Monday, August 13, 2012

My Africa moment


On the way over to Tokyo from Manila over the weekend, I was flipping through the inflight entertainment magazine to see if there was an interesting movie to watch. It just so happened that the movie Out of Africa, starring Merryl Streep and Robert Redford, was showing. This happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies, and I've seen it at least five times.

For some reason, it was very apt for the flight on Saturday. I was thinking about my upcoming trip to South Africa in a few months, and this movie -- a story of adventure and truly a story of a never-ending Travelife -- sort of whetted my apetite for Africa even further.

NOT A MOMENT LONGER



I'd decided to finally visit Africa this year, you see, after putting a trip off for so long and for all kinds of reasons, including the need for vaccinations, the long flight and the fact that Africa seemed so far away in every sense of the term. I just couldn't psychologically or emotionally connect with the region in the way that I could find something to love about Europe, Asia or the Middle East.

Then I experienced my Africa moment.

WHEN IT COMES, YOU'LL KNOW IT



I guess many travelers have that sort of a moment in their lives -- a significant couple of valuable minutes wherein they get that feeling that they just have to cross a thresshold of comfort and take on an experience of a lifetime.

My Africa moment occurred last April, while on a trip to Sri Lanka with two friends. I was climbing Sigiriya, heading slowly up the mountain by myself in the late afternoon. I'd let my two companions go on ahead so that I could walk up at leisure and enjoy the scenery on the way up without having to worry about keeping pace with anyone else.

TWO STAGES TO A CLIMB

The climb occurs in two stages: first you have to get to the Lion's Paw section, which is already a climb in itself in the heat, and then from there it's the second leg, which is a steady and breathless climb up some pretty steep steps.



Just before the Lion's Paw section, I'd paused at a landing that sort of jutted out into nowhere. This was high enough to see everything on the horizon but at the same time it was still low enough to appreciate the beauty of the land so that it was not just a blur of watercolor shades but real clumps of greenery.

What an amazing view this was, especially as there were almost no manmade structures visible anywhere, and there were no mountains either. Just forests and plains as far as the eye could see.

OUT OF AFRICA

I said to myself: "This must be what Africa is like. This feeling of being in the middle of as nowhere as I could possibly imagine." And, on that landing on a very hot Sri Lankan afternoon, with the sun setting on the horizon, was exactly when I decided that I would go to Africa. And I would go this year.



Interestingly, I even have a photo of the occasion, taken by my friend D who happened to be standing just one landing above me. Just as I was about to leave this makeshift terrace on the face of the rock and return to the pathway for the climb, he'd called out to me from above and then taken my photo the moment I looked up at him.


I thought he was taking a photo of me with the amazing view as background. But later on, over dinner, he'd said, obviously with that photographer's instinct to capture a priceless albeit rather dangerous moment: "I took your photo because that ledge looked really dangerous. It looked like it would fall off at any moment."

But, yes, right there and then I'd decided on Africa. Not next time, next year or when I get a chance. But this year. And then everything else fell into place like a Travelife usually does. Read about our adventures Out of Africa in Travelife Magazine and on this blog pretty soon.





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