two giant spot lights were handed over to us by the driver and we were driving among the bushes of the park to see some rare animals and hoping to spot the leopards that we had missed during the day safari. It was absolutely dark with no visibility at all. The only source of light were the two spot lights with us and the head light of the car other than which it was so dark that I couldn’t even see the person sitting right next to me. We spotted tons of Hippos (this time out of water) walking about along with Wardogs. At one point, we were chasing a giraffe who ran the moment he saw us but suddenly stopped somewhere in the middle. We soon realized why he had stopped-we were stunned and sort of afraid because we happened to be standing right in the centre of the park with at least 50 giraffe sitting on ground (probably sleeping) but we could only see their heads which happened to be higher than the level of the bushes. He stopped because he was back in his territory and we had probably chased him a little too far. We decided not to disturb their sleep by putting our spot lights on them. We could see the reflection of the moon in their eyes and when we looked at the big picture, there were more than 50 pairs of eyes shining in the moon light; hovering in absolute darkness and… it was a magnificent scene. If someone would have even asked me to even dream of something like this, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.
Throughout the ride, we saw many other animals and to be honest I was little bored as well because I had seen so many magnificent things within a day that anything less than absolutely extraordinary wasn’t going to get me excited again. By the end of the ride, we had still not been able to locate the leopards and so everybody in the car was pretty disappointed but we were too tired to complain and rode back in pin drop silence. While we were driving back out, I asked the driver to stop the car and everyone looked at me as to why I had asked for the car to be stopped in the middle of the park. I asked the driver if we could step out of the car for a second. He instantly understood what I was getting at and nodded with a smile. Everyone was still puzzled and a little frustrated by the conversation between me and the driver. Taking charge of the situation, I thanked everyone for their company and I told them that before we all left the next day, I wanted them to experience that which had made me come all the way there. I asked all of them to look up and nobody dared to look down for the next 15 minutes. The sky was crystal clear, the field was absolutely quiet, there was no moon and we got to see the magical Milky Way through our own eyes. Millions of stars had formed unique shapes in the sky and this was an experience I could only dream of, in the hectic city life. It was magical in every possible meaning of the word. I didn’t bother to take out my camera because I didn’t want to take my eyes off the view and I knew that no photograph in this world could do justice to what I was seeing in right that moment. It’s a memory which I wanted to keep in my heart for the rest of my life.
For about 20 minutes, we just admired the view. The more we looked at it, the more stars could we locate and identify. I took a deep breath and smiled which as I congratulated myself for having finally achieved what I had promised myself more than three years ago. At that that moment, I finally knew what it felt like to having achieved one’s dream. Everybody thanked me for the wonderful experience but at that moment, as all the people thanked me, the only thing I was thinking about was that conversation with my friend three years ago. I looked at my fellow wanderers and was happy to see them smiling, taking pictures and talking to each other. I have witnessed some of the most amazing things in my life but this experience was just out of the league. This was mostly because it was the purest form of nature that any human can possibly get close to; there was nothing fake, commercial nor touristy about it. I have been asked many times about ‘what is the most magical experience of my travels’ and I certainly do know the perfect answer now.
That night, I took out a bottle of red wine and sat outside in the small garden of my B&B. The next morning, I would be going to the Cape Videl beach in St Lucia before heading towards Johannesburg, my last destination in South Africa. Cape Videl was a last minute addition to my plans since it is a place famous for snorking and I didn’t want to miss that opportunity. That night sipping the divine local red wine, I sat down and processed all the memories of last two days from my head into my heart. This trip had gone by so fast that there had been little time to absorb all of it. With St. Lucia, I was halfway through my South Africa trip. I was looking forward to the future but it felt like I had formed a real connection with this place and especially the nature there.
If I had any previous doubts about travel being my first love, that day had cleared it all. Moments like that night made all the trouble and wait totally worth it. This was my first solo trip outside the Europe adventure and I had had my doubts. I knew that at some point, I was likely to feel lonely-a feeling which I wouldn’t like, I was afraid that the loneliness would shatter my motivation for travelling ever again, that it may change the way I looked at travelling but I can assure you that the solo South Africa trip had been one of the best decisions I had made in a long time. It reassured my faith in my abilities and made my heart stronger. I know this world has a lot more to offer which could probably be even more magnificent than all that I have already experienced but as they say, ‘will cross the bridge, when we get there’.