The first quarter of our life is a time of exploration through adventure. When I was twenty-two I traveled to Botswana through the Student Project for Amity among Nations. During my summer in Botswana I hitchhiked with a friend from the capital city of Gaborone to the largest inland delta on the Earth called The Okavango Delta.
We hired a guide to take us out for two nights and three days for 200 Pula. I love that the Tswana people call their currency rain, the English meaning of Pula. James, our mokoro poler, patiently and expertly navigated us through the Okavango in a wooden canoe with a long wooden pole.
At this age, I was inexperienced when it came to basic survival yet I had immense trust! One example of this, is that we had only packed a Sprite, a Coke and an apple for food. While it was fun to act out Coke commercials in a wooden canoe in the middle of the Okavango, delirious from laughter, I don’t remember ever considering going back. Fearlessly, we ventured forward.
The beauty of such trust and flowing fearlessly forward was that we were able to continue our adventure as well as be fed. James caught and cooked the best fish we’d ever tasted. At night, he stoked the fire and kept us safe in our tent. In the morning, he awakened us early and tracked zebra, cape buffalo and elephants for us to see.
On the final day we ventured out on foot early, taking our shoes off to cross wet swampy areas. Eventually, James stopped and pointed, showing us a herd of elephants crossing the swamp in the distance. It was amazing to watch the elephants crossing the Delta.
Suddenly, a loud thrashing and stomping came up on us from behind in the bushes. James took off running! And, we looked back to see a big elephant charging at us through the brush! We took off running too!
There are many experiences from this adventure but this particular one sticks in my being moreso than the others. It is one of those moments that comes up at parties when you have to list things that have really happened to you and trick people into picking the one that didn’t. One thing on my list is always “I’ve been chased by an elephant.”
I realized at a deep level that this elephant being could have easily killed us all. It chose not to. It knew we were there, knew we were watching its relatives, snuck up on us and chased us away.
This realization of compassionate action on the part of an elephant towards me has impacted me greatly.
My Okavango adventures left me with a deeper love of elephants and a stronger connection to my wild self.