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My Stay in South Africa

My Stay in South Africa

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Published by T.J. White
A short memoir of the author's year-and-a-half stay and travels in South Africa in 1984 and 1985.
A short memoir of the author's year-and-a-half stay and travels in South Africa in 1984 and 1985.

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Published by: T.J. White on Feb 21, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Terrence White/ENG191/Ms.Smith-
Muhammad/”Narrative Essay”/5
-26-08 White 1
“How Living in Africa Changed My Life”
 Between March 1984 and July 1985, I was privileged to live and work in the Republic of South Africa. My purpose for being there was missionary work, and although I didindeed engage in a great deal of that type of labour, I feel that I gained more from myexperience of living there in
ways than would be apparent, were I to mention onlythat one activity. My brief time in South Africa was one of the two most profoundly life-changing experiences for me in all my life. I hope I can show how and why this was thecase.Although in most respects South Africa is just as modern a country as the United Statesor Europe, with all the industries, factories, gold and diamond mines, suburbs, cities,towns, shopping malls, interstate highways, railways, airports, and other amenities (andheadaches) which modern civilized society offers, and although I there met manywonderful and selfless people, who (unasked) helped me in many ways, it was not somuch these aspects that proved to be significantly life-changing for me. Rather, it was my
several excursions into the wild “bushveld” (or wilderness) that proved to impact me the
most.Africa is arguably one of the most ancient, primitive and starkly beautiful landscapes onearth, and South Africa in particular does indeed have many wilderness parks and gamepreserves in which to observe much of that natural beauty
some of them quite large.Together with two friends, I visited several of the bigger game preserves--includingSouth Africa's famous
Kruger National Park 
, and the privately-owned
Timbavati GamePreserve
next to it. I will describe these two momentarily. First, I want to mention
 Mountain Sanctuary Park 
, which was one of the grandest and most beautiful of thewilderness parks I saw. This place even has a website, athttp://www.mountain-sanctuary.co.za/  . I would recommend looking into their site, as it contains manybeautiful and representative photographs of the place.We were lucky enough to visit
 Mountain Sanctuary Park 
on two separate occasions. Thispark has a lengthy mountain ridge which runs through most of it--part of the vast
mountain range, which stretches on literally for miles and miles. On theside of this mountain there were no trees of any significance, scattered troops of baboonswhich dined on small citrus-type fruits, and herds of tiny deer-like gazelles, and themountain ridge was cut by numerous ravines, gorges, and gullies--some of which werequite large and hundreds of meters deep.On both occasions, starting early in the morning, before the sun had become too hot, myfriends and I slowly hiked up to the top of the mountain ridge, where the ruins of a fortfrom the Anglo-Boer War still sat on the edge of a cliff. There had been an importantbattle during that war not far from here, we were told. Here, the mountain-ridge droppedaway to the vast valley below, providing a spectacular view for a distance of many miles.While we were sitting on the top of that mountain-ridge, perched on the ruins of that fort,the wind coming up from the valley below was furious, and, despite the otherwise hot
Terrence White/ENG191/Ms.Smith-
Muhammad/”Narrative Essay”/5
-26-08 White 2day, it kept us considerably cooled off for a good while. It was a refreshing change fromthe hot, thirsty trek up the mountainside, and one we were loath to leave behind us.Eventually, we slowly clambered back down the mountainside, and at one point cameupon one of those many gorges that cut through the ridge. From the top, it looked far toodeep to climb down into, but my friend Abe (a native of the place) insisted there wasindeed a way down into it. So we followed him, and eventually, we were in fact at thebottom of the ravine.Here, a completely different world existed. The top of the ravine (the side of themountain) was barren, dry, and wind-swept; here, all was tree-shaded, dripping withsmall waterfalls and mosses hanging down the sides of the cliffs, every now and then araging torrent of a small river, or small series of waterfalls, giant tree ferns everywheregrowing in the green gloom of the semi-tropical forest canopy, and huge boulderseverywhere littering the floor of the canyons. I tried to imagine what it must have beenlike when those boulders had dislodged themselves from the cliff tops, and come crashingdown to the canyon floor, and was glad I was never there to witness the event! Thislandscape was so wild, primitive, and ancient, and on so unimaginably vast a scale, that Ihonestly kept expecting to look up and see dinosaurs lumbering past. It was a magicalland of gods and giants, and there I was, a solitary pygmy, picking my way like a smallant over the giant boulders and down the cascading waterfalls. I was small enough to bestamped out forever if even one of those boulders had decided to come crashing downagain!At one point, while traversing the canyon floor, we came upon a huge boulder,completely blocking our path. It was easily the biggest one we had seen yet, and wasalmost the size of a small house. There was nothing but smooth cliff-walls on either sideof it. It was indeed possible to climb up the near side of the boulder, but once we haddone so, we discovered that the only way to proceed past it (or so we thought) was to jump straight down about twenty meters (about 30-40 feet) into a deep, black pool of crystal-clear water! Our friend Abe laughingly told us that this particular pool (and jumping point) was called "Help Help," and we could easily see why!After letting us worry about our predicament for a few minutes, Abe then told us(laughingly, again) that there was, in fact, a way
the dreaded pool and jump. Thisother way involved tip-toeing on a tiny ledge along the cliff-wall, literally hugging thecliff-wall itself, as one slowly stepped past the boulder and deep pool, one tiny, fearfulstep at a time (and about 30 feet above the pool). If one of us had sneezed, we probablywould have fallen down into the pool below. I assure you, that ledge we were walkingalong was only about four inches wide, and there was very little in the way of rock edgesto grasp, so as to keep from falling backward. It was harrowing.We were never so relieved as when we finally had made it down past the boulder andpool, and were finally able to relax, take our shoes and socks off, and wade into theshallow end of the deep pool. And boy, was that water ever
, even in the hot AfricanSummer! I was very glad then that we hadn't attempted the jump into the pool after all.
Terrence White/ENG191/Ms.Smith-
Muhammad/”Narrative Essay”/5
-26-08 White 3I did indeed see a lot of wildlife. But Africa is not quite the place that most Americansexpect from watching
 National Geographic
. Wildlife does indeed exist there in greatnumbers, but it does so only in the larger game preserves, and one often has to travelgreat distances to see
. Elsewhere in the country are only endless fields, farmland,suburbs, gold and diamond mines, many small towns and occasionally larger cities.
Timbavati Game Preserve
, which I mentioned earlier, is where, a few years ago, a minorstrain of naturally "white" lions (previously only legendary) made their appearance (seethe websitehttp://www.responsibletravel.com/Copy/Copy101740.htm), and the Kruger National Park is the largest game preserve in South Africa (and one of the largest in theworld). There are several websites mentioning the
Kruger National Park.
Kruger National Park 
is so big that you can literally drive around in it all day longand never see a single sign of human life (other than the dirt track in front of you andbehind you). It is about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island together. It was likebeing trapped in an episode of 
 Discovery Channel
, or
 National Geographic
. I saw plentyof gazelle, giraffe, wildebeest, hippos, lions, elephants, zebras, antelope and springbuck,plus baboons, tree monkeys, wild dogs, hyenas, etc.That huge diversity of God's creatures there, plus the deafening silence constantlysurrounding us, and the incredible sense of desolate isolation, left me overwhelmed withemotion, and thinking that I had at last found the fabled "Garden of Eden" itself. Such asense of peace and tranquility exists out there! I honestly did not want to return to theStates--to my own
, and family! What sort of experience is it that can produce aneffect like that?That sensation of 
utter and profound isolation
is what so significantly changed my life. Iwas only there in that game park for one day, but that
day, and the raw experiences itcontained, was sufficient to forever alter the course of my life and my thinking.You who have always lived in a house, in a city or suburb, and have never spent morethan an hour or two literally a hundred miles from the nearest other human beings (oreven
sign of human life
), have
no idea
how overwhelming it can be, to experienceisolation like that. Persons shipwrecked on a desert island, like Robinson Crusoe, lonelyexplorers in the vast Sahara, or perhaps scientists in Antarctica, or oil-drillers in Siberia,will have had such an experience; but not many people normally have experiences likethat. This is why, when they do occur, they are life-changing experiences.I grasp at words, trying to describe what is was like for me, standing there that day on thehot, dusty African plain, with nothing for literally a hundred miles around, except my twofriends, one automobile, one dry, dusty dirt road, and endless miles of grass, bushes,scattered thorn-trees, occasional wild animals, and endless blue sky and puffy whiteclouds. I struggle, and cannot seem to find the right words to convey just how awesomean experience it was, and how reverently and profoundly moved by it I was. Suchoverwhelming peace, and tranquility! One could literally sit there all day long, and never

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