Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The View from a Camel

I initially wanted to go to Africa to see the wildlife. When I finally went in March of 2007, another reason came into play that I didn’t anticipate. I wanted to prove to the doctors (and to myself) that I could – despite having surgery to remove a tumour on my lung a month before.

I don’t typically think of camels when I think of Tanzania, but I had read about a 1-day camel safari at the base of Mt. Meru and decided it was something that I didn’t want to miss. I’m not sure that it was my travelling companion, Jennifer’s first choice of how to spend a day in Tanzania, but she’s pretty much up for anything so I didn’t have to twist her arm to join me.

The first part of the day was uneventful, with our Masaii warrior guides leading our camels across the Mkuru Plains towards an enormous but dry gorge where we stopped for lunch. Before heading back, the weather changed quickly and we found ourselves unexpectedly in the middle of a flash flood with very limited shelter. We had no option but to start the long ride back on reluctant camels that were having difficulty getting their footing in the mud. We were soaked through to our skin and we could see lightening in the distance. It occurred to me more than once that maybe the top of a camel wasn’t the best place to be in a lightening storm…

As we sloshed our way back around huge mud holes, I remember hanging on to the camel’s saddle with cold and shrivelled wet hands, thinking: “This is my life! Here I am in this ridiculous situation and I’m so glad to be here! “. I felt giddy with the feeling of having every cell in my body awake and fully living the experience.

I often think about that moment and try to recapture the feeling of being fully alive; a feeling that I don’t often experience in my routine day-to-day life. I remind myself to slow down and make use of all of my senses, to be fully present and aware of the small pleasures of life. When I’m doing simple things like raking leaves, hiking with friends, or enjoying a good book, I remind myself to savour the experience, to say: "This is my life and I’m glad to be here!"

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