Dreams, Plans, Airports and Hotels - An Essay

Back in July, we had the pleasure of sending Monica and Howard McAllister and six of their friends on a safari to Dubai, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Istanbul. They sent us this story they had written about their safari and we were so excited that we had to share it! The words and photos below belong to the McAllisters and we hope you enjoy their experience!

Dreams, Plans, Airports and Hotels

It started with a dream, a day dream. The type of dream you speak to family and friends about. Then the plans begin. First using Google, then travel agents and before you know it time has elapsed and you are standing in the queue at the airport ready to board the first plane.

Then the hotel experience starts. Each one is different and each one has its own challenging plumbing. It all seems so long ago now.

Howard and I thought our safari days were over. We sat chatting with Cheryl and telling her some of our stories. She was looking forward with stars in her eyes, while we were looking backwards with tears in our eyes at days gone by.

Then she left sunny Queensland for her homeland California and all thoughts of going on safari together were shelved.

Then her Grandmother died, and Africa was resurrected. “When I die and leave you some money, use it to go to Africa” and so the dreams were taken from the shelves and dusted. Those dreams so vague and simple became a truly extraordinary journey.

Plans were discussed with family and friends and a very special travel agent. Everyone added their thoughts and desires and as our itinerary grew so our numbers grew from four to eight. It turned out to be the perfect combination and Jenny turned out to be a truly extraordinary travel agent.

Before we met in Cape Town we all had our own adventures.

Cheryl, Janet, Laura, Pat, Marcia, and Terri explored Dubai in suffocating heat. They wished for cooler weather and their wish was granted when they landed in Cape Town.

Howard missed his connection in Johannesburg because Qantas was late. ‘Safety before schedule’ cost him a lot of time, anxiety and money.

I had my own emotional adventure spending three days with my family in Johannesburg. Everyone came out of the woodwork for our reunion. Some had been there for over fifty years! It was good and no, I did not cry. Well, maybe a little.

Later as I sat in the bush watching the animals bonding with each other, I realised how important it is for family and friends to do that too. Hug, cuddle, hold hands, wink, smile, laugh, cry, just be together to eat and drink together. All these things say ‘I love you’ ‘I like you’ ‘I need you’ ‘I want you to be well and happy.’ We did all those things and it felt very good.

Then it was time to bond with a new group of people – to watch out for each other, laugh, cry, and care and enjoy as we travelled through Cape Town learning history, observing different cultures, watching people walking their dogs on the beach and stroking a cheetah. We even learned more about wine and decided that Pinotage was our favourite. All too soon it was time to say ‘Goodbye’ to the mountain, the painted houses, the seals and penguins and pack our bags for the beginning of our real safari.

What animal would we see first? Can anyone remember? I almost think it was a giraffe. No matter how many giraffe we saw, and we saw many, we never tired of looking at them. So graceful, so quiet, so tall and stationary as they stared back at us we stared in awe at them. They lose all their gracefulness as they carefully approach the river bank and one by one spread their long legs and lower their long necks to drink. They look so awkward and they feel so vulnerable to predators. We are totally fascinated as we click, click, click their every movement.

Impala as beautiful as they are, are also bountiful. We eventually drive right past as they are mostly boring. They don’t do cute things like baboons and elephants. All they do all day long is graze. They are called the McDonalds of the bush. They are fast food for predators, they are everywhere and they have a distinctive marking on their rump which looks very much like an arch.

Baboons, oh how we loved watching them, they are so much like us, it’s hard not to love them. We watched babies falling out of trees as they played chasey and women squabbling and promptly being reprimanded by the alpha male. It was like watching a comedy and we all laughed out loud.

Elephants galore, how delightful they were. We watched as they drank and frolicked in the river. Mammas and Aunties then gave babies a trunk up as they struggled to climb up the bank from the river. Close encounters with elephants were wonderful. A youngster came close and sniffed us as his mother allowed him to satisfy his curiosity.

Another time a mother brought her baby for a close up photo shoot and Cheryl and Janet sacrificed their lunch for front row seats as they enjoyed each other’s company. Meanwhile the rest of the herd scared us by coming too close to the pathway and one brave young bull decided to frighten us by doing a mock charge. Howard was not afraid. He said he could tell that it was only toying with us but my heart started beating faster and I was tempted to run. Howard held my hand tighter and softly said “keep walking.”

Elephant Whispers was also a very close encounter with five very special elephants. When I first saw these giant creatures walking towards me I decided I was not going on the elephant ride. No way, not me. I was going to sit in café and have a cup of tea while everyone else went for a ride. But once I had brushed him, touched him, ran my hand across his eyes and felt his eye lashed – Yes I was smitten and when it came time to climb aboard, I was ready and willing. What awesome creatures they are.

I run out of words to write about the sleeping, eating, hunting lions we saw. The mamma leopard with her cub who had just finished his impala breakfast before he impressed us with his playful antics. Mamma leopard sat majestically being photographed and keeping a watchful eye on her cub as he went exploring the world he will one day have to exist in on his own.

Were we glad or sad when another leopard chased and missed the squealing antelope that was running for his life? Probably a bit of both – though I’m sure the leopard was sad and the antelope was very glad.

Knowing how endangered Rhino are made our close encounters with both adults and babies very special. Shh! It’s our secret, but we did see them and we also saw evidence of the huge effort being made to keep them safe.

The sunsets, oh the sunsets…there is nothing to compare with an African sunset cruise. We watched as the water changed all shades of red and orange as it was reflected in the ripples made by the motor. Hundreds of egrets came to roost in the bulrushes as we sat and enjoyed our sundowners.

At Victoria Falls we sat on the shore of the Zambezi River, sometimes in quiet reflection, thinking of friends and loved ones, sometimes joking and laughing and bonding as friends do who have experienced so much beauty together.

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Kim Green