Terror struck me as I picked up my rental car from the Cape Town airport. Whoever’s dumb idea it was to put the turn signal on the opposite side of the steering wheel meant that I had one really clean windshield as I quickly locked my doors, hugged the left side of the road, and prayed I wouldn’t be robed blind at the first stoplight I came to in this foreign land. Africa was unknown territory to me, and all the books I read and the horror stories people were feeding me worked me up. Evidently, I needed a couple of days to relax into Cape Town.
I’m still processing my month-long experience at the bottom of the African continent and hoping for a quick return to dive into the country again soon (hopefully this November), but until then, I won’t pretend to have any profound statements on the state of a nation recovering from a recent and brutal history of Apartheid. In many ways, I know South African history isn’t all that far off from our own segregated past (present) here in the US, but there was a penetrating inequality there and at times I didn’t know how to navigate around it except with my naïve, go-to modus operandi of kindness and smiles.
I spent 10 days with my guests in some of the finest, first-class properties imaginable while enjoying/guiding incredibly privileged activities—hiking/road biking on the jaw-dropping coast, mountain biking alongside giraffes, gazing at lion cubs and staring into the eyes of elephants from the safety of the Land Rover and drinking ‘sun-downer’ G&T’s as the light faded on the savannah. At the end of my work stretch, I rented a car for a week, kidnapped my South African, dive master friend, Kyle, and took a road trip through wine country and along the Garden Route coast. Looking back now, and revisiting my pictures and memories, it was probably the most powerful months of travel in the life, all the while being one of the most confusing and distressing.
I thought South Africa would eat me alive, but really it just strengthened my love of humanity as cheesy as that may sound. Mark Twain articulately sums it up:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
My co-worker and good friend, Travis Steffens, is an extremely talented photographer and the following are a couple of his amazing images from our trip together. Travis recently started a non-profit, Planet Madagascar, conserving the remarkable biodiversity in Madagascar while focusing on development projects with local communities and working super hard to protect the endangered and oh-so-huggable Lemur. They’re in the midst of a fund-raising campaign, and I encourage you to donate to this very worthy cause if you find some extra change rattling around in your pocket.