As a very young girl, I became fascinated with the animals and wildness of the African continent. I was eight years old — wearing a silver elephant ring that I still wear to this day — when I saw my first elephant at a small town American circus. I dreamed of someday seeing them living wild. It was to stay a dream until I was 69 years old.
I spent the past several years unsuccessfully looking online for my African adventure, and somehow stumbled upon the Angama Mara blog which set my dream in motion — a Leaving Out the Dull Parts post entitled 'The Gift of Time' by Anna Leidenkrantz.
As I read her words, I became increasingly excited; I had a clear idea of how I wanted this journey to take place. I have always been an independent traveler, solo or with my husband, but he has his own African stories from his time 50 years ago as a physician in the Congo and knew this journey was best realised entirely on my terms without another voice, or another person‘s influence. I reached out to Ms. Leidenkrantz in Sweden and thus began an extraordinary correspondence and friendship. In her capacity as CEO of a travel company she put together the itinerary that would bring me to Angama Mara.
Almost a year later, I am here! In Africa! My first look over the Rift Valley from the lodge brings me to tears. I am overwhelmed with emotion. My soul had been deeply bruised as five months prior, my island community and surroundings were devastated by a major hurricane; I’d lost my 'joie de vivre' and put down my watercolour brushes. I feel fragile and vulnerable as a sense of peace begins washing over me.
I came to the Maasai Mara with no checklist, no agenda, entirely open to receiving what Africa has to give me. Over eight days in the warm embrace and genuine care of the Angama family, I am exactly where I need to be. I had heard that the Kenyan people are very welcoming but I didn’t expect to find a new family. I am humbled and enriched beyond measure.
As Nicky Fitzgerald knew, it is the people that give a place meaning and I couldn’t have landed in one more perfect. My first early morning game drive with Wilson began with one amazing sighting after another as we made our way down the escarpment to the valley floor. An encyclopedia of knowledge, I spend many hours with him sitting, talking and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. A leopard appears out of the tall grass and walks slowly in our direction. We are unhurried as is she. It is truly a gift to be in her presence. This is the first of many such encounters.
I spend time with the women in the Beading Studio where they teach me the Maasai stitch; in return, I teach them the Native American Peyote stitch. Sitting beside the photographers in the Photographic Studio, our talks veer from photographic technique to life experiences. No clock, no appointments to keep me from being in the moment and enjoying the company of these new friends.
I savour samosas on my deck, watching the birds in the trees and the rock hyrax at my feet, taking in the vastness of the plains as the sun sets over another exhilarating yet peaceful day. Meals are shared out on game drives or in the dining room where the conversation continues long after plates are cleared.
Once again, I pick up my brushes and paint in silence along the Mara River. I feel restored and renewed in this remarkable environment, in the presence of the Angama family. I didn’t even know what I needed yet they are there to provide it. As my eight days here come to a close I am not sad to be leaving as I am so happy I came. I am humbled and enriched beyond measure.
Filed under: Stories From The Mara
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