I Dreamed of Africa - Is 2013 the Year?

June 29, 2017

Originally posted Dec 27, 2012

AfricaAfrica Way, way back in the mid-sixties, I was privileged as a mere child (tsk-tsk) to hunt on the Nebraska team in the annual Broken Bow One Box Pheasant Hunt. It was the first year that the Mercury astronauts, led by Wally Shirra, participated, and it was a big deal. A very big deal.

Ultimately, Nebraska did not win the hunt...Illinois beat us by one bird...but I've never forgotten it. Ole Herstedt, the founder of Ole's Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, in Paxton, Nebraska...shot on the Nebraska Team that year, and a photo of our team (including a very young Ron and a very young Pat I, probably the best of the three English Springer Spaniels I've owned over a lifetime) still hangs on the wall at Ole's, if you know where to look for it. Ole was a guy who showed himself a pretty good time (I love the pictures of the antelope hunt out of his fifties-era Mercury convertible) and by that point in time had already been to Africa and Alaska at least once. I'd read The Honey Badger by Robert Ruark and in doing so was totally captivated by the portion of the novel that details in fiction one of Ruark's own Kenyan safaris.

Also, about that time, I remember seeing a black and white television travel ad for Africa listing all the people - Teddy Roosevelt, a future King of England, Ernest Hemingway, Bill Holden, Robert Kennedy, etc., etc. - who "had to see it" and concluded by asking, "Isn't it time you saw it?" Throughout my adult life, I've never failed to answer that question to myself in the affirmative.

At the One Box, I quizzed Ole, who wasn't exceptionally friendly to me, on his African trip and told him that I wanted to see it "before it's too late."

"Kid,” he replied, “it's already too late."

Maybe so, but I've never stopped wanting to see it.

Yeah, I know, the Africa of today is hardly the one where Ruark, Ernie, and Ole took their extended trips in the bush. I know that many if not most of the animals are now to be found in game parks, frequently surrounded by a gaggle of Land Rovers or pop-top vans full of tourists clicking way with their point-and-shoots, stopping at a village on the way back to camp to witness a native dance and pick up a few souvenirs. I know that parts of the continent are such violent and failed states that you dare not go there, and that Kenya itself, the traditional heart of safari county, is sufficiently risky that it probably will manage to steer me to safari* in South Africa. But damn it; it's still Africa. It's still a sub-equatorial environment that is absolutely nothing like what we know here. It's still a wildlife repository rich with animals I've never seen, and never will see anywhere on this continent outside of a zoo, and I've still got to see it. Or not.

I'm fortunate - blessed, really - in so many ways. Cindy, the kids, my job and the people I work with, and yes, my many toys and wheeled goods, and also in that I've gotten to be this somewhat advanced age and remain in pretty good condition overall. Oh, I may have a little problem here and there...some incipient arthritis, a couple of minor annoyances that we won't get into here, and I suspect a bit of my hearing has gone south from all that time spent flying little airplanes and shooting money out of the end of a gun barrel...but overall, I'm still pretty spry, considering. But it increasingly occurs to me that this situation can't last forever, and even modern Africa is not an undemanding destination. Hey, you fly for over 24 hours just to get there, and they've got all kinds of assaults on the human system that we've never even heard of out here in the middle of the land of the free and the home of the brave. You're up before the birds every day on safari, to get out there and see the animals before, being wiser than humans, they lay up somewhere cool for the day.

Given all of this, over the past half-year or so, I've kind of come to the conclusion that the time for Africa is now...or never. Like Karen Blixen in Out of Africa, I may never be anything more than a "mental traveler" when it comes to the Dark Continent, and if it works out that way, it's okay and I'll nevertheless have a lot of wonderful real travels to relive in my dotage, if of course I can remember them.

So, as 2012 comes to a close, along with our traditional years-end life inventory, Cindy and I will be taking a long look at whether 2013 is the year to stop dreaming of Africa and get on an airplane. It's not a small decision nor a small undertaking, and as I write this, I wouldn't guess what that decision will be.

Stay tuned to find out, and if you have Africa thoughts of your own, feel free to send them along to me at the contact information on this site.

Happy 2013 everyone!

NOTE: "Safari" as used here refers solely to a photo safari - no shooting with anything other than a Nikon. Call it "catch and release" for mammals.


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