With suitcases packed we began a trip of a lifetime. A flight from Seattle where we fly over the Rocky Mountains, the mid-west, all the way to the East coast and then catch another flight to take us across the Atlantic. We sail above the beautiful Sahara desert before landing in a beautiful and lush green country, Ethiopia. A quick stay we continue our journey south and look down onto Nairobi on our way. Before I can catch myself, tears well in my eyes just before we land in Moshi, Tanzania.
A trip that was fulfilling a lifelong dream, I finally step foot onto the continent of Africa. As we make our way off the tarmac I look at the sky and gasp, the clouds contain traces of the red soil and somehow cover the earth with a beautiful pink haze. The lush forest we had seen in Ethiopia has changed into the rocky desert I had expected to see and the air was thick and humid; it also tasted a bit of the African sand. I didn’t mind though, I wanted it to coat my face and body, I wanted it to seep into every pour it could find.
We spend a few hours acquainting ourselves with our lodging by going to meetings and enjoying some local beer before he fulfills a dream of his and I continued one of mine. For eight days we were separated while he hikes Mount Kilimanjaro with his dad and fellow friends, and I spent time enjoying the culture of Zanzibar.
For eight days he labours and put one foot in front of the other every single day. With the lack of oxygen he expected to struggle but the festivities at night’s end had him rested and ready to fulfill his desire to conquer the mountain to see the sun rise over the African plains.
While he hiked the mountain I wandered around Zanzibar with his mom. When we first entered the city I was hit with the thickest air I have ever experienced, but the smell of rich bold spices and home-cooked dishes enticed me to explore the city and all it had to offer. I desired to experience everything: the dark burka clothing along with the contrasting colourful garments wrapped around each woman, how small girls carry buckets on their heads and then the next girl would swiftly walk down the narrow streets with beautiful silk scarfs trailing behind her. While I soaked in all of these moments, my heart pulled towards the sounds of children. Their laughter, their small voices in conversation and singing, and their mismatched clothing covered in dust and spices. While we were on a roof terrace over looking the city I was told there was an orphanage near by. It took everything I had not drop everything I was doing and run towards it. I knew I needed to prepare myself for what could possibly be there. In the end, there was no need, it was abandoned and it broke me anyway.
We spent three days exploring the city on the island before a driver took us a few minutes up the road where I relaxed into a time of pampering, reading and reflection. The seaside resort swirled with humid thick air combined with the saltiness of the ocean that wafted up to the pyramid-thatched roof of the tree fort where I lazily spent my days. I sip on fresh mango juice and indulge on local Zanzibar pizza and rice mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin while watching the ocean sweep against the beach below me. I feel like I can never get enough of the flavours of the country and the beauty of the African sunset. Even though I pass the time peacefully my heart becomes restless being away from him. As I take one long walk along the sandy beach and watch the clouds from the tropical rains roll away, I look forward to my flight back to be reunited with him.
Together, and with his parents, we climb into a dark green jeep and bump along old gravel roads as we head into the desert; into the wild. We encounter a beautiful barren landscape where it feels like sometimes we have been sent to the moon instead of continuing our journey on Earth, but then we come upon paradise. The oasis is full of gorgeous lush greenery, aqua blue lakes, and exotic wild animals finding refuge. We travel for five days through Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater and national park, and then Tarangire. We encounter so many animals that at first we’re gasping and stopping at anything that moves. And then eventually we stop and enjoy, linger as long as we want, over the animals that we truly want to see. So many elephants and lions that we keep our eyes peeled for leopards, rhinos, and buffalo so we can see the big five and happily smile each time we see one. We watch predators stalk their prey, mothers tend to their babes, and adult males fight just for the sake of fighting. We meet traditional Maasai tribes and find them loving, unbelievably friendly, and full of laughter – something that we didn’t consider being apart of a nomad lifestyle.
Each night as the sun goes down we head to our lodging and excitably discuss our favourite moments of the day. “When we could almost touch the elephant if we wanted to” or “when the leopard was directly beside us and we were the only ones there” or “how about when the lioness chased the herd of zebras and wildebeest!”
As our time in Africa came to a close I started to package up everything I possibly could into my memory. When we stepped onto the plane to make our 40 hour journey home I felt that the red soil had gone further than my pours and had mixed with blood. And when I reflected on that precious moment when we came across an orphanage to donate school supplies to, on the last evening on our safari, my heart expanded and collapsed both at the same time. A little boy with big dark brown eyes full of curiosity slipped his soft delicate hand into mine, and as he lead me around showing off his home he held his other hand in Adam’s. I realized that I had been born for that exact moment. Out of everything that I have ever done and experienced in my life, having his hand in mine was the most life changing experience.
It truly was, a trip of a lifetime.