Friday, October 15, 2010

Another tough day in Africa

In times of late there has been an increased interest from international eco-tourists to participate in primitive experiences which are conducted in large natural areas within southern Africa. Yes, it is very different from the traditional luxury safari lodge experience, so far removed in fact, that guests are willing to carry their own food and tents as they sleep out in the wild for days on end. By doing so, individuals consciously aspire to be part of an ecosystem once again.

I have been fortunate enough to conduct these experiences over the past couple of years and enjoy each outing just as much as the guests that participate in this unique product. The difference, however is that I  get to observe how guests react to situations they have never encountered before. As an example, imagine having to dig for drinking water in a dry riverbed and then ration this precious resource for the rest of the day, as opposed to just opening your tap at home every time you wish to drink.

As most African midday hours are rather hot, the group would generally seek out a shady spot for a siesta to kill time before exploring the surroundings in the cooler hours of the late afternoon. One observation I have made is that most guests really struggle with the concept of doing nothing for an extended period of time. Understandably so, we are all groomed to conform to western culture and meet constant deadlines and appointments, be it at work; social interactions or even being on holiday. Yes, even holiday. When is the last time you heard of somebody on holiday without an itinerary or travel schedule?
It seems that there is often a sense of unproductiveness that frustrates many trailists over the siesta period. However, to be perfectly honest, the frustrations are generally substituted by complete relaxation by day three.

I also conducted a little experiment recently. On the last day of a recent trail, I returned to the site where we had camped during our first night. A couple of minutes after arrival, all the guests had erected their tents. It is a fairly standard procedure; however it was interesting to note that they had all used the exact same location in which they were camping during the first night.
Later on that evening, while sitting around a cozy camp fire, the guests were using the exact same seats and seating arrangements as they had used during the first night. This proved, once again, that we are creatures of habit and that we all find comfort in our little private routines, although we sometimes don’t like to admit it.

These are potentially two of the many ingredients that makes Africa such an addictive destination to western urbanites. Unquestionably there is a slight and immediate uneasiness when they are confronted with an exponential amount of free time and a fracture of routine in Africa, but it always seems to develop into a unique and fulfilling experience that produces much happiness and many happy returns.

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